Enjoy Your Charcuterie Board on Board
Any way you slice it, charcuterie boards make entertaining fun.
Charcuterie (shar koo der ree) board: a curated platter of meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, and more. A cheese and crackers makeover with a new wardrobe ready for a night on the town (or an evening on the couch). Lunchables graduated from middle school then went straight to post-doctorate.
A cheese board is a snack spread of small sweet and savory bites designed to be eaten together. It includes a variety of cheeses with pickles, fruit, nuts, condiments, and crackers or bread. There may be cured meat, what the French call charcuterie. A charcuterie board will have everything on the cheese board plus lots of cured meat.
The Italian antipasto is a great example. This combination of cured meat, fish, provolone, and mozzarella cheese would not be complete without roasted red peppers, lupini beans, olives, and pepperoncini and was made for sharing and nibbling.
Build it Your Way
Charcuterie boards are easy to make and perfect for entertaining. You can build them in advance and bring them along in a cooler to take on the boat. Since you choose your combination of ingredients to suit your crowd and event, it’s easy to include something for every palette and cater to even the most limited diets. A hearty cheese board takes the edge off of hunger after a day on the water and allows for a leisurely evening of watching the sunset before rushing to dinner.
The first step in creating the cheese partyof your dreams is to start with a board. Don’t have one? Use a plate, a platter, a tray, or two. You can even use a small table, but be sure to cover it with butcher paper after thoroughly cleaning it. If you’re bringing the board somewhere as a guest, consider an inexpensive old plate or platter from a yard sale or thrift shop.
Next, gather your selection of cheeses, ideally between three and five. Choose a variety of textures: soft, like brie; semi-soft, like Fontina, semi-hard, like young Gouda; and hard, like aged Gouda or Parmesan. Also, aim for an assortment of cow’s milk, goat, sheep, or buffalo. Consider as well different levels of sharpness, ripeness, funk, stink, and sweet. Essentially, the longer a cheese has aged, the more intense the flavor.
If you’re looking to bust yourself out of a cheddar rut but aren’t sure where to start, there’s a whole world of Goudas to explore. A 3-year-old Gouda is hard like Parmesan but nuttier. Inside, you’ll find crunchy tyrosine crystals, a by-product of the aging process, which explode with flavor in your mouth. Mt Tam is a buttery and smooth triple cream cow’s milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. Humboldt Fog, a mold-ripened goat’s milk cheese, offers an herbaceous creaminess with a thin vein of vegetable ash which many mistake for a bleu cheese. But don’t skip the bleu cheese. If in doubt, ask your cheesemonger for help. They have lots of secrets and opinions they’d love to share.
Cheese is best cut when it’s cold, but best served at room temperature. Pull it out of refrigeration, cut it into cracker-sized slices, and allow it to warm up while you gather the rest of your ingredients. Round cheeses can be cut in thin wedges while hard cheeses can be served in shards.
If you’re including meat, look for something beautiful and marbled with fat. Slice your salami as thinly as possible. Layer your charcuterie in a curving shape around your dip bowls, roll it into logs, or fold it.
Gather the rest of your ingredients to round out your flavors and textures: crispy, crunchy, sweet, tart, sour, sharp, smeary, spready, dippy, briny, and beyond. This can include olives, capers, grapes, berries, sliced fruits, preserves, honey, fig jam, mustard, pickles, veggies, and more.
Create a Mental Map
Make a mental map of what you’d like your finished board to look like. Think of your board as topography. You want variety: rivers, mountains, lakes, and forests.
Decide on your dip/jam/honey bowls and pop them in place. They don’t need to be identical, but they do need to add visual interest. Arrange the stars of your show, your meats and cheeses, around these vessels. You can create a meandering river of Manchego or sunbursts of salami. Next, place veggies and fruit and any other larger items. Finally, fill in any gaps with nuts, olives, grapes, or gherkins.
Want to read more about making the perfect board?
Crackers and bread are best served in a separate bowl or basket, so they don’t get soggy or take up valuable space on the cheese board.
Don’t limit your boards to cocktail-time capers.
Breakfast on Board
Think of a breakfast board as a mini buffet. You can opt for a sweet version, with small pancakes or waffles nestled among a selection of toppings: fresh fruit, nuts, bacon, bowls of yogurt and preserves, and a small jar of real maple syrup.
Or take the savory route with a bagel board: mini bagels, a river of sliced cold-smoked salmon, giant flakes of hot smoked salmon, pickled red onions, boiled egg slices, capers, bowls of flavored cream cheeses, and wee patches of arugula sprouting about.
A biscuit board would be the best of both worlds. Show off your grandmother’s famous biscuit recipe surrounded by a selection of butters, jams and jellies, eggs, bacon, sausage, and cheese.
Looking for the best Charcuterie Boards this year? Check out this article from Food & Wine
Delicious Desserts Board
If you’re assigned to bring sweets to the party, you can’t go wrong with a dessert board. Be sophisticated with a chocolate fondue board, including lots of fresh fruits for dipping in chocolate sauce, but don’t forget fun options like graham crackers or marshmallows and savory snacks like thick-cut wavy potato chips or crispy bacon.
A store-bought angel-food cake can also be the star of the show. Cut it into cubes, offer bowls of fudge and caramel sauce, fresh fruit, chopped nuts, and a mountain of whipped cream. Or head straight for the sweet tooth with a selection of store-bought cookies and candy, artfully arranged on a giant platter.
Once you board the board boat, you’ll see so many different iterations: the Bloody Mary board featuring a variety of pickled veggies, cured meats, cheeses, and hot sauces for fixing your drink, or just straight nibbling. For those cold days with the kiddos, a hot cocoa board with marshmallows, candy canes, cookies, and flavor bombs. How about a French fry board with tater tots, curly fries, waffle fries, and a variety of ketchups, aiolis, and melty cheese dips?
No matter your theme or occasion, bear in mind a few simple rules for the architecture of your boards.
Keep it local: This is a great opportunity to use that jar of honey you snagged from a roadside stand in Bluffton, South Carolina, or the goat cheese from the farmer’s market near St. Augustine, Florida. One of the perks of traveling by boat is that you can shop for—and stash—delicacies from all your ports of call.
When you use the homemade jams, pickles, and preserves you find along the way, your cheese board becomes more than a snack. It’s elevated into a conversation piece and an edible souvenir of your adventures.
Think in colors, textures, and layers, both as visual and flavor components.
Prep, prep, prep. Everything on your board needs to be removed with one hand, while the other hand holds a cocktail or a plate. Avoid putting out items that need to be cut or sliced.
Use your imagination. If you can dream it, you can board it. Read More
-by Rubi McGrory
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