Think visual interest when you buy your ingredients
Nowadays, at casual, unpretentious gatherings, a typical charcuterie platter includes sliced cured meat and/or pate and/or cured sausage (we like American-made Les Trois Petits Cochons), cheese, nuts, fruit, garnishes, and crackers, flatbread or sliced baguette. “You want different kinds of textures, colors, flavors, and munchy bits” de la Vega says, so keep that in mind while you’re shopping.
“And if you’ve got a tight budget, don’t be afraid of specialty cheese and charcuterie shops,” she says. Those places can help you find affordable and familiar foods like brie or cured ham.
Prep your station
Set your cheese out an hour ahead so it has time to warm slightly and get a bit softer. That enhances its flavor.
The pate and meat, on the other hand, should go out right before you’re ready to use them. “Charcuterie is like, now! Because oxidation makes it change color.”
Before you get started, take everything out of its packages. Cut up ingredients, separate cured ham from those little papers, and have everything out and easy to place.
Pate usually comes in a flat rectangle or a brick, but you don’t have to put that whole thing out. De la Vega sliced a triangle shape of pate, and an odd shape of foie gras. You can always replenish your board with more later on. (Keep the rest wrapped in the fridge in the meantime.)