Leveling up in the kitchen is an admirable pursuit. There’s a sense of satisfaction to mastering a sous vide steak or a perfect cocktail. truTV’s Upscale with Prentice Penny has already given us the ins-and-outs of making a great old fashioned right at home. Now they’re sending out intrepid host Prentice Penny to take on an amazing mélange of food called charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree).
Known as Antipasto in Italy, Brotzeit in Germany, and Lunchables in America, Charcuterie is one of those meals that’s devilishly simple yet infinitely complex and Penny is here to help us figure it all out. As he reveals, a good charcuterie board is all about building flavors upon each other in the “Holy Trinity” of meats, cheeses, and fruits. High quality salted and smoked meats along with real artisanal cheeses can transport the diner with each bite. Add in the sweetness and tart of a little fruity jam or maybe a briny pickle and you’re good to go.
As Penny knows, every good charcuterie board starts with a great actual board. Is it worth dropping some coin on a serious piece of slate or knotty maple? Yes. Or go hew it from a tree like the wild artisan you are. Point being: a plate loses the effect.
Once you’ve decided on your presentation, the recipe for this meal is straight forward. Pick some meats from more than one animal — beef, pork, and game are crowd-pleasing options. Make sure to choose different levels of spiciness and smokiness too. Get an herb-crusted salami or a smoky venison ham or a super spicy chorizo — be adventurous.
Penny reminds us to make sure to add a little flair to the presentation. Nobody wants meat and cheese haphazardly thrown on a board!
Next come the pairings. The meats and cheeses are going to be the star of the show. It’s important to remember ‘what grows together, goes together.’ That is, pair meats with cheese from the same region. If you’re getting some Jamon from the plains of Spain, hit up some farmhouse manchego from the same region. The pigs and cows will likely have eaten the same grasses and wandered the same hills. That terroir is transferred into the final product for perfect complementary notes. It’s worth giving it a little thought and even testing these things out at your local deli or butcher before committing to buying a pound or two of expensive meats (they shouldn’t mind feeding you tasters). Those two and some quince paste? You’re in business.