Ever since I started posting recipe and meal ideas on here, I came to realize that I should really dedicate a post to my “go-to” dish that I always put together when having one friend or a gathering of people over.
You’ve seen hosting ideas on here before, weather it be for chilli, tacos or mermaid snacks. If you paid attention, you might have picked up that there’s one item that keeps making an appearance at those kind of social events.
That item is a good old fashioned cheese and charcuterie board.
Cheese, charcuterie or crudités boards are honestly my favourite thing. I get excited when I see them at parties or events, I love putting them together, and boy do I love eating them.
The reason I am such an enthusiast (other than the fact that they are 1) DELICIOUS, and 2) so QUICK & EASY to assemble) is that you can truly get creative and change it up each time, especially depending on the season. As a hostess, there’s something so enjoyable about assembling hand picked foods, and decorating a wooden board with artisanal bowls and vintage brass spoons in which to serve that carefully chosen food.
During summer, the kind of handpicked items I like to gather alongside cheese and charcuterie are fresh fruit, nuts, veggie dips and freshly baked crostini.
Keep in mind that these boards are not only reserved for entertaining. These make an excellent dinner. On those lazy nights when we don’t feel like cooking, we whip up a nice platter of cheese, cured meats, fresh bread and a bottle of red wine, à la European. (Convincing ourselves that we’re “being European” justifies eating cheese and crackers for dinner).
Below I featured what I normally include for these crowd-pleasing platters of goodness.
Dips are joy in a bowl. They make any boring cracker or carrot stick a delight to nibble on. Not surprisingly, hummus or baba ghanouj is a staple on my board (with a sprinkle of smoked paprika, of course). I also love a good roasted red pepper dip in the summertime because of it’s bright coral-like colour and kick of flavour.
To enjoy said dips, I personally love getting a fresh loaf of sourdough from Forno Cultura or Brodlfour (even a fresh baguette from the supermarket), and seasoning and crisping them myself. There’s something rustic about slicing up fresh bread, drizzling some olive oil and rosemary and baking them to a perfect crisp. Of course if I don’t have the time to do that, any packaged crackers or crostini (like the one from ACE Bakery) absolutely does the trick.
For chips, the Terra ones are especially fun for summer spread because of the vibrant colours and fun flavours of each vegetable chip. If I’m putting together a crudités platter of raw veggies, I’ll have the usual lineup of carrots, celery, cucumber and cauliflower. For this particular board, we were loading up on carbs.
There are many helpful “how-to’s” when it comes to selecting cheese for a well rounded cheeseboard (this guide from Serious Eats is good to start with). The general rule is to have a balance of a soft cheese, a blue cheese and a sharp cheese. My rule? Choose whatever cheese you like. I’m a sucker for brie, camembert, smoked gouda, havarti, old cheddar and parmesan reggiano. For this board, I had camembert and jalepeño havarti (one of my faves).
For my carnivores, similarly to above, there are plenty of good guides to narrow down what to choose for a charcuterie platter, like this one from Bon Appetit. The usual charcuterie lineup would be prosciutto, paté, salami, kielbasa and even mortadella. Again, choose whatever cured meats you like. For this board we kept it simple with a classic Italian salami cacciatore. Let it be known that I am a huge, huge lover of paté. Ugh. So bad for you, yet so good.
Fresh fruit bring the right amount of sweetness and tartness to balance out a heavy cheese or meat palette. They also pair well with nuts and chocolate (more on that below). For a summer platter, I love adding fresh strawberries and grapes are a classic staple. Apple and pear slices are also a great addition, especially if you’re serving honey on your cheeseboard. Such an elegant combination.
In addition to fresh fruit, having dried fruit is key. These days, I’ve been adding dried Medjool dates or dried figs. They bring an exotic richness to a platter and go so well alongside cheese and nuts. And chocolate.
Another item in the “fruit family” that I love adding to my boards (especially for Fall or Winter spreads) is jam. A good apricot, pear or cranberry jam/marmalade harmonize deliciously with cheese and nuts.
Aside from the crostini, nuts add a tasty element of crunchiness to an otherwise softly-textured board. I can eat hickory-smoked almonds until the cows come home, but if you prefer something lower on sodium, I suggest roasted unsalted almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts. If you’re allergic to nuts, corn nuts, pumpkin seeds or crispy chickpeas can satisfy that crunchiness.
Last but never least, chocolate. Grazing on a cheese and charcuterie platter tend to be heavy-ish on the salt, or onion and garlic flavours (i.e. the dips, cured meats, maybe garlic crostini). So it’s always a nice finishing touch to cleanse your palette with chocolate. My usual choice is a rich, dark chocolate, and I love pairing it with almonds, walnuts and of course, strawberries.
I hope this inspires you to create your own platter of delicious cheese and charcuterie eats at your next social gathering (or your next lazy night in). What do you like to add to your cheese and charcuterie boards? Let me know!