See how to make the best spread of fine imported cheese served with meat, fruit, nuts, bread, and crackers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any get together in this Charcuterie Board Basics: Tips for the Perfect Spread post.
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I don’t know about you, but I squeal like a little girl inside when I walk into a party and there’s a fabulous cheese platter. I. LOVE. CHEESE. It’s that simple. Have you ever looked at a beautiful Charcuterie Board and thought to yourself, “how on earth do you make that?”
That’s why I’m sharing my Charcuterie Board Basics, tips, ideas, pairings, serving ideas, and utensils as part of my #EverythingButTheTurkey Blog Series. A well-crafted Charcuterie Board is perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any get together. Let’s get started!
But first, what is charcuterie?
It is French for delicatessen. When referring to a charcuterie board, it’s basically foods like meat, cheese, olives, fruit, nuts, and spreads that require little to no preparation before serving.
Um, how do you pronounce charcuterie?
Charcuterie pronunciation is “shahr-cute-uh-ree”.
Charcuterie Board Tools:
To craft the perfect cheese board, you need to start with the right tools. Think simple and rustic, like these cheese boards.
Next, you’ll need some cheese knives. Each cheese that you serve should have its own knife. These are my favorites:
Additionally, you’ll need some cheese labels, because no one wants to repeat the names of cheeses all night long to inquiring guests.
And finally my favorite resource for making the perfect spread, The Cheese Course. It offers suggestions for pairings, fruit and nut accompaniments, and suggestions for presentation. It’s a must unless you have a cheesemonger in my back pocket because I sure don’t.
Selecting the Perfect Cheese for your Charcuterie Plate:
Most cheeses fall into one of these four categories:
- For a fabulous cheese platter, try to include different flavors and textures by choosing one cheese from each category.
- Here are some of my favorites from each category:
- A sure way to get a range of different flavored cheeses on your plate is by choosing cheeses that are made from different types of milk (goat, sheep, cow).
- Splurge a little when you’re creating a cheese platter, especially when it’s a holiday. You want to serve specialty cheeses that you don’t eat regularly.
*PRO ENTERTAINING TIP: If specialty or artisan cheese isn’t in your budget, especially during the holidays, then ask your guests to contribute by bringing their favorite cheese. In my experience, folks get excited about picking out and bringing a favorite or new cheese. This will also help introduce you to different cheese varieties that you may not have tried before.
How Much Cheese Should I Serve?
- If you are serving the cheese as an hors-d’oeuvre, then you should plan on a total of 2-3 ounces of cheese for each person.
- If the Charcuterie Plate is the main item being served, then you should plan on a total of 4-5 ounces of cheese per person.
Arranging the Charcuterie Plate:
- Don’t crowd the cheese platter, no one wants to feel clumsy because their knuckles are bumping into cheese while trying to cut the one they want.
- Separate strong cheeses from more mild ones, you don’t want cheeses to start tasting like each other.
- When arranging the boards, think about complementary textures and flavors of the different items you plan on serving. You want a good balance of flavors and textures.
What should go on a Charcuterie Board?
- Bread and Crackers: Offer slices of bread and crackers but keep them mild in flavor. Try to stay away from ones with garlic, seeds or herbs. You want the cheese to shine, not the accompaniments.
- Meats: You’ll want a few different textures of meat to go with the different types of cheese that you choose.
- Fruit: tart apples, sweet concord grapes, melon, figs, pears, blood oranges (goes great with a little bit of fennel), and in-season berries.
- Spreads: think chutney, fig spread, grainy mustard, and local honey.
- Miscellaneous: nuts, honeycomb, balsamic glaze, bitter greens like chicory, olives, and peppery arugula.
If you’re serving…
- Before Dinner, then serve with savory accompaniments like olives, nuts (my favorite is Marcona Almonds), prosciutto, and chutney.
- After Dinner, then serve with sweet accompaniments like fruit (love Concord grapes), dried fruit, toasted nuts, jams, and honey. Or better yet my favorite, honeycomb.
Charcuterie Board Serving Tips:
- Each cheese needs its own knife. You don’t want your cheese selections to start tasting like each other, there’s no fun in that!
- Take the cheese out of the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving. The cold suppresses the flavor.
And that’s it, my Cheese Platter Basics. Did I miss anything? What is your favorite cheese to serve?
I recently updated this Charcuterie Board Basics post. It first appeared on FFF on November 12, 2014. Here is one of the older pictures from the post:
More recipe to help you with your Thanksgiving spread:
- Creamy Buttermilk mashed potatoes
- Succotash Recipe with Bacon and Scallions
- Deep Dish Apple Pie
- Cranberry Macadamia Nut Stuffing
- Brussels Sprouts Flatbread with Prosciutto and Goat Cheese
A crunchy, savory snack to serve with your other appetizers and hors d’evours.
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