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If there’s one thing that I’m known for at the holidays — it’s entertaining. I really love having friends and family around my table, in my house and enjoying the magic of the season. To me, it’s more special than any gift. But what’s a party without food? It’s not a party, that’s what.
One of the food staples I have at every party is a well-thought-out charcuterie board. It’s Dane’s favorite part, because specialty cheeses, meats and bread are not typical things we keep in our house. #sadbuttrue
When I was in culinary school in Italy, one of the topics we learned about was how to prepare the perfect board with accompanying snacks for guests to enjoy. This particular segment was followed by a trip to the home of Parmigiano Reggiano and dear Lord in heaven – I just want to live there. That’s a story for another day…
Just in time for your own holiday get-togethers, I’m sharing how to craft the perfect charcuterie board on your own. Let’s dive right in!
I always like to keep these three concepts in mind while preparing:
- Mix things up! Offer a a wide range of cheeses, so that you can appeal to all guests
- Prep early! Cheese should be served at room temperature, so prep things about one hour before guests arrive so it has time to breathe
- It’s more than cheese! The perfect charcuterie board offers more than just cheese – be sure to add something sweet (I like fruit or honey), a meat option (or two) and some sort of bread. My go-to is thinly sliced prosciutto from the deli and a fresh baguette!
Now, what cheese? What tools?
I mentioned before about variety and what I keep in mind is creamy and crumbly, as well as fresh and aged. It’s important to have variety, because taste in cheese is palate dependent.
A couple favorites include:
Boursin® is a creamy, crumbly cheese that your guests are sure to love and you can pick some up in Walmart’s dairy section. My go to is Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese, because I love the hint of garlic without it being overwhelming, but the Cranberry & Spice or Cranberry & Apple would make a great addition to any holiday plate! Other flavors include: Boursin® Red Chili Pepper, Basic & Chive and Cracked Black Pepper. This cheese spreads very easily, so make sure you have some bread or crackers nearby! A soft cheese knife would be best for this smooth cheese.
Fresh burrata is another great choice – firm exterior and gooey delicious interior. Burrata falls into the category of pasta filata cheeses — think mozzarella, fior di latte, straciatella, etc. And if I’m being totally candid – Americans have been messing it up for years. Traditional pasta filata cheeses from southern Italy are made from coagulated milk, whey and thermophilic bacteria. Americans recognized they could imitate this process (but never match taste or quality) with citric acid and thus, cheap Americanized mozzarella and the like were born. True pasta filata cheeses are nearly impossible to get outside small Italian delis or made in small batches at home, but are well worth the effort – trust me! Thinly slice these cheeses prior to serving for best results.
For a hard cheese, I typically turn to an aged cheddar, pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano. I like something that guests can chunk off and put on top of a crostini or cracker, or simply enjoy for taste alone. Typically these cheeses have a salty sharpness in flavor. Parmigiano Reggiano comes with the highest price tag, so make sure you pick that one up when you’re having your in-laws or boss over 😉 A flat cheese knife works best to chip, chunk or shave these types of cheeses.
Now that you have all your cheeses picked out, it’s time to arrange and serve! I tend to arrange in a circular pattern, with a cheese alternate in between each selection (grapes, meat, honey, etc.), but how you choose to serve your platter is completely up to you. No matter what – your guests will gobble it right up.
What is your holiday entertaining go to?