Charcuterie (shahr-cute-uh-ree) is a French word for any smoked, dry-cured or cooked meat. This category includes favorites like bacon, ham, pâté and sausages. More esoteric items like terrines, rillettes, galantines and duck confit are also considered charcuterie.
Although this is not a uniquely French culinary tradition – every culture has methods for preserving meat – the French have done a notable job of creating tasty charcuterie recipes that stand the test of time.
Charcuterie + Wine = Party
The best thing about charcuterie is how easy it is to serve at a party. During the holidays, a ready-made spread will reduce stress and give the host more time to enjoy with guests. Plus, a charcuterie board offers diverse flavors, so everyone can find something to enjoy. Because it can be rich and filling, charcuterie is a great thing to eat while drinking wine or cocktails. It’s the ultimate finger food.
How to Make a Charcuterie Board
Think cheese plate … but with meat. Set out a range of charcuterie on a wooden or slate board. Choose 3 to 5 items that represent various styles and textures: smoked and meaty, dry-cured and firm, cooked and creamy.
Serve something acidic, like cornichons (tiny French pickles), caper berries, or fruit chutney to complement the flavors. Grapes, figs, pears, nuts and apples are good pairings. Try adding black truffle butter, which is especially tasty on a slice of bread with saucisson sec.
Allow two ounces per person, and serve with crackers, rustic country bread or a baguette. A hearty red wine makes a good accompaniment, such as Côtes-du-Rhône, Gigondas or Madiran.
- Mousse Truffée: spreadable, organic chicken and turkey liver mousse with black truffles.
- Jambon de Bayonne: a thinly-sliced dry-cured ham. Great with fruit.
- Artisanal Saucisson Sec: dry-cured pork sausage, similar to salami. Peel and slice.
- Pâté de Campagne: rustic, coarse pork pâté with parsley. Slice and serve.
- Duck Rillettes (ree-yet): slow-cooked duck legs, shredded until spreadable.
- Pork and Garlic Sausage: cooked pork sausage with a little bite. Great with mustard.
- Smoked Duck Breast: air cured and smoked over natural wood. Slice and fan out.
Inviting cheese to the party is always a good idea. Mix in your favorites between charcuterie. Think about complementary flavors and textures; include both buttery and creamy cheeses as well as hard cheeses. Check our post for more ideas on pairing cheese and charcuterie.