Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to entertain.
LOVE IT. In fact, I find more joy in feeding and entertaining other people than I do cooking just for myself.
With Labor Day this coming weekend, I figured this was the perfect time for me to share how I build an EPIC cheese and charcuterie board. The holidays are always a time which calls for gathering, celebrating and entertaining.
I recently went to Malibu Wines in Malibu (duh) and decided that occasion called for a cheese and charcuterie board. Follow along as I break down how you too can assemble this epic board.
Wine tasting or not, cheese and charcuterie are ideal for any occasion. It is the perfect start to a dinner, fantastic addition to a party, a great option for a picnic, or simply "just because". My components for assembling the perfect board include:
- Something Salty
- Something Sweet
- Bread and Crackers
And of course, let's not forget the serving platter,small dishes, name makers and cheese knives!
My general rule is 3 oz of cheese per person if the board is the main food for the event. If you are serving multiple appetizers or want this to be a lighter snack, then scale back the amount of cheese you buy.
I like to select 3 - 4 different types of cheeses. If you are having a large party (8+ people) you can opt for even more choices. When I am thinking about what cheese to serve, I try and select a soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard cheese. You should plan on allowing your cheeses to sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. Their flavors are best when they are at room temperature and not as hard blocks straight from the refrigerator (which mutes the flavor)!
Soft: These are soft and creamy cheese which are spreadable. Goat, Brie, Chevre, Camembert
Semi-soft: More firm than soft cheeses but still has a high moisture content and tend to be mild in taste. Munster, Gruyere, Blue-veined cheeses (although these aren't mild but much more distinct and "stinky")
Semi-hard: These cheese are much lower in moisture than soft cheese and aged for a longer time. Cheddar (which there are so many varieties of based on aging length), Gouda
Hard: These are the cheeses that are packed very firmly, aged for months or years, and when cut are very crumbly due to their low moisture content. Manchego, Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano
For my board I selected Truffle Tremor as my soft cheese (from Cypress Grove Chevre) as it is a wonder balance of goat cheese and Italian black summer truffles. If you haven't ever tried this cheese I highly recommend it! I wasn't necessarily in the mood for a semi-soft cheese for this occasion, so instead I selected 2 semi-hard cheeses - Gouda and Irish Cheddar. Lastly, for my hard cheese I chose Manchego.
You'll notice that all of my cheeses have name tags. It is important to let your guests know what they are eating! I bought these adorable chalkboard markers off Amazon but even just paper name tags will do.
Similar rules apply here for the amount of meats to serve. I aim for 2-3 oz of meat per person but again, if you are looking for something lighter you can decrease the amount of meats you buy.
I am by no means an expert on different types of dry-cured meats and sausages. I found this article on The Savory very helpful and informative - Charcuterie Study Guide: A Meat-by-Meat Breakdown. Charcuterie varies from region to region, but below are a few popular choices.
Italy: Prosciutto, Speck, Bresaola
Spain: Jamon Iberico, Jamon Serrano
Italy: Mortadella, Salami, Soppressata, Coppa
France: Pate comes in many different textures and compositions. They can be made from pork, rabbit, duck or chicken liver.
Italy: Ciccioli is a pressed cake of fatty pork made from lard renderings. This is by no means good for you in large quantities...but it is hands down the most delicious thing I've ever had on a charcuterie board. I've never made it myself (only had it at a restaurant) but there are plenty of recipes out there should you want to try making!
For my board, I selected (from left to right) Prosciutto, Jamon Iberico, Chorizo and Sopressata.
The main components of our board are now in place, but the accompaniments are equally as important to bring good balance.
3. Something Salty
The salty components I chose for my board included Marcona almonds, an assortment of olives and sun-dried tomatoes. A good mix of crunchy and salty goodness.
4. Something Sweet
For the sweet, I added raw organic honey, fresh figs, nectarines and a few squares of dark chocolate. This can really change based on the types of cheese and wine you pair for the occasion. If you were drinking full-bodied red wines, I may opt for cherries, plums and chocolate. We were eating this during a hot day so I knew we would be drinking a crisp, cold white wine so figs, nectarines and honey were a great pairing!
5. Bread and Crackers
Last, but certainly not least, you need to choose what type of bread or cracker you will eat all of these delicious meats and cheeses on! You can go simply with just bread or just crackers, but I personally prefer a mix of both.
Crackers are a great base for your soft, spreadable cheeses
Once you have all of your components, it is time to assemble. This is the part I love! You can use a mix and match of cutting boards/serving platters or just choose one large board. Cutting boards are recommended so that your guests can easily slice the cheese directly on them.
You should separate the stronger smelling cheeses from the milder ones - you don't want to interfere with the flavors of your cheeses. I also make sure that the charcuterie is divided about board. Once the charcuterie and cheese are in place, fill in the gaps with your accompaniments. If everything doesn't fit on the board - that's OK! You can see I used small bowls for the nuts and olives. If you want to get really creative (and why wouldn't you) garnish the board with some greenery to finish off.
You literally cannot go wrong. Whatever you choose, it is guaranteed to be tasty. Have fun and enjoy the company of those you share this with! Cheers!