This time of year can be very overwhelming. Our to-do lists are bursting at the seams and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. It’s definitely the time when you need a few good entertaining options at the ready.
Look no further than the charcuterie platter for an appetizer that has something for everyone. One of the greatest things about this appetizer is its simplicity. It really is just a matter of arranging a selection of prepared items on a platter or cutting board–making sure to include a mix of textures, flavours and colours.
Charcuterie is the French word for cured, smoked and preserved meat products, such as pate and sausage, as well as the butcher shop that sells them.
It is also standard fare to add a few other items to your charcuterie platter, including spiced nuts, cheeses, pickles, mustard and bread or crackers. Cornichons and gherkins are a popular way to add a bit of acidity to the platter. I usually have a second platter or plate with the cheeses, but it really is a matter of personal preference.
Here’s a list of things that you can include on your platter:
- Mix of several meats — cooked and cured (I usually use three such as salami, bresaola and pastrami)
- Mustard — a good dijon and/or whole grain mustard
- Chutney or jam, such as onion or fig (I love to use camelized onion chutney)
- Cheeses – For example, 2 soft cheese and 2 hard cheeses, including mix of flavours and textures. I always include either brie or camembert, since they are a crowd favourite.
- Nuts – I like to use my paprika-smoked almonds
- Fruits – grapes and dried apricots are popular choices
- Bread/crackers – I like to have at least one type of bread and one type of cracker, but sometimes I include a couple of each. I usually have either a bread or a cracker with raisins. There so many great arisanal crackers to choose from these days.
- A good red wine — I think this is an ESSENTIAL ingredient to a good charcuterie platter!
If you want to elevate things a little bit, you can try your hand at making your own bread. I’ve started to make the Irish Soda bread below, which just happens to be the easiest bread in the world. You mix it up in less than five minutes, and it cooks in about 20 minutes. This is the first and only bread I’ve ever made and it amazes me how simple this is every time I make it.
No-Knead Raisin Soda Bread
Recipe from Cookery School at Eckington Manor
- 1-1/2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Place flour, salt and baking soda in a mixing bowl and stir together. Fold in buttermilk and raisins.
- Turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface and roll around to lose stickiness; form into a ball. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper and then add dough. Score a deep X on the top to allow steam to escape and bake for 17-20 minutes.
- For a buttermilk substitute, you can add 1 tsp of vinegar to 1 cup of milk. It is recommended that you let this sit for 15 minutes to allow the milk to sour.
- Here is the original recipe for the Raisin Soda Bread. However, I did make this without the raisins as the recipe suggests once, but I found it too sticky and added an extra 1/4 cup of flour to the mixture. In both cases, I did not add the cinnamon. I really prefer the version with raisins though.
- The charcuterie platter is very kid friendly. One of my girls needs to be watched because she will eat ALL of the salami . . . and they are both very BIG fans of the paprika-spiced nuts.
I’m pleased to report that Barb Bamber of Just a Smidgen is the winner of my cookbook giveaway. My eldest ponytail drew the winning entry. I’ve just heard from Barb and she’s selected Ina Garten’s new cookbook Foolproof. Congratulations Barb! A special thanks to everyone who left a message or signed up for email updates.