I love the idea of a meal based around grazing, because 1) it encourages everyone to eat slowly, lingering around the table, and 2) if you choose no-cook options, it’s a great way to make sure you get to spend your time with family rather than your apron and oven mitts.
Charcuterie (preserved meat, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, and pates) provides a great basis for a meal built around grazing. As an added bonus: charcuterie is already cooked, so you only have to do the shopping and plating.
Here are a few tips for building a charcuterie board, including a few alternatives for vegetarians (or just a few ways to add some plants into the mix!).
Choosing the charcuterie:
Select 3-4 types of meat, and mix up the flavors and textures.
Here is an idea from Food and Wine of how you can create this variety:
- Something pre-sliced like prosciutto, jamon serrano, or bresaola.
- Something you slice, like hard salami, or sopresseta.
- Something spreadable, like pate, or terrine.
Try to select only one type of meat that is smoked, otherwise the smokey flavor tends to dominate the meal.
How to provide options for vegans and vegetarians:
In lieu of pate or terrine (or in addition to), you can serve a bean dip, such as hummus (my favorite hummus recipe is posted here on the blog).
In lieu of a pre-sliced meat like prosciutto or jamon serrano, you can make portobello bacon (here is an excellent recipe from Mark Bittman). It’s so good, and it’s crazy how much it actually tastes like bacon!
Some ideas for condiments:
Nuts (I used pistachios here)
Jam (on this particular board I used Trader Joe’s Onion and Garlic Jam)
Arugula dressed with lemon and olive oil
A bowl of crunchy salt, like Maldon sea salt flakes
Greens (I added arugula and microgreens to the plate to add some color and freshness)
And for the bread:
Keep the bread simple, like a good baguette, so the flavors of the charcuterie remain the focus.
A few rules of thumb:
Slice the meat while cold, but serve it at room temp.
Buy 2 ounces per person for an appetizer, or five ounces per person for main course.