Creating the perfect charcuterie plate

Tips from Cure Artisan Meat and Cheese owner Brad Boisvert

  • Apr. 3, 2020 7:30 a.m.

– Words by Sandra Jones Photography by Don Denton

In 15th-century France, charcutiers produced a range of cooked or salted and dried meats. With no side-by-side fridge/freezer combos, these ancient preservation methods were used to ensure that meats would have longer shelf lives for the peasant class.

A few centuries later, the role of charcuterie is not nearly so cut and dried. Today it’s a sought-after and celebrated luxury menu item found everywhere from the toniest of restaurants to the humblest of eateries. Judging by the vast array of social media images paying homage to these boards of plenty, home cooks have embraced the trend, making it mainstream fare for casual nights at home or entertaining on a grand scale.

Brad Boisvert, chef and owner of Cure Artisan Meat and Cheese in Cobble Hill, has been paying close attention to the evolution of charcuterie and has built his business catering to those who are on board with this popular food phenomenon.

“People are dining more casually and charcuterie suits that relaxed approach perfectly,” says Brad. “Many people think of it as an appetizer, but we’re creating boards that serve as dinner entrées and even as a ‘dessert’ course.”

Most boards move beyond a meat-centric tradition to incorporate a variety of cheeses, patés and other accompaniments. But there’s more to this style of eating than merely putting food on a board. Part science and part artistry, the key to creating sensational charcuterie, according to Brad, is in the mix.

“Charcuterie is about combining different textures, flavours and colours to deliver a balance that is ultimately appealing. Yes, people eat with their eyes first, which is partially what makes charcuterie so enticing, but it also has to taste great, which is where the quality and the combinations come in.”

Whether you are creating your own board or relying on the pros, here is what you’ll need to know to put your best board forward, according to Brad:

Amp up the texture

“We often start with a couple of dry cure items like salami, which is a sausage, and then add in prosciutto and perhaps a coppa shoulder of pork, which has a bit more marbling. Each of these meats has a different texture as well as different seasonings and spices that make for a more interesting flavour experience.”

Use the same approach when selecting your cheeses.

“We may choose a Triple Crème Brie from France, which is always a crowd pleaser, and then we’ll add in a few harder cheeses like Manchego, a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain, or a semi-firm like an 18-month aged Gouda with its deep orange colour from Holland. If you like blue cheese, it’s a fantastic and unique flavour addition, or try a tangy goat cheese to round out the cheese component.”

Spread the love

The spreadable world of patés, terrines and rillettes elevates your board with savoury goodness. Made from chicken, duck, rabbit, pork or even a vegan version made with lentils, their richness pairs beautifully with chewy baguette and the vinegary crunch of cornichons. These items look delicious served in small mason jars or crocks set between the meats and cheeses.

Condiments for compliments

Simple touches take charcuterie to the next level. Think flavoured mustards and tart jams or a drizzle of fruity olive oil or aged balsamic vinegar to create that perfect bite. “We make a beer mustard from local beer as well as a red onion jam and a quince paste. Quince is a cross between an apple and a pear and when you pair the quince jam with a salty cheese like Manchego, your taste buds will just come alive. It’s about balancing the flavours.”

Neutralize the breads

While meats, cheeses and condiments are the flavour stars of the show, breads and crackers take on more of a supporting role. “We like fresh-from-the-bakery baguette, a simple thin cracker, olive oil breadsticks, or even our homemade crostini to serve as the backdrop. Keep the flavour neutral so the other flavours don’t compete.”

Pick a peck of pickles

“Rather than raw veggies, we use a variety of pickled elements, such as pickled mushrooms, smoked olives, roasted red peppers or wild onions or zucchini in olive oil. It’s colourful and if you have some fatty cheeses or meats then the acidity really helps to cut through that.”

Assemble like a pro

“We put out the crocks of patés and jars of condiments on the board first because they’re bulky. Then we place the cheeses and weave the meats around them going for more of an organic shape. Some of the meat, like prosciutto, we drape in mounds, while others such as salami we can roll and stack. Layer in the bread and crackers and consider adding height to the board by standing up the breadsticks in a jar or even a glass. We finish by filling in the gaps with nuts, dried apricots, cranberries or fresh fruit.”

Ready. Set. Serve.

Boards are a great make-ahead item and easily kept in the fridge. “For the best flavour, cheeses should be served at room temperature, so pull out the board 15 to 30 minutes in advance. Meats should be served cold so you may want to add those in at the last minute or incorporate the meats onto a second board and keep it in the fridge until guests arrive.”

Cure Artisan Meat and Cheese is located at 1400 Cowichan Bay Rd, Cobble Hill, BC in the Valleyview Centre mall.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

cookingEntertainmentFood

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The IIO has concluded its investigation into police's actions in a West Kelowna man's death. (File Photo)
UPDATE: One dead after Highway 97A crash near Armstrong, police watchdog investigating

The crash happened as RCMP attempted to stop an alleged stolen vehicle

BC NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu offered praise to her team of volunteers (pictured Oct. 21), following a too-close race with BC Liberal and incumbent Eric Foster in the 2020 provincial election Oct. 24. The outcome will be dependent on the final count from mail-in ballots expected in three weeks. (Facebook)
‘Every vote counts’ in tight Vernon-Monashee race: NDP Harwinder Sandhu

Incumbent BC Liberal Eric Foster finishes election night with slim lead

NDP candidate Harwinder Sandhu, right, and incumbent Liberal Eric Foster went head-to-head in a tight race for the Vernon-Monashee seat in the Legislature. By the night’s end Oct. 24, the results were too close to call and the final count will be dependant on outstanding mail-in ballots. (Contributed)
Too close to call in Vernon-Monashee race

Incumbent Foster holds slim lead over NDP Sandhu, mail-in ballots still to come

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
BC VOTES 2020: Live results roll in for Vernon-Monashee race

That’s a wrap on voting in the provincial 2020 election

BC Liberal Party Shuswap candidate Greg Kyllo and wife Georgina celebrate another successful campaign, with preliminary results for the 42nd provincial general election showing Greg winning the riding with a comfortable majority. (Jim Elliot-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap’s Greg Kyllo faces third term and BC NDP majority

BC NDP candidate Sylvia Lindgren celebrates party’s success

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna Secondary School. (SD23 photo)
One case of COVID-19 identified at Kelowna Secondary School

Interior Health will follow up directly with those who may have been exposed to the virus

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read