The pre-feast hunger. It’s a common occurrence at Thanksgiving gatherings across the country every year. Everyone invited arrives with just enough time to hear and smell the last dishes being finished off. It’s a sublime moment that is at least a little tortuous. To help satiate the starving crowd waiting patiently in the living room, what could be better than the Ultimate Appetizer, a charcuterie board built for Thanksgiving from the ground up. It’s a chance to provide fan favorites, introduce new flavors and ideas, and show off your creativity. Read on to find some suggestions on how to shake things up in the best way this year, with absolutely no corners cut.
When building any quality board, it helps to start with your protein. This will function as a solid flavor and texture base to build from. There are a variety of quality options to choose from, but some mainstays that are sure to make a splash on their own are Prosciutto, a slow aged, ham that melts in your mouth, Mortadella, a traditional, slow-roasted Italian sausage that carries a distinct pork flavor, and Sopressa, a salame known for its savory and rich taste. But don’t stop there. Give your guests a unique experience with offerings of Coppa, dry-cured meat seasoned with a warm spice blend, or even Bresaola, sweet and aromatic cured beef slices originating from northern Italy. If you want to make sure all kids present aren’t getting left out, include some quality Pepperoni Slices. Your charcuterie choices make up the base of your board, so create your selection with the overall tasting experience in mind for the greatest effect.
Keep in mind that your choice of cheeses will likely be influenced by the meats you included. Adding a creamy or rich cheese can help cut the saltiness of some cured meats and vice versa. If you include Prosciutto, pair it with classic fresh mozzarella slices. For a more savory charcuterie like Sopressata or various salame, try serving aged cheddar to complement it. Meats like Coppa carry a stronger spice profile and are well-balanced with soft cheeses like a triple creme brie. Finally, tender salumi like Bresaola pair excellently with thin shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano. Try different pairings of charcuterie and cheeses to establish your ideal flavor profiles.
The rest of your board’s scope is limitless. After all, it’s difficult to find items that don’t pair well with handcrafted cured meats and cheeses. Multigrain crackers, crusty bread, or nuts can help provide a distinctive texture and signature crunch. You can even brighten the board with freshly sliced fruit. Don’t forget that briny gherkin pickles or black and green olives bring a wealth of flavor to the equation.
Make it Fall
A Thanksgiving charcuterie board is the perfect opportunity to offer up seasonal favorites and incorporate them into your creative presentation. Instead of cashews, try piling on some candied pecans and walnuts. Include some fresh produce with thinly sliced apples, pears, or persimmons from your local farmers market. You can also iterate on some of your staples from earlier. Combine soft, spreadable cheese with a drizzle of honey and toasted pumpkin seeds for an infusion of fall flavor.
Remember that Thanksgiving is time to get hands-on with your work. Slice salame the traditional way – on a bias with a thicker cut so guests get the fullest flavor in each bite. Leave those whole muscle varieties like Prosciutto, Bresaola, and Coppa in paper-thin slices to add just the right amount of salt to that build-your-own crostini bar. When choosing the platform for your meat and cheese board, always opt for rustic wood boards that will add warmth to the table. Traveling with your board? Choose one with a lip on the edge to keep everything in place!
Thanksgiving under COVID
A holiday focused on bringing people from all over together is sure to create some anxiety. However, a Thanksgiving charcuterie board creates opportunities to think about how to help keep the feasting safe. Dishes that come in predetermined portions help prevent one serving utensil from being passed around and employing toothpicks on your boards is an easy way for guests to serve themselves.
Thanksgiving is a holiday about memories. The ones that made us laugh and smile, but most of all it’s about the ones we’re grateful for. Take the chance to make a new memory for everyone in attendance by bringing a special Thanksgiving charcuterie board that truly celebrates the season.