Food styling by Michael Elliott | Prop styling by Stephanie Saunders Image by: Evaan Kheraj
For easy party prep that delivers big on flavour, serve a selection of cured meats and artisanal cheeses. A charcuterie board requires minimal effort but has something for everyone—and the no-cook factor means you can spend more time greeting guests and less time in the kitchen.
The best platters provide an assortmentof different textures and tastes, ranging from sharp firm cheeses to aromatic soft types. For extra variety, choose from different milks, such as cow, goat and sheep. Here are our picks to please every palate and budget.
SOFT CHEESES have a smooth texture and creamy flavour. Because of their consistency, these varieties are best served with crackers or baguette.
$: Soft goat cheese log (a.k.a. chèvre) or feta
$$$: Artisanal soft goat cheese (look for ash-covered varieties, such as Grey Owl or Le Cendrillon)
SEMISOFT CHEESES often have bloomy edible rinds and creamy interiors. Their flavours range from strong and nutty (Oka) to mild and buttery (Brie).
$: Double-cream Brie, Camembert, Boursin, Oka or bocconcini
$$$: Morbier or triple-cream bloomy rind varieties (such as Laliberté, Château de Bourgogne or Saint André)
FIRM OR HARD CHEESES are often sharper in flavour because of their longer aging process. Have a sharp knife or cheese slicer on hand so guests can cut thin slices off the wedge or brick (precutting may result in oil droplets rising to the surface of the cheese).
$: Canadian extra-old Cheddar or mild Gouda
$$$: Applewood-smoked or clothbound Cheddar, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano or aged Gouda
BLUE CHEESES are injected with moulds to give them their distinctive blue veins and tangy flavour. The pungency differs by variety—Roquefort is notoriously strong, while Danish blue and Cambozola tend to be milder.
$: Gorgonzola or Danish blue
$$$: Roquefort, Stilton, Cambozola, Shropshire or Bleu Bénédictin
TIP: For the best flavour, cheese should be served at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge 45 minutes to one hour before serving.
Select a mix of delicate whole-muscle cured meats such as bresaola (air-dried beef tenderloin) and prosciutto, and firm cured sausages such as salami or dry-cured sausage. For instant variety and texture, add a smooth store-bought pâté or terrine.
$: Italian salamis (such as Calabrese sausage or soppressata), Spanish-style chorizo sausage, mini smoked sausages, or pork- or chicken-liver pâté
$$$: Jamón ibérico or serrano ham, prosciutto, bresaola, coppa, or duck- or goose-liver pâté or mousse
TIP: Cured meats shouldn't be left at room temperature for more than two hours.
No-Cook Roasted Red Pepper Chutney
HANDS-ON TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 10 minutes
MAKES: about 1 cup
Turn a jar of roasted red peppers into this sharp, flavourful condiment simply by adding a handful of ingredients you likely already have on hand. Save even more time by using preminced garlic from a jar or tube. Serve this lively mixture with crackers or sliced baguette, soft goat cheese and chorizo sausage.
- 1 jar (370 mL) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
- 4 tsp sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic (about 1 small clove)
- 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
In bowl, stir together red peppers, vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in chives. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 3 days.)
PER 1 TBSP: about 11 cal, trace pro, 1 g total fat (trace sat. fat), 1 g carb (trace dietary fibre, 1 g sugar), 0 mg chol, 87 mg sodium, 23 mg potassium. % RDI: 1% iron, 4% vit A, 37% vit C, 1% folate.