Charcuterie plates can be expensive or frugal, depending on the variety of meats, cheeses and fruits that you choose to comprise your dinner. The source of your food will have a great impact on its cost, and to some extent, it’s quality as well.
While we do advocate frugality, you have to remember that this meal is focused on purchased food products without much work on your part. It’s a lot harder to take frugal ingredients and make them into something special because the elements of a charcuterie plate speak for themselves.
So – what’s the best way to make a charcuterie plate affordable?
-Some delis and wholesale stores (Sam’s, Costco) sell decent prosciutto at a good price ($7-15/lb).
-For other cured meats, it’s better to reduce quantity than quality. If you have a real butcher close by, have fun ordering 6 slices of this and 8 slices of that instead of 1/2 pound increments.
-In some gourmet stores, small cured sausages are relatively inexpensive – about $1-2 per small sausage. When you cut it into pieces yourself, there’s enough to go around.
-With meat, for the most part, you’re getting what you pay for. Now that we have a butcher close by, it’s hard to be frugal after tasting the really good stuff.
-Trader Joe’s is your best bet here: great variety and incredible prices. Try something new and it won’t cost an arm and a leg like it will at a major grocery store.
-Whole Foods has a basket of smaller cuts of cheese that are leftovers from larger orders. (In our Wholefoods, this basket is in the same refrigeration case as the white/sparkling wines.)
-Even though it’s super frugal, don’t get the pre-packaged store-brand basic cheeses (cheddar, swiss, jack, etc.) from major grocery chains. Your charcuterie plate will be demoted to a cold-cut platter in a heartbeat.
-Some sort of delicious bread (we prefer a good, crusty French baguette) is a must. You can toast it or leave it as-is, but it goes without saying that meat and cheese need bread. (we said it anyway).
-Fresh fruit from the farmer’s market: Apples, pears, strawberries and/or grapes balance the heaviness of the meat and cheese. You could go for a big chain’s products, but for 1 apple, it’s not going to hurt your wallet too bad to opt for fresh and local, is it?
-Try something more savory – like a crudites plate merged with a charcuterie plate – tomatoes, carrots, celery, peppers and/or veggies.
-We recently had a selection of different salamis and with it, Ned made toasts with cheese, parsley, artichoke, and spices. It went really well together. (Thanks Sarah and Ned!)
-Some restaurants include honey or an apple cider reduction to go along with the cheeses. Some sort of candied/roasted nuts could also go well.
Some Specific Ideas:
-Prosciutto, salami, goat cheese, and blue cheese.
-Rillettes, cambozola/blue stilton, and grapes.
-Variety of salami with prepared hors d’houevres.
-Pate de Champagne, strawberries, and brie.