How to Create a French Charcuterie Board for the Holidays

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How to Create a French Charcuterie Board for the Holidays

The festive season is in the air! Paris is sparkling from all angles, and we love it. Amid all the festive fun, gift shopping, and general merriment, many of you are also preparing to host family get-togethers or parties with friends. As your loved ones descend upon on your home, you need to be well-stocked with food and drink for your guests!

 

Let’s face it; there are few better ways to sate the appetites of hungry friends and family than a French charcuterie board. Full of protein, this platter provides a great and hearty snack for any party. (Did you know that the word “charcuterie” began circulating in the 15th century? It refers to a specialized preparation of pork, such as saucisson, jambon and boudin.)

Today, charcuterie in the U.S. has a broader meaning – primarily, it refers to a delicious board full of meats and cheeses. What makes French charcuterie boards, in particular, so special and tasty is the high quality of the items featured. If your budget can withstand it, buy the best cheeses and meats your wallet will allow. Your belly – and your guests – will thank you.

Here are some of our favorite ways to craft the most perfect and authentic French charcuterie board for your holiday gathering.

Decide on Your Arrangement

In keeping with the festive spirit, some people may opt to create a board and its components in the shape of a beautiful Christmas tree. This can be a super-fun way to add even more Christmas cheer to your board and dress it up a bit.

 

 

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If you’re going to shape the board’s contents into a tree shape, you may want to add a few sprigs of greenery, like rosemary, for instance, to give it even more of a “tree feel.” Don’t forget to add your cheese-shaped star on top!

Go Shopping!

Now, it’s time to hit the grocery store. Or, better yet – a cheese shop and butcher shop if you have those locally available to you. If you’re lucky enough to be in Paris at this time of year, you’ll have an abundance of shops to choose from.

 

 

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Pick your Favorite Cheeses

It’s all in the cheese selection, really. This is where you truly get to have a bit of fun and go wild. Cheese will anchor your whole board, so choose your featured cheeses with joy and excitement. Pick whatever speaks to you and smells best.

There’s really no right or wrong way to select your cheeses for your charcuterie board. Personally, I like to opt for a mix of hard and soft cheeses to add variety to the board. I will typically include a softer fromage, like a Brie, along with a hard cheese like aged Comté, and build out from there.

 

 

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Select Your Meats

Go outside your comfort zone and pick some meats you may not regularly try. Fancy some duck pâté or pâté en croûte? Go for it!

 

 

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A specialty shop will also have products like terrine and mousse. And why not try some pork rillettes? You’ll surely want to include some saucisson and ham, too. Dried sausage is a staple of any proper charcuterie board.

Don’t Forget the Grapes! (Or, Stock up on Produce)

Many people will choose to add some fruits and nuts to their board as well. Grapes are a classic charcuterie board add-on. Thinly sliced apples are also crowd-pleasers, as are seasoned olives. And palette cleansers like plain or salted almonds or fresh walnuts are an excellent way to balance out the symphony of tastes (and add some nutrient-rich foods to the mix!)

Other berries, like raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, are also beautiful additions to a holiday board. A reimagined take on a regular fruit, like making sugared cranberries, also adds some extra excitement.

Sweets: To Include or Not to Include?

Of course, your typical French charcuterie board will not feature chocolate or cookies. But December is a special – and sweet-filled – time of year. Some people may decide to include chocolates, cookies, and perhaps even macarons on their board. Whatever you fancy, go for it! Life is too short not to indulge in little pleasures every now and again.

You may also want to include a sweet jam/spread (like candied quince) that can be added to a cheese to give it some extra oomph. Salted butter for the bread is nice, too.

 

 

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Stock up on Bread

A fresh baguette sliced into little circles is a great way to add some delicious texture to your board, adding variety to the meats, cheeses, and additions. Be sure to have plenty to refill the bread bowl when it runs out!

 

Lead photo credit : Photo by Erik Dungan on Unsplash

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.