THIS SHOULD NOT BE MISSING IN YOUR REPERTOIRE
Words: Mr. Benjamin Norris | Fromanteel staff-editor, Bristol – United Kingdom (GMT -1hour)
When it comes to truly impressing guests or a date, you could go for a beautifully presented antipasti spread. Why? Because antipasti are all about selection: it’s a meal which relies on a man’s ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, to choose the very best components for the spread, and to bring them all together into something far more than the sum of its parts. What’s more, it’s the ultimate social food - could anything be better than sharing a plate of delicious meats, cheeses, and sundries over a glass of wine with your friends, family, or a beautiful woman?
With all that in mind, we’ve put together a brief guide to constructing the most impressive antipasti spread. Make no mistake, this is something that should be in every man’s repertoire, and it’s the kind of skill that brings about real results!
Step 1: Be Very Selective
Nobody’s going to be impressed by a handful of items taken from your local supermarket bargain range. If you’re going to do antipasti, make sure you do it properly. This means going to a respected deli - or an shop specialising in artisanal produce - and making every purchase count.
The difference in price isn’t likely to be as dramatic as you might expect, and yet the difference in quality and flavor most certainly is.
Step 2: Think Flavour
Every great antipasti spread covers the four main flavor bases: salty, sour, spicy and sweet. By bringing each of these flavors together, you are sure to end up with something certain to seriously delight the senses.
For the salty side of things, make sure there are plenty of slices of charcuterie - salamis, hams, dried meats and regional specialities like prosciutto crudo. As well as this, bring in some top-quality cheeses, and at least two types of olives.
To bring a bit of spice into your platter, look for a chili-spiked salami, as well as some peperoncino or other cocktail chillies. Your sour aspect can come from an assortment of pickles and preserves, and the sweet can come from fresh fruits (sliced melon always works well) and dried, preserved fruits like figs, apricots and dates.
Step 3: Think Colour and Texture
Antipasti platters are supposed to be a cornucopia of delights for the senses - a riot of color, flavor, aroma and texture. This gives you plenty of scope to play around with the items you choose, and by using the ‘power of three’ (that is, three cheeses, hams, fruits, etc.) you can heighten the experience by bringing in different textures. Select a hard cheese, a regular one, and a soft, fresh one, and you’ll soon get the idea.
Step 4: Get Creative With Arrangement
So, you’ve gone out and sourced all your favorite things for your antipasti spread - now it’s time to get it all together, and looking as impressive as it’s going to taste. If you’re using a large wooden board - definitely the classy option - start things off by placing the larger items (cheese slices, charcuterie, vine leaves etc) in separate ‘zones’ on the board, away from each other.
Once those are in place, you can start filling all the gaps with items which are progressively smaller in size. Get the rolled prosciutto crudo in there, and the chunks of melon… then follow this with nuts, olives, seeds and the smallest foods in your collection. Fill any remaining gaps with hunks of fresh bread, crackers or some torn herbs, and it’s going to end up looking phenomenal.
Step 5: Don’t Forget The Wine
Antipasti platters are perfect for lazy, casual afternoons of good company and laughter. As such, no antipasti spread would be complete without a bottle or two of top wine - but you’ll have to think carefully about what type of vino to reach for, as the flavor and body of some wines are going to easily overpower the more delicate items on your board.
For this kind of light-hearted, breezy and yet sophisticated dining, an excellent bottle of rosé is never a bad idea - preferably one from Provence, or a Sangiovese rosé wine from central Italy. However, you can easily hit the same spot with a good Chianti, a youngish Burgundy or even a New World Sauvignon Blanc. Follow this with a bottle of one of the less formal sparkling wines (it’s been a great few years for Spanish Cava) and you’re onto a real winner. Cheers!