The Art of Charcuterie

The wind was always pleasant this time of year in Paris. Early fall and the soon setting sun was turning the grey city pink. The dark river was lit with dancing yellows. Trees were green and orange and the sound of music floated between groups of young Parisians sitting on the quai, laughing, drinking, dancing. A secret I think not many Americans discover while visiting Paris is that the most lovely dinner you can find is on the little stone pathway beside the river: a bottle of wine from a corner shop, a baguette from the boulangerie, a block of cheese, and a handful of apples, grapes, dried sausage. 

Dinner with a view!

We often think of charcuterie as a high class food, the type of fancy appetizer you’d find only at a nice wine bar, artistic and delicious but ultimately too expensive and time-consuming to do on our own. But this absolutely is not true! One of my favorite things to prepare is a charcuterie board. It’s beautiful, built for sharing, and easy to mold to any dietary restrictions or pallet you want. And there are absolutely ways to do it without breaking the bank.

All three of these cheeses are from Trader Joe’s; the herbed cheese at the bottom is especially interesting. And the crackers are gluten-free!

After my year in Paris I was determined to return to the states with an expert knowledge of French cheese. This, it turns out, takes more than a year to acquire. However! I did learn a lot while I was there, and though it isn’t quite the same here, I’ve continued to try new cheeses and expand my knowledge since I’ve been back. And good cheese is not lacking in New York City; Trader Joe’s alone has dozens of options from around the world. You can also try Whole Foods, West Side Market, or–if you’re looking to splurge a bit–The French Cheese Board in SoHo has the best imported French cheese I’ve found. Even on a student budget, they have affordable options (like a goat cheese for only two dollars!). 

The fig jam is always a centerpiece!

Building a good board is as much about the taste as it is about the look. Start with two cheeses then lay out crackers, fruit, veggies, and spreads between them. Some of my go-tos are raspberries, green apples, cucumbers, and fig jam. Try mixing different sweet and savory flavors and go for seasonal ingredients! A handful of mixed nuts is a great filler; in the fall I go for roasted pumpkin seeds and in the winter I candy my own walnuts. I love dried sausage and prosciutto (folded and arranged neatly), but if you’re meat or even dairy-free check out Whole Foods for vegan cheeses and pâté. Try different sauces and dips: jalapeño pepper jelly, honey, whole seed mustard, whatever you want. You really can get creative and incorporate flavors from all sorts of different cuisines. I’m usually inspired by French foods, because it’s what I know and love, but I also have fun trying new ingredients and combinations, and as long as it fits aesthetically onto a little cutting board, I call it charcuterie (though the purists might get mad at me for that one).

Everything on this board is vegan: one soft and one smoked cashew cheese, and a veggie “pâté” from Whole Foods.

When I have friends over for dinner I love starting with a charcuterie board because it welcomes people in. When we’re sharing food from the same plate, we’re close and talking and enjoying our time. Charcuterie boards are also beautiful and your friends will appreciate the effort you put into preparing one. They are also a great way to start a date night. And what a lovely way to treat yourself and those around you with food that looks as good as it tastes. My favorite way to care for others is through delicious and beautiful food, and the charcuterie board is the perfect way to do it. Don’t forget the wine!

I love the combination of a soft cheese (Brillat Savarin) and a hard (Irish cheddar). Paired with truffle sausage, prosciutto, dried mango, greens, and raw honey!

Cora Enterline is a senior at NYU studying law, ethics, and religion. She’s studied and worked in Paris and Tel Aviv, where she loved biking, traveling, dancing, and teaching English. She has a love for foreign languages, sad novels, themed dinner parties, and red wine by candlelight. This summer, follow her blog to learn easy, student-friendly recipes and find inspiration from around the world for your own dinners, picnics, and culinary adventures at home!

For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourages them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing, and services.  At the Campus Clipper, not only do we help our interns learn new skills, make money, and create wonderful e-books, we give them a platform to teach others. Check our website for more student savings and watch our YouTube video showing off some of New York City’s finest students during the Welcome Week of 2015.


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