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My husband and I do a lot more at-home date nights these days rather than going out since we have two kids (and one more on the way!). One of our favorite ways to make an at-home date more special is by having ‘special’ foods that we don’t eat on a regular basis. We’ve done lots of fondue nights over the years (so fun!), but one of my favorite ideas is to build a charcuterie board filled with yummy meats, cheeses, fruits and nuts. To be honest, I used to make these overly simple and not style the tray at all, but I made a gorgeous charcuterie board over the holidays and now that’s how I want to do it every time – makes it that much more special! With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought now would be a great time to share some tips for building an easy yet elegant charcuterie board to share with someone you love.
How to Build a Charcuterie Board That Wows
Decide what you want to serve. The first step in creating your charcuterie board is determining what you want to include on your board. This could be anything from various meats, cheeses, nuts, fruit, veggies, crackers, pretzels, etc. You could take a savory approach, a sweet approach or blend the two. On this particular charcuterie board, there is a mix of sweet and salty – I used summer sausage, an Italian meat combo (prosciutto, salami and other thin meats), fresh mozzarella, brie, smoked gouda, assorted crackers, olives, pretzels, dill dip and honey roasted almonds. The sky is the limit! I like to go with an odd number for the bigger items that will be the focal point – so I did 3 types of cheeses.
Shop around for ingredients. You’ll find out really quickly that building a charcuterie board can be pricey! I found that shopping at Trader Joe’s or Aldi for the specialty meats and cheeses really helped trim the cost. You could even build your ingredients list around what’s available at these stores – so if brie is expensive but another cheese is on sale, swap it out for the less expensive cheese. Kroger also has a great selection of specialty items like nuts and olives. You can totally buy store-brand pretzels and crackers to save even more $!
Prepare the ingredients. Before I started building the charcuterie board, I took everything out and removed it all from its packaging. That way, it was easier to work with. I searched the cabinets a few small bowls to hold the olives, almonds and dip, too. Lay everything out so it’s ready to build.
Cover your board or tray. Especially if you plan to use a wooden tray or cutting board, make sure you put down a piece of wax or parchment paper before adding the food. It will keep the board clean and prevent oils from the meats and cheeses from seeping into the wood. Once you have everything placed on your board, the paper should be out of sight.
Start with meats and cheeses. These are generally the biggest ingredients for the board anyways. Start by placing the meats and cheeses in random spots around the board. Try not to get too symmetrical – place some at angles, some in the corner, some off-center, etc. Next, if you have bowls of nuts or olives, add those to the board. The spots in between can be filled with crackers, pretzels or other dry ingredients.
Don’t forget the accents. To really top off your charcuterie board, be sure to add a few accents just for looks. I chose to use fresh rosemary and half a pomegranate (open-facing) to jazz up my charcuterie board. Any fresh herbs, small fruits, etc. make a great accent for your board.
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