As opposed to the American happy hour, which is often an attempt to shake off the day, the European practice of apéro is a celebration of the continuation of the day. An opening into the evening and a prepping of the palate for supper. In the words of food writer Rebekah Peppler (my favorite aperitif expert), “it brings a relaxed almost vacation vibe to wherever you are. It’s a pause, or deep breath and a wonderful social, communal experience that connects you with something deeper.”
Spritzy drinks and/or wine whet the appetite, while a stylish snack or two stave off too much hunger…or turn into dinner itself. Enter the charcuterie board. If you’re going full French-style you probably wouldn’t add cheese to your charcuterie board unless you are planning to turn apéro into dinner. But, I think this is a perfectly acceptable time for very mild cross-cultural amalgamation, and I usually have both cured meats and cheeses when I make a charcuterie board. Because cheese.
At the end of the day, it’s really as easy as choosing some meats, cheeses, crispy things, and contrasting things that you like, and arranging them on a plate to pair with your favorite aperitif drinks. But, if you’d like a little more guidance on crafting a charcuterie board, here are my tips:
- 3 types of cheeses, cut into slices if they are hard cheeses. If you’re looking for suggestions, consider a mix of sharp, creamy, fragrant, and hard/crumbly cheeses. For example: aged cheddar, young gouda, and brie OR creamy goat cheese, aged gouda, and bleu. For 4 people, I suggest about 16 ounces (455 g) of cheese in total
- Sliced hard salami, about 2 ounces (55 g) for 4 people
- Sliced prosciutto, about 2 ounces (55 g) for 4 people
- A small bowl filled with nuts
- A small bowl or cup filled with olives
- Dried apricots
- A bunch of crackers
- A hunk of crusty baguette, sliced on the diagonal
- a hunk or pot of very good salted butter. Use as abundantly and thickly as you would cheese. 🙂
- And then feel free to add any other goodies you have on hand that sound good that day
- Set everything out on a large cutting board or plate, arranging them artfully because you’re being fancy here. I start by putting the largest object about a third of the way in from one side. Then I add cheeses, any large bunches of grapes, and any little bowls and cups around the board or plate in a pattern like the seven card in a deck of playing cards or the dots on the five side of a playing die. Use the meats, crackers, and dried fruit to fill in the spaces between the cheeses and bowls.
- Set small knives and spreaders out next to each cheese that needs one, plus a small fork or two for the meat, olives, etc. Then let everyone help themselves!
And don’t forget your apéro cocktails. Frenchie & Friends hit every important point on the apéro-suitability-meter, a very scientific measurement scale I just invented. Light, effervescent, complex, and perfect for transitioning to golden evening moments.