A cheese board is always a welcome addition to a dinner party. Fruit and crackers are easy additions to add a little extra flavour, and charcuterie adds an additional layer of substance. Usually, two or three meat options are enough.
A random selection of meat cuts and cheese won’t necessarily give the perfect blend of flavour and textures to give the best effect. For the right mix of flavours, it’s important to select complimentary ingredients – but with a little know-how, it’s easy to spot a good pairing.
Charcuterie can usually be divided into two categories. Whole muscle cured meat is salted, dried and sometimes smoked, whereas encased meats (shaped by an artificial enclosing) are aged in a humid environment. Encased meats tend to be seasoned with peppers, truffle and fennel, giving them unique flavours. Whole muscle meats are often nuttier and sweeter, and can taste more ‘meaty’. Consider how powerful the flavours of your meat are – a milder cheese will allow the flavours in the charcuterie to stand out.
When it comes to charcuterie and cheese, opposites attract. Both are usually high in salt, fats and protein, so it’s important to differentiate in other ways. Try to contrast textures and flavours. A soft cheese paired with a buttery cured meat is too closely matched in texture. A softer meat would be better placed with a hard, grainy cheese.
To quote a common chef’s adage, ‘if it grows together then it goes together’, meaning that, generally if two items come from the same region, they will be complimentary in flavour. Usually used to pair cheeses with wines, this is equally applicable to charcuterie. This is a good starting point for an easy way to pair foods.
Lastly, cut your meats and cheese as soon as possible before serving and present them well. Select a wine to compliment your food and be ready to impress your guests!
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