November 04, 2020
Cheese and Charcuterie boards are a no-stress way of entertaining as they're relatively quick and easy to make, don't require cooking and can be made in advance. Whether it's a date night in with a special someone, or a bigger gathering, guests love them, nibbling on their favorite snacks through the evening with a glass of wine and good company.
We make these all the time, so her are some of our best pro tips:
Select an attractive board or tray. Both marble and slate boards are good for keeping cheese at the right temperature but the advantage of wooden boards is that they're a good surface for cutting cheese and any bowls of chutneys or antipasto you place on it won't slide as easily. All three are a perfectly good option.
Go with an odd number of cheeses as this is the most visually appealing, three pieces for a small crowd and five or seven for a larger gathering. Make sure you have a mix of hard and soft, mild and flavorful and different shapes and sizes. A safe bet is a block of mild cheddar, a round of creamy camembert or brie and a wedge of something stronger like a blue or goats cheese. If creating a bigger board, blocks and rounds look cool stacked on top of each other. Always serve cheese at room temperature so get these unwrapped and on the board an hour ahead of when you're wanting to serve.
Sweet and savory chutneys and spreads and pastes are a perfect accompaniment to cheese. Savory-sweet jams and chutneys add interest and flavor to a board. Serve them in little bowls that are about the cheese height and arrange them around your cheese wedges. Some flavors that work well with cheese are Tamarillo and Black Raspberry, which is tart and fruity; Onion Balsamic Marmalata, a bold savory-sweet jam; Bourbon Bacon Jam, strong and smoky; and Tamarind Chutney with cumin and garlic. All add a wonderful punch to cheeses and meats. Sweet fruit pastes and comb honey also go really well with the saltiness of cheese and add color and drama to a board.
Keep with the rule of variety in both taste and texture from mild to peppery, and different shapes and sizes. Try salami, pepperoni, smoked salmon, prosciutto and ham. Smaller salami rounds make great boarders, large pieces of prosciutto and ham bunch up so that it has some height and the medium sized slices of meats and salmon fold into rosettes either by twisting around your finger for slices of salmon or if they're a round, fold them in half and half again.
Arrange a variety of crackers and bread sticks to fill up space around the cheese, bowls and meats. Natural Wafers are always a good choice as they don't take away from the flavor of everything else, but make sure you also have some interesting flavors on the board too such as Garlic and Olive Oil Wafers, Poppy Seed Rice Wafers and Beetroot Cracker Bites (which add great color as well as flavor).
Don't forget to have a number of cheese knives, little spoons and forks. There are so many lovely options that these can be a feature in themselves also. Make sure that you have enough that several people can serve themselves at once and that different knives and spoons can be used for different cheeses and chutneys just in case someone wants to avoid one of the stronger flavors.
This is where you can add herbs, nuts, dried fruit or edible flowers making sure all the gaps are filled in and bringing color to the spots that need it. Make sure that everything you put on your board is safe to eat.
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