It may sound fancy but Charcuterie is quite literally the French word for anything meat – smoked, dry-cured or cooked. Mon Ami Gabi breaks down a step-by-step guide on how you can put together a restaurant-quality, chef-approved charcuterie board at home, complete with all of the meats, cheeses, accoutrements and of course cornichons (ya know, those adorable, mini pickles).
Your charcuterie board shopping list:
- A rustic-looking board to arrange everything
- A variety of meats that showcase an array of texture and flavor, spice and smokiness: the Mon Ami Gabi team likes mortadella, salami, chicken liver mousse, country pâté, terrines, rillettes
- A fun mix of firm vs. soft, funky vs. mild cheeses: brie, aged cheddar, goat cheese, gouda
- Accoutrements like jams, mustards, chutneys
- Fruits and/or nuts like almonds, grapes, cherries or figs
- Great bread, a baguette, brioche or even your favorite crackers
How do you go about picking the meats?
“This is based on personal preference. Trial and error are great ways to learn a lot about charcuterie, and any type of cuisine for that matter. Go to your local butcher, I love West Loop Salumi here in Chicago, and talk to them about what you like and see what they recommend. Make sure to get meats that have varying textures and bite. Try something new; it’s cool to see what else is out there.”
Speaking of trying something new, the chefs shared what they’re putting on the board now:
If you like prosciutto, try La Quercia Spec Americana which is an Applewood-Smoked Prosciutto – made in Iowa (and usually available at Whole Foods).
If you like salami, try soppressata, a dry, Italian salami.
For something soft and spreadable, try chicken liver mousse, which is what we are serving at Mon Ami Gabi.
For a thin, more delicate cut of meat, try mortadella, which has a softer (bologna-like) texture.
Now, on to the cheese.
“Picking cheese is another way to experiment. A great place to buy cheese is Eataly – they not only have a huge selection, but they won’t hesitate to cut you off a sample. When picking cheeses, variety is key. Grab a mix of flavors and textures like hard (cheddar), soft (creamy brie), aged (aged gouda), cow’s milk, goat’s milk (goat cheese), pasteurized, un-pasteurized (Société Roquefort), yellow (cheddar or old Amsterdam), try it all.”
For a tangy, stinky cheese, try Roquefort.
Cremeux de Bourgogne is one of my favorite creamy bries.
For a nutty, harder cheese, try twelve-year aged cheddar.
Don’t be afraid to experiment pairing any cheese with your meat, and be sure to serve with your favorite bread or crackers.
“At Mon Ami Gabi, for softer cheeses and spreads like the chicken liver mousse, we use a toasted brioche or toasted baguette which are perfect for spreading. For salamis or other meats, you can go with any type of cracker or crispier base.”
And to garnish?
“Accoutrements like mustards, seasonal jams made with stone fruits, apple, or even sweet onion, fruit chutneys, pickles and nuts, all complement different aspects of your board.”
Time to build your board, what should you put your charcuterie on?
“I like rustic, so a wood cutting board (if it’s not too beat up) is a great way to present your charcuterie. Put your meat, cheese, and condiments right on the board. Charcuterie is meant to be shared and very hands on.
As it turns out, there IS a rhyme and reason for how your ingredients should be arranged.
“Put condiments next to the meats or cheeses you want your guest to eat them with. For example, put mustards next to a pâté or country terrine because those go best together. Arrange your chicken liver mousse near the jams since its super rich and should be paired with something to brighten it up. Olives are a must as well.”
We also invite you to check out Mon Ami Gabi, as the restaurant is offering special, off-menu meats and cheeses based on the chefs are sourcing, especially as we get into the colder weather months.