My mom and I were at the grocery store this afternoon — along with just about everyone and their brother in Cincinnati — and we were doing our Christmas weekend shopping.
With family and loved ones coming into town tomorrow already, we needed to stock the house, so off to Kroger we went.
And let me tell you: my mom is known for is EPIC CHEESE BOARDS.
We’re talking we will often times fill up so much on the delicious cheese board that we’re not even hungry for dinner! (Don’t worry, we still manage to find room) 🙂
But it’s got a little bit of every thing — AND — I’ve even figured out a way to may it “gluten-free-inclusive” without sacrificing style or taste.
‘So first thing first:
THE CHARCUTERIE BOARD BASICS
1. Use the largest cutting board you have.
This may going without saying, but the bigger the better, when it comes to board size. I personally love wooden boards — or boards with natural elements: like stone, marble, etc. (You’ll see why in the next step)
2. Get a variety of good quality cheese. I always stick with 3 types, but you could also do 4 depending on the number of people you have. You want a diversity of cheeses, ie: one soft brie, one hard cheese like asiago, manchego or cheddar, one mild cheese (like gouda or munster), and one tangy/flavored soft cheese spread like Boursin cheese (it’s always a winner.) You could also substitute the final category with a stinky blue cheese, but that’s a polarizing cheese: know your crowd…
When it comes to brie, not all brie is created equal. There really is a brand that reigns supreme, and once you have it, you will understand why: Fromager d’Affinois – it is sold by the wedge, and is a triple cream brie cow’s milk cheese. And oh my gosh, you could eat the entire brick in one sitting if you’re not careful. It’s so rich and creamy. It’s one of those that you don’t know if it’s butter or cheese, but you don’t really care, you just want MORE.
3. Bring the cheese to room temperature before serving. Especially the brie – you want it to be truly nice and soft — perfect for dipping and spreading. And speaking of, be sure to serve a separate cheese knife for each type of cheese. Labeling them is also a plus. You can DIY this by creating a little “flag” out of a tooth pick and masking tape that you can then write on!
4. This next tip may sound a little “hoity toity” but just go with me here. I promise, it isn’t as crazy as it sounds. You want the board to reflect the earth.
What do I mean by this? Think about the earth’s topography. There are mountains, flowing rivers, and diversity in landscape. So when I start laying out the board, I will start out by place the main rocks — or bricks of cheese — in a pleasant, balanced arrangement. Then I will start to build the landscape around it.
You’ll want some height for the mountains – so I like to put vines of fresh grapes. The to create some movement for the rivers and wind, I like to have an element that flows: so whether that’s a stream of almonds, or a river of blueberries, grape tomatoes or dried fruit – something that feels like it is flowing over the board. I’ve also had a “flow” of scrunched up prosciutto travel through the board – that’s a fun element.
I love the texture that carrots provide: just be sure to slice regular carrots — not baby carrots. Baby carrots have a stunted flavor. Plus, sliced large carrots just look more elegant. Other additions could be sliced celery or trimmed raw green beans.
And then I like to fill it in with a variety of crackers. If you’ve got gluten free people in attendance, use only gluten free crackers on the board itself, and then have the “gluten-full” crackers in a separate basket that is labeled. If you separate the gluten free crackers and put the gluten-full crackers on the plate, it cross-contaminates the entire board for the gluten free folk.
For regular crackers, people always love Firehook Sea Salt crackers, pita chips or bagel chips.
And then with any extra space, I like to fill in with spots of other little goodies: like pistachios, dried apricots, apple chips, even peanut m&m’s!
5. NON-CHEESE ADDITIONS:
So on your charcuterie board, you of course, want to have some non-cheese options. We’ve already got the grapes and blue berries, carrots/veggies and almonds or pistachios.
But another addition is a little ramekin of good olives — like the ones you get from the olive bar at the grocery store. Just remember – if the olives have pits, you’ll need a little dish to dispose of the pits. That, and serve with tooth-picks.
I also like to include a little decorative dish of hummus. This is a great dairy-free addition, and you don’t even need anything special to serve it with, because you’ve already got great dippers!
6. Lastly, be sure to serve it with little plates and napkins for your guests, along side a pump-bottle of regular-sized hand sanitizer (with moisturizers). People love to gather around a board and just pick at it, but it really is the most sanitary to put some on a plate and then come back for more if you want.
7. And here’s a bonus: always serve this with something sweet! People love a little dessert to finish off the night, and after a glass of wine – or two – people are more inclined to indulge a little more than they normally would! So I always will have a tray of cookies on standby to bring out after an hour or so — my peanut butter cup cookies are always requested!
So there you have it! I have made so so many cheese boards for birthday parties, Christmas parties, brunches, Saturday night get-togethers, you name it – I’ll find an excuse for a cheese board!
Because truly, it makes a party.
So there you go! Hopefully that will come in handy over the next few days of celebrations!
At the end of the day, people love SNACKS! So no matter what you bring out for a party, people will be grateful for a little something salty and crunchy munchy. So fear not — there is no BAD way to make a charcuterie board!
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