Treat Your Valentine to a Char‑CUTE‑erie Board
Fall head over heels with a dinner charcuterie board. Follow our step-by-step guide to learn how to style it with love.
Photograph by Olga Ivanova
Forget about overpriced restaurant delivery this Valentine's day, and go for a far more intimate (and satisfying) meal. When it comes to a romantic evening at home, we’re infatuated with a bountiful charcuterie — er, charCUTErie — board for dinner. It’s easy to put together and oh-so-fun to graze on with a glass of wine. Light some candles because we’ve got everything you need for a romantic evening for two. And because the pleasure of eating starts with the eyes, we’ll also share a few pointers on how to make your board look tantalizing.
Jump ahead to:
Step 1: Gather your tools and cute accessories
First things first: Whether you're staying in or packing a picnic basket, you’ll need a few tools to make this board happen, and they’ll go a long way in setting the right mood.
Serving tray. Most importantly, you need a serving tray to put the food on, such as a thick wooden cutting board, slate, or a food-safe marble slab.
Flatware. You can opt to eat directly from your charcuterie platter, but if you'll be sharing the board with more than one person (or you two aren’t there just yet), then provide enough small plates, forks, and knives for guests.
Napkins. Drips and drops can happen, so don’t forget some cute napkins.
Cheese knives. If not slicing in advance, you'll need some cheese knives as well.
Tablecloth. Consider a tablecloth because it’s probably one of the easiest ways to clean up crumbs: When you’re all done, give the tablecloth a shake outside or into the trash.
Bottle opener. Finally, the tool that I forget the most: a wine key with a bottle cap opener. It’s really embarrassing to dig a cork out with a knife, but if you do break your cork, simply push it into the bottle and then strain the wine into a pitcher or decanter to catch the bits.
Step 2: Decide what foods to serve
You can recreate our cutie charcuterie board with the specialty food store suggestions below, but don't be afraid to get creative! After all, a board that's personalized with the things you and your plus one love will just make the evening more special. We've included a few ideas for swaps as well as some accompaniments you can make yourself for that handmade touch.
I like to start with two kinds of sliced charcuterie, about 2 ounces of each. First up is a thinly sliced meat. Most grocery stores will have prosciutto, but if you want to try something different, get speck (a smoked prosciutto), bresaola, or coppa. If you can get it sliced fresh at the deli, the minimum they'll let you order is usually a quarter pound, aka 4 ounces.
To contrast with these thin, pliable slices, pick up a hard cured salami like Creminelli Barolo or chorizo. Remember to remove the tough outer skin before slicing into rounds.
Next, you need something meaty and hefty, but spreadable. When I aim to impress, I pick up a Les Trois Petits Cochons truffle mousse pâté. If you can’t find that, another mousse, country paté, or your own pork rillettes in a ramekin will be a welcome addition.
For our vegetarian friends, you can still have a charcuterie board with a root vegetable terrine and mushroom pâté! Not everyone is romanced by the aroma of garlic but if your beloved isn’t a vampire, consider garlic confit with pink peppercorns. The cloves get super soft and spreadable, plus the oil is great for dipping or saving for a post-holiday salad.
And of course, you have to invite cheese to this party! A small wheel for two like Vermont Creamery Cremont (a mix of cow and goat milks), Marin Petit Breakfast (an American brie), or fresh chevre crottin (a molded goat cheese) will help add luxurious fat and creaminess to your spread. Some shops also release special heart-shaped cheeses like Cowgirl Creamery Heart’s Desire or President Coeur de Brie. And then, of course, there's baked cheese you can prep yourself, whether individual bites or a full-on round of brie.
A small bowl of cornichons will cleanse your palate as you graze — so you can eat more! Drain the brine before placing them in a ramekin. Alternately, you can make a batch of your own quick dill pickles and cut them into snackable pieces.
Balance all of the salt from the meat and cheese with some fresh fruit. We used dark cherries and adorable Forelle pears to add sweetness. Other attractive options include Grapery Moon Drop grapes, champagne grapes, red bartlett pears, or comice green pears that appear to be blushing. If dried fruit is more your style, that's OK, too. Apricots, cherries, or cranberries are all good options to place in a bowl nestled in your spread.
For crunch, we added cocoa-roasted almonds. They take just 20 minutes to make, and you can even make them the night before. Prefer something hotter? Add spiced pecans or curry pistachios to your board for a warm (albeit not quite as crunchy) savory-sweet addition to your spread.
Crackers and crusty bread
Make sure you have enough crackers and bread! Use them as palate cleansers between bites or as vehicles for exciting combinations. Take it a step further and make crostini from that baguette. They’ll look extremely professional.
Chocolate and other bite-size treats
It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without some chocolate. We broke up a dark chocolate bar to nibble on in between sips of wine, but if you have time to prepare, try making your own bark, homemade Ferrero Rocher truffles, or cracker toffee.
Spreads and dips
Finally, I’m obsessed with including a few extra spreads and dips like pesto, wild rose jam, or raspberry jam. Once you’ve tried all of the items on the board by themselves, it’s fun to mix and match flavor combinations with a dollop of something extra.
Step 3: Choose your bubbly (plus non-alcoholic options)
Now you just need something to wash it all down.
With a parade of salty-sweet, you will want a light bubbly wine to help cleanse your palate. A few recommendations include:
Lambrusco, an Italian sparkling red wine, to be served slightly chilled
Vinho Verde, a fizzy Portuguese white wine
Sparkling rosé, cava, or Prosecco
Step 4: Assemble your charcuterie board
Now that you’ve gathered your supplies and whipped up some special treats, let’s make your charcuterie plate Insta-worthy!
Cheese can be plated up to an hour ahead. It’s meant to be eaten at room temperature, giving the butterfat time to soften. Bries get rich and gooey, and hard cheeses are easier to cut.
Use heart-shaped cookie cutters. If you opt for semi-soft cheeses like jack, fontina, manchego, or unaged cheddar cheese, they’re easily cut into heart shapes with a cookie cutter when they're cold.
All charcuterie and salami should be sliced fresh and served immediately. They can oxidize, which dulls fiery hues and hardens prosciutto edges.
The order of placement matters. Plate the larger items like cheese, ramekins, or slabs of pâté on your board first, then build around those items. Drape meats nearby and then finish by sprinkling the smaller items like nuts and berries.
Get creative with how you display the sliced meats. When you place sliced meats on a board, peel away the protective plastic or parchment paper and drape them. Then you can tuck them and adjust to make room for other elements. For circular-cut meats like coppa, you can fold them in half along each axis to make flowers.
Dress up the board with some foliage. Use edible greens like dandelion or arugula to line the platter before plating for easy cleanup. A couple of sprigs of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage add a pop of green and lend their aroma. If you’re going to use inedible greens like banana leaves or fruit leaves, do make sure your guest knows not to eat them!
Don't overstuff your board; you can always refill as needed. You don’t have to put out all of the pâté or all of the meat; you can always replenish the board to keep things fresh. It’s also OK if you run out of room! Just bring out another plate to put the extras on.
We’re captivated by how many wonderful combinations are possible with charcuterie boards. It’s time to show off your cutest platter! Tag @Yummly on Instagram; we’d love to see it.