ELIZABETH KARMEL, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Who says you can only enjoy a charcuterie board when you go out to eat? Restaurants have made them a diner's favorite and many restaurants become destinations based on their ability to source great meats and cheeses.
With a little planning, you can do this same thing any night of the week. In fact, you don't even need to go to a fancy store to get the provisions. Most grocery stores have everything you need.
Once you find your favorite dried sausage, keep it on hand. It lasts for a very long time in the fridge and is handy to pull out when people stop over unexpectedly for a drink. My favorite sausages are reasonably priced, vacuum-sealed, have a good lean to fat ratio, and are very clean tasting. These days it's easy to find very good dried sausages.
When shopping for a party, plan on 3 ounces of charcuterie per person for an appetizer and about twice that if it's the only food being served. With bread and olives, pickles and nuts, that should be enough to satiate all of your meat-loving friends and family.
Your charcuterie board can be as simple as one dried sausage, olives, nuts and a special mustard dipping sauce or make it a little more expansive by adding a pate, thin-sliced prosciutto, chunks of real parmesan or pecorino, and another mustard for dipping and spreading. Bread and butter, homemade seeded crackers, fresh ricotta cheese, good olive oil and cocktail rye are also good choices.
I like to dress up my favorite mustards with jam, herbs and spices. It's easy to make but adds that special touch that will make your charcuterie board even more craveable than the one at your favorite restaurant. Add your favorite flavors to the mustard and just pick a jam and an herb that you like together.
Next, think about presentation. That's one of the reasons that I think charcuterie boards are so appealing in restaurants. They are generally laid out on wooden or other flat surfaces. I love using black porcelain as I can write with chalk on it and pop it in the dishwasher when I am done.
Finally, remember to slice the meat when it is cold and serve it at room temperature for maximum flavor. Most importantly, have fun with your combinations. A charcuterie board is easy, elegant and a guaranteed crowd pleaser.
Sweet and Sharp Mustard Party
On one "easy" evening, I made a couple of quick sauces to serve with grilled and dry sausages and cheese. The winner of the night was the original Apricot Sweet and Sharp Mustard. It's as simple as mixing mustards and jam together and the variations are endless.
Slice it cold, serve it room temp
Saucisson Sec (Dry Salami) such as D'artangia, Bende Hungarian Sausage
Proscuitto or Iberico , or southern ham such as Benton's
Parmesan Reggiano cheese, broken into small chunks
Good bread, seeded crackers
Ricotta cheese topped with honey or herbs and olive oil
The Original Sweet and Sharp Mustard for Sausages and Cured Meats
1/4 cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apricot jam
2 teaspoons smooth Dijon mustard
Pinch of Coleman's dry mustard
Pinch of dried parsley or other dried green herb
Mix jam and mustards together until combined but still chunky. Add dried herbs and mix until combined. Serve immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Raspberry jam and mint
Fig jam and dehydrated shallots
Red currant jelly and red pepper flakes
Blackberry jam and tarragon