The traditional charcuterie board, with its mix of meats and cheeses and fruits and crackers, is nice — don’t get me wrong. However, now that we know how to make a “soul-cuterie” board, we’re trading in the usual nibbles and noshes for some cornbread, deviled eggs, catfish, red velvet cake and other very delicious, very Southern bites you didn’t know could be made into small samplings for your next event.
In time for Black History Month, McCormick, the popular spice and food product company, has partnered with award-winning Chef Millie Peartree, Southern food aficionado, to get you hip to soul-cuterie boards.
“A soul-cuterie board is just the way to get all of your soul food, Southern food, delectables in little forms,” she tells ESSENCE. “You have your little plate and you can sit it next to you during your card game and have your little chicken wing, your deviled eggs, your catfish nuggets. And I just feel like it’s just an amazing way to bring people together because food is such a conversational piece.”
Though the idea came from McCormick, the ideas for offerings to serve on these boards came from the Southern food expert, who recommended everything from classic desserts like banana pudding in small jars to okra, mac and cheese and more.
“You know, soul-cuterie boards tell a story, just like a regular charcuterie board would or a cheeseboard,” she says. And that story could be that you’re entertaining people who like a little sweet, a little savory, and a whole lot of homecooked goodness. We asked Chef Millie for tips on how to have fun with soul-cuterie boards, and here are five things she says you can keep in mind, the most important of all being, have fun with it.
You Can Do All Savory, All Sweet or Both
In my soul-cuterie boards, I kind of go counterclockwise a bit because I’m lefthanded per se. I like to start with something kind of salty and I always keep something that is salty and sweet in the middle. I could start with something hot. I could start with something that’s more savory. And then when you get to like your nuts, like your candied pecans, I’ll mix some cranberries or dried peaches or dried fruit with it. And then on the other side of the board, I can have like a red velvet cupcake or a whoopie pie or banana pudding cake. So you can make them all savory, all sweet. But I like the combination of the mix because I’m a sweet and salty type girl. I like to have both.
Healthier Fare is Welcome
[For example], if you don’t want catfish nuggets and catfish is not your thing, totally use some mushrooms, same fish fry Zatarain’s batter with some Old Bay. It’ll give you that same crispy, crunchy consistency. You can use salmon, you can use chicken, and you don’t have to fry things. A lot of people love the air fryers right now. I want people to make things your own. Even with the vegetables, I like okra. I eat okra. I love okra. But if okra is not your thing, totally go for what you like. Carrots, broccoli, whatever it is, there are like over 10,000 species of vegetables and I think we only eat about a hundred of them. So there’s something for everybody out there. Just make what you like, make sure you season up with some good McCormick seasonings and make it your own. And that’s what soul food cooking is all about.
How to Make Anything Fit a Soul-Cuterie Board
Chop up things bite size, I’d say about two inches, and like two bites out of it. But again, there’s no right and wrong way to do what it is that you love. If you want something that’s bigger, make it bigger, but just make sure you do it with love, and make sure you have an array of different things for all of your guests on your soul-cuterie board.
Add Some Height to Your Board
I like height on my food. You could add so much height to something or put it in a bowl on there and it adds that visual appeal to it. So if you see something piled up in the middle, like automatically when you look at something, you look at the middle of it. So I feel like the middle is the center of the plate, which is the heart, which is the love. Add things the way you want to, or if you want to take the traditional, soul-cuterie, charcuterie route, put things next to each other how you would bite things together. So say for example, I’ll make sure I have my dip next to my fish because, of course, I’m going to want to dip that way. I’m not going to want to reach across the board to a barbecue sauce. I also have dried fruit. If you have like some collard green spring rolls, I like to add some dried peaches or something sweet to counterbalance the bitterness of it.
Most Importantly, Have Fun With Your Food
I just say eat the way you like. There’s no right and wrong way to do it. You can use my technique or not, but make things your own, have fun with it, eat it, have a good time and you know, just live it up.
For recipes to make the goodies on these soul-cuterie boards, head over to the McCormick website.