Charcuterie boards are an impressive way to welcome guests at any gathering, and as people finally begin to reunite after long lockdowns, what better way to toast family and friends than by offering up this impressive treat.
There’s no doubt that this centuries-old tradition is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Often paired with a welcoming glass of wine, charcuterie boards offer a flavorful mix of preserved meats, like prosciutto, Parma ham and salami, and cheeses like brie, cheddar and gouda. Topping it off are sprinkles of various dried fruits, nuts and condiments, which add spice and color.
Hermann Schaefer, executive chef at Waldorf Astoria Park City, regularly serves up charcuterie boards at the hotel’s Powder restaurant, and offers his expert advice on how to piece together a selection that’s perfect for any taste.
Charcuterie boards seem to be enjoying a resurgence of popularity. Is this a trend you’re seeing as people begin to reunite with loved ones?
“Charcuterie trays were one of our most popular items in Powder restaurant prior to COVID-19 and we’re just now re-introducing it with our spring menu. Charcuterie remained a popular in-room amenity item throughout the past year. People like them because of the variety, and at Waldorf Astoria Park City we use only hand-cured meats and locally sourced cheeses as much as possible.”
What are some essential elements of a charcuterie board?
“Variety! A spread of some kind (often fig or foie gras) to complement the meats and cheeses—pairing sweet with savory is a strong flavor profile. Goat cheese and salami al tartufo with grilled olive oil bread is a personal favorite.”
Any tips on how to arrange a charcuterie board to give it a “wow” factor?
“Garnishes like honey mustard spread and pâté add color and variety. Different slicing techniques, like cubing cheeses and making paper-thin slices for cured meats can make the perfect presentation.”
To create an eye-catching tray, what’s more important—variety or volume?
“A simple presentation of a variety of items is often most visually appealing. Additionally, too many items can be paralyzing – it can be difficult to select the best combination. I have found that a variety that all pairs well together—with some “perfect matches” of course—makes for fun conversation among your guests.”
What are some unexpected menu items one could add in to mix it up?
“Prosciutto, wild boar and tartufo often can be found only at specialty shops, thereby adding a unique element. Roasted almonds or walnut pieces can add a nice touch. Oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic-marinated olives and tomatoes also add a unique flavor profile and a nice aesthetic touch.”
Dessert charcuterie boards are also getting attention. What mix of items should one consider for those?
“Charcuterie translates, basically, to “cured meats and cheeses,” [but] by removing the olives, mustards, garnishes, etcetera, and adding a selection of roasted nuts, dried fruits, marmalade and fruit preserves …it could make it a little more appealing as an after-dinner, rather than pre-dinner, item.”