How often do you choose cheese and crackers as an easy, crowd pleasing hors d’oeuvre when it comes to entertaining? By simply stepping it up a notch, impressing your guests with a well put together cheese and charcuterie board is easier than you think.
There is such a wide variety of cheeses out there it can be hard to narrow down your choices. My number one rule when putting together a cheese plate is to offer a variety of styles of cheeses. Try finding a combination of cheeses such as Aged Cheddar or Gouda, a firm cheese such as Parmigiana Reggiano or Gruyère, a creamy Brie or a crumbly Chevre goat cheese. If you are serving any hard cheeses, cut them into slices ahead of time to make it have different tastes and textures. For a visually appealing spread, I plate an odd number of groupings using either 3 or 5 depending on the number of guests. You can typically allot 2 ounces of cheese and charcuterie per person when deciding how much to buy. Cheese is best served at room temperature so remove cheeses from the fridge about a half hour before serving.
Charcuterie, it’s just a fun word to say. Serving an assortment of meats to go with cheeses is a welcome addition. This is another time to try to mix up the textures. I like to pick something hard for the charcuterie board, like salami, thinly sliced on the bias, something soft and rich like a pate and dried cured meats like prosciutto, soppressata or chorizo.
Breads, crackers, pita, crisps any of these will work. I like to put out two options for people to decide. While good sturdy crackers are a classic, my personal favorite is sliced baguettes dipped in olive oil and broiled are perfect for spreading creamy cheeses and pate’s.
Sometimes I like to add a little something extra. I love the taste of Pecorino Romano drizzled with truffle honey, it reminds me of being in Italy. Sweet fig jam pairs nicely with your creamy cheeses. If you are serving meats add some whole grain mustard and pickled something like gherkins. Grapes and berries add dimension and color to a plate. Nuts like Marcona almonds are easy to snack on and taste great roasted with olive oil and a bit of salt. A bowl of snacking olives will round out the options.
Don’t forget your presentation which is very much part of the enhanced experience. I like to use natural surfaces like wood, stone or slate. With slate you can write the names of the cheeses in chalk. Add some pretty silver cheese spreaders. Serve a knife with each cheese so flavors don’t mingle. Varying the heights of the servings creates another element of interest. Have fun with it. Your guests will enjoy a nibble of this and a nibble of that. There are times this is one of my favorite ways to eat.