THE EVOLUTION OF THE CHARCUTERIE BOARD
The term “charcuterie” comes from 15th century France and originates from the French words for ‘flesh’ (chair), and ‘cooked’ (cuit). Thus, the original meat-laden boards. The current trends lean toward a more vegetarian charcuterie board but both are well-represented in the foodie space today. Whether you are assembling a meat board or a vegetarian charcuterie board - variety is the key. A variety of senses deserve a variety of sensations.
For your meat boards, consider small-batch farm-to-table brands such as Two Rivers Meats in Vancouver - an ethical source for meat. And use your meats creatively. You will find that with meat, there’s not quite the opportunity for the same visuals that you’ll find with fruit, cheese and dips. But with the right board, your meats can look quite elegant. The definition of the charcuterie board really has busted wide open, and you can take it in almost any direction. There are no limits to what you can create or how to mix the choices.
Vegetarian charcuterie boards focus on a wide assortment of cheeses, fruit, and nuts (especially somewhat exotic ones), pickles, dips and breads. Even edible flowers. Or you can take your board completely vegan with cheese alternatives and still look – and taste – incredible. If you want a vegetarian-lite board, go ahead and add a few salami roses. Just be mindful about it.
HOW TO BUILD THE ULTIMATE BOARD
No matter what type of board you’re assembling, pay attention to different textures, different tastes, and striking colour contrasts for your board. The other thing is volume. Think about 15th century France. We want loads and loads and loads of food on your board. Shoulder to shoulder. Textures, tastes and colour. You can’t go wrong.
PLAY AROUND WITH TEXTURES
For your savoury boards containing cheese (or cheese alternatives), make sure you have at least one soft (such as Brie or Camembert), one medium (like a Gouda) and one hard cheese (Romano or Parmesan). In Vancouver, Blue Heron does a good job for a dairy free alternative. Have different textures among your vegetables – some pickled, some raw. Mix up your breads. Breadsticks, crackers, toasts, and soft bread rounds.
EXPERIMENT WITH FLAVOURS AND TASTES
Salty, sweet, spicy – mix and match them all. Pickles can be salty or sweet or both. Olives provide so many sizes and shades of salty. Spicy can come in many forms, from whole crunchy forest green jalapeños to tart red jellies that pair wonderfully with soft cheeses. For a sweet sensation – Medjool dates work perfectly as do any sweet fruit – blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, passion fruit – you get the idea. Or for an extra exotic sweet touch, try small pieces of raw honeycomb. There are so many different taste sensations available for a vegetarian charcuterie board. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.
A PERFECT PAIRING
Keep your eye on the colours as you choose – and place – your treats on the board. Contrast is king – pair your pale and nondescript colours with your vibrant pops of colour from items like cherry tomatoes, banana peppers or bright edible flowers. Some good floral choices, for both colour and flavour, are hibiscus, lavender, nasturtium, orchids or squash blossoms – among others. Even roses. A salami (or plant-based salami) rose next to a real rose is a cute touch. Colour is where a vegetarian charcuterie board really comes to life.
THE BOARD IS YOUR CANVAS
And pay attention to the board itself. Your serving board for your charcuterie will be part of the art. Look for unusual colours – black provides great contrast – and unusual wood patterns. Look for interesting handles. And unusual shapes and different sizes – sometimes you’ll be serving a crowd, and sometimes just a few or even just yourself. Why not make a charcuterie board for your own dinner? It’s a simple and healthy meal to put together when you just don’t feel like cooking.
And there you have some ideas for a few of the new charcuterie boards: the vegetarian charcuterie board, the vegan board and the traditional meat board. The same principles as the classic charcuterie board, just switch out a few of the goodies. It seems like today, the term “board” has been broadly hijacked – there are breakfast boards and dessert boards and taco boards (among many).
But the original board - from 15th century France and from whence all others sprung is the meat charcuterie board. No matter which your preference - a vegetarian charcuterie board or the original, it’s still one of the simplest ways to create a work of art made of food – and serve it on a timeless wooden board.
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