Do you have friends, a living room, and a free evening? Yes, probably. Do you have a lot of time and energy to polish the silver and throw an elaborate dinner party mid-week? Probably not. But could you host a store-bought, assembled-in-an-hour soirée that doesn’t sacrifice style? Absolutely! Enter the no-stress charcuterie party.
Step one: shopping. Seeking out a specialty cheese shop or deli can be an adventure and an education, but most well-stocked supermarkets will have everything you need (including Layer Cake wines). Should your neck of the woods be lacking in options for delicious cured meats, there are great sources online. Click around on Olympia Provisions, Iowa-based La Quericia and Olli Salumeria for excellent American-made salumi, shipped directly to your door. La Tienda is a wonder world of edibles from Spain: chorizos, jamón, or paprika-dusted Marcona almonds.
Step one: narrow your options. Effortless party planning means don’t-sweat-the-small-stuff. Make some simple decisions and narrow down your options:
- Charcuterie. The star of the show, in all its rich, meaty goodness. For a pleasing presentation, you’ll want a variety of textures (ie, thicker-cut coins of saucisson sec or fennel-flecked finocchiona piled next to paper-thin slices of coppa). Roll speck (slow-smoked pork leg, native to northern Italy) or more-familiar prosciutto into cigars and fold layers of spicy sopressata into half-moons or quarters. Bresaola (air-dried beef) and a rabbit or duck pâté provide a change of pace from all the pork. Err on the side of purchasing a little too much, since leftovers will keep for well over a week.
- Cheese. Here’s your script for the cheesemonger: “I’m throwing a charcuterie party for X number of guests and I need your help. I’d like three cheeses, two crowd-pleasers and one more daring. I want to vary the type of milk (sheep, cow, goat) and texture (fresh, aged, creamy). What would you choose?” (Make friends with this person for future parties.) If you don’t have time to chat up the cheese expert, purchase an herbed, fresh goat cheese, a wedge of P’tit Basque and a washed-rind triple cream (Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk comes to mind).
- Carbs. Slice a baguette (easy – the bakery will often do it for you if you ask nicely) and set out crackers (easier). Buy more bread than you think you need; charcuterie is rich and guests will always go through it.
- Extras. A big bowl of roasted pistachios or a make-ahead herbed nut mix adds a pleasing crunch to the festivities; olives, cornichons, and grainy mustard provide a puckery contrast to the richness of the charcuterie and cheese. (All look Instagram-pretty in little finger bowls.) Throw a big salad together to stretch out the meal and lighten things up (arugula and tomatoes in the summer, chicories with walnuts in the winter).
- Display. Go for drama with the largest serving platter in your arsenal, or a large wooden cutting board. This is a room-temperature menu, so arrange everything out about 45 minutes ahead. Put out cocktail napkins, glassware, a chilled pitcher of water and your favorite Layer Cake wines within easy reach.
Step three: fluff the pillows. You’re officially ready to host. Light some candles, crack the Primitivo and relax while your guests arrive. Pretty easy, right? If you pull off that gorgeous, no-stress party, send us pics! We’d love to see your style in action, tag us at @layercakewines! Cheers.