Building a charcuterie platter is really quite simple. Charcuterie (shahr-cute-uh-ree) is a French word that refers to cured, smoked or cooked meats. When choosing meats I like to choose producers who are making charcuterie from humanely raised animals and who are using traditional methods. It just tastes better when food is produced in small batches using sustainable practices. I suggest using a board made from a natural material like wood, stone or slate and garnishing it with fresh herbs. Natural materials highlight the natural beauty of the meats.
How Much Meat to Buy?
Generally, I would suggest about 2-3 oz per person if you are serving other food. If the charcuterie platter is the only thing to nibble on then double it to 4-6 oz per person.
Variety is the spice of life and the key to a well-balanced charcuterie board is variety. Salami is made by grinding the meat and mixing in various herbs and spices. It is then placed in a casing and left to cure. Choose a mixture of salami with different flavor profiles. A sweet soppressata and a spicy one or maybe a fennel based salami. Sometimes I'll include a small stick salami to vary the size.
Whole Muscle Meats
Next, I would suggest two whole muscle meats. These include things like Prosciutto di Parma, Jamon Serrano, coppa which is cured pork shoulder, bresaola (air-cured beef) or lomo, a cured pork loin. Typically I would choose one ham and one other like the coppa.
Pate is a must
Country style pate or rillettes add a nice texture change. Pate or terrines can be made from a variety of meats, typically pork, rabbit, duck, pheasant, chicken or anything that can be cooked down with herbs and spices. My favorite is duck rillettes, basically, duck meat cooked slowly in its own fat then shredded and placed in a container.
Cured meats are fatty and mouth-coating so things like cornichons and olives provide acidity to help break up the fat. Try any variety of pickled vegetables and don't forget the grainy mustard, especially with the pate. One of my other favorites on a charcuterie board is pickled fruits like raisins or figs. Last but not least you need plenty of good crusty bread to serve with it.