(Published in Flava 2015, issue 2)
When it comes to entertaining a charcuterie board is a tasty, crowd-pleasing option that’s easy to assemble quickly. Add a delicious selection of cheeses and light bites and you have a party-friendly platter that has something for everyone.
Though it’s easy enough to create a tasty array of cold delectables, we’ve called upon the expertise of Thais Rodriguez, chef de cuisine at the Marriott Beach Resort’s newest restaurant, Anchor & Den. The restaurant has recently launched a new tapas night every Thursday called “El Mercat – Nit de Tapes.” Amongst the mouthwatering small plates is a large variety of specialty imported charcuterie and cheeses, which has also grown to become a popular option at the restaurant’s Sunday Boulangerie Brunch.
When it comes to assembling a charcuterie and cheese board Thais advice is to “keep it simple.”
“Choose three types of cheese – a soft ripened, semi-soft and semi-hard cheese – along with two to four different types of meat, including cured sausages and whole-muscle meats for a good balance,” Thais says.
Popular favorites at Anchor & Den include the melt-in-the-mouth Jamon Ibérico de Bellota, considered the star of charcuterie produced from acorn-fed Ibérico pigs in Spain and cured for up to four years. Jamon Serrano, Chorizo Iberico and Lomo, are all firm favorites as well, also imported from Spain. Dry-aged Prosciutto from France, along with Coppa and Spianata Piccante from Italy are popular with diners too.
Local supermarkets offer a wide range of charcuterie. Whole-muscle cuts, such as the Jamon Ibérico de Bellota, are cuts of meat that can be sliced into thick cut slices, or, more-commonly for a charcuterie board, paper-thin slices. Cured sausages, such as chorizo, come in a vast array of flavor profiles, from spicy options to ones with a sweeter taste. Offering a variety is a great way to ensure something to please everyone’s palates.
When you’re pairing cheese with your charcuterie it’s hard to go wrong. Choose ones from a variety of countries as well as ones made from a selection of different milks, such as goat, sheep and cow’s milk, ensuring a delicious range of flavor profiles.
Thais says that amongst the most popular with guests at Anchor & Den is the Tetilla cheese from Galicia, Spain, a soft and creamy cow’s milk cheese; Mahón cheese, a mild and slightly salty-flavored cow’s milk cheese from the island of Minorca; and Campo de Montalban from La Mancha, Spain, a semi-firm Spanish cheese made from a blend of cow, sheep and goat milk.
Once you’ve selected your charcuterie and cheeses you’ll want to turn your attention to some accompaniments.
“Fresh bread is perfect,” Thais says. “A crusty bread like a baguette or ciabatta and a soft bread like focaccia are all wonderful additions. I love a good olive oil too, so definitely add that to the list, along with some spreading options, such as a chutney and grained mustard for a delicious combination.
“Something pickled, such as cornichons, will help cut through the richness of the cheese and meats. Adding something sweet, such as a fig jam or chutney, will help balance the saltiness and butteryness of the cheese. Dried and fresh fruit also add a nice touch, while I love pairing roasted garlic with a cheese such as brie to really get those flavor profiles swimming!”
Finally, Thais suggest a good selection of olives.
“Pick olives which have been marinated with some citrus or herbs to really help the acidity of the cheeses and the earthiness of the meats stand out.”