How To Arrange A Charcuterie Plate

Charcuterie is the French word for prepared meat products such as pate, rillette, and sausage, as well as the butcher shop that sells them. Coming from chair ("flesh") and cuit ("cooked"), charcuterie was originally prepared as a way to preserve meat before the invention of refrigerators. Today we use it for the delicious flavor that comes from the preservation process.

A charcuterie plate is a great trick to have up your sleeve. Whether serving guests at a party or just having a light supper,creating a good meat plate is a quick and easy way to showcase different flavors of meat and to flex your creative plating muscles. A good charcuterie plate is flexible; it can have a mix of cooked meats and air-dried meats, have only meats from one country or region, or focus on one type of meat. For this plate I chose three thinly sliced northern Italian meats that can stand on their own or pair with cheese, plus hummus and veggies for the vegetarians.

Prosciutto di San Daniele Unlike its better-known cousin Prosciutto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele is made in northeastern Italy, which boasts a moister, cooler climate. The meat is cut from the leg of a hog and cured for at least 13 months. The result is a cured ham that is so mild and delicate it practically melts in your mouth.

Spicy Coppa Coppa, or capicola, is made from the pig's neck or shoulder, and cured surrounded by fat until it reaches a prosciutto-like silkiness. Also from northern Italy, this particular cut is hot and spicy, adding a punch to your platter.

Bresaola For something leaner and a break from pork, try bresaola, a cured and aged beef originating from northern Italy's Lombardy region. Humanely raised top round beef is rubbed with salt and spices and air-dried for two or three months until it has a bright red finish. The flavor is delicate with a strong hint of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, and goes well with most cheeses.

To balance the richness of the meat, serve with cheese, a good baguettemustard and olives or cornichons for acidity. I chose three mild cheeses that would highlight the meats' flavors.

Drunken Goat Cheese (Queso de Murcia al Vino) Literally meaning "goat with wine", this semi-firm Spanish goat is cured for 48-72 hours in red wine which gives the rind its beautiful violet hue. The cheese itself is sweet, almost floral, and complements the spicier meats on the plate.

St. Marcellin St. Marcellin is a soft French cheese made from cow's milk with a golden crust. Generally aged about one month, the flavor is earthy and mushroomy with a slight tang. As it ripens the flavors become stronger and the exterior turns blue. This cheese also grows runnier with age, and is usually contained and served in a small ceramic crock.

Ricotta Italian for "recooked", ricotta is made from the whey of sheep's milk. It is grainy and creamy white and has a sweet fresh taste that goes well with almost anything. Ricotta is a fresh cheese (not ripened or aged), which makes it highly perishable, so eat up.

Pair your platter with a hearty red wine that goes with everything, like a Cotes du Rhone or a Pinot Noir (serve in champagne flutes if you happen to have broken all your wine glasses or are feeling fancy). Like most things, this light meal is best enjoyed on a rooftop with friends or in front of the fireplace with one other person.