Next Level Charcuterie Programs
5 Tips from Our Culinary Experts to Help You Craft the Perfect Platter
Minus vegetarians, almost everyone on the planet loves a festive charcuterie platter. But not all platters are created equal. The perfect platter boasts a variety of flavors and textures, varying degrees of heat and spice, and a playful take on accompaniments.
Make your display a showstopper
“To enhance sales, restaurants can incorporate ‘Char-Carts,’ which are mobile carts in dining rooms where guests can see the selections and order by the piece,” says Kevin Nash, division chef at Reinhart Foodservice. The playful idea of allowing diners to interact with servers and chefs by picking their own meats and cheeses encourages participation. From an aesthetic perspective, this is a showstopper. Make sure to take the long way to the table so other diners are inspired to order their own customized charcuterie boards.
The meat of the issue
Salami, prosciutto, bresaola, capicola, chorizo, pâté, terrine, speck, rillettes, ’nduja, soppressata, cured sausage and lardo are excellent choices for a modern-day charcuterie platter. Some are spreadable, some unctuous, some uber salty and some just plain old familiar. But it is absolutely essential “to prepare the meats properly,” advises Kevin Nash, division chef at Reinhart Foodservice.
Always add cheese, please
Just like the bologna and cheese sandwiches of our youth, meats still need their fromage counterpart. “For cheeses, it's always a good idea to have one crowd pleaser, one unique cheese and another mild one,” recommends Brian Funk, division chef at Reinhart Foodservice. “Fresh mozzarella is a great crowd pleaser, sottocenere cheese is unique and Gouda makes a nice, mild cheese.”
Chef Merry has his own preference for charcuterie-paired cheeses. “Huntsman cheese is a combination of two cheeses. A double Gloucester, a firm, mellow, tangy cheese made only from the milk of Gloucester cows, sandwiches a Stilton blue cheese, a blue-veined, strong, smooth and creamy cheese. The best of both worlds! And, of course, an aged cheddar from Grafton Village. What’s not to like about a great aged cheddar?”
Let your palate guide you
“It’s all about adventure when it comes to the perfect charcuterie platter,” says Jeffrey Merry, corporate executive chef at Reinhart Foodservice. “Putting together unique meats, cheeses, spreads and breads; exploring textures and flavors. It needs to be a little crunchy, a little acidic, a little sweet and a little tangy.”
All of this should be built around the star of the show: the meat. “The foundation has got to be the protein, and like a great story you build on it,” continues Merry.
Dressing up platters with the perfect accompaniments
The chefs agree that accompaniments and bread nicely complement charcuterie platters. Nash likes using pickled vegetables because of the balance the acid from the vinegar brings to the platter. He also prefers to use homemade preserves and jams. “Collectively you bring together the salt, vinegar and sugar. The perfect trifecta,” he says. Merry prefers more of a ‘four-fecta.’ He chooses cornichons for a crunchiness, a fig spread for sweetness, olives for a tangy element and a robust Dijon mustard for acid.
All of these components require a starchy vehicle in the form of bread or crackers, of course. “I love to do brioche bread, lightly toasted with garlic clove," says Funk. Merry prefers a "nice, chewy, sliced baguette or lavash crackers.”