Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and this year my family has chosen me to be the host, so I’m planning early. In years past, I haven’t bothered with making an appetizer, but that leads to pre-dinner nibbling and too many people in the kitchen while I finished cooking – not a good idea in a small kitchen. Having learned a few hosting lessons through trial and error, I now know that with my family (and maybe with yours), one or two appetizers might be just the thing to tide them over until dinner.
In my family, the dishes that get the most nibbles are the ham, turkey wing and cheese that goes into the baked macaroni and cheese. So, a meat and cheese tray is the perfect appetizer for them and lucky for me, it’s something that can be made ahead of time and is not very time consuming.
The absolute best thing about a meat and cheese tray or charcuterie board is that you can completely customize it to your guests’ preference. My family loves smoked turkey, ham, cheese and dried fruit, and of course bread, so now I have the contents of my very own charcuterie board. Traditionally the meat and cheese is presented on a wooden board but it also goes well on a platter of any kind. In my opinion the “art” of the board is in the selection and the arrangement of the meat, cheese and other accompaniments. I like to tell a story or create a path of some sort with the cheese and dried fruit.
If you need something easy and appetizing for your family for the holidays or anytime, try creating your own charcuterie board following these instructions.
How to Construct a Cheese and Charcuterie Board
- Choose a variety of milks: goat, cow, sheep.
- Choose a variety of textures:
- Soft: Brie, Ricotta, Feta
- Semi-soft: Gouda, Swiss, Gruyere
- Hard: Pecorino, Manchego, Cheddar
- Choose a variety of styles:
- Fresh/uncured: cream cheese, mozzarella, scamorza
- Mild : Taleggio, Neufchatel, Robiola
- Choose a variety (3 or 4) of non-meat edibles:
- Crackers – any flat, thin, soft or hard cracker
- Fresh fruit – grapes, pears, raspberries, blueberries
- Dried fruit – cranberries, raisins, cherries, dried apricots
- Jam or fruit spread
- Toasted nuts – walnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, cashews
- Toasted baguette slices
- Choose a variety (3 or 4) of meats:
- Hard salami
- Summer Sausage
- Shaved Ham or Turkey
Once you have made your selection from each of these categories, select a board or platter for presentation. Then arrange your platter in an appetizing picturesque way. If you decide to use a soft cheese like goat cheese or cream cheese as an added touch you can role the cheese in fresh herbs, dried seasoning or toasted finely chopped nuts. Once done with your creation be sure to cover your platter in a cool, dry area if you are not serving it immediately, uncover at least an hour before serving. Last tip – keep it simple. A board with a few good nibbles is better than a board filled with unappetizing nibbles.
If you still feel like you need a hand in creating your perfect charcuterie board, head over to The Chopping Block, as we have all the utensils to create this masterpiece, and our culinary team will be happy walk you through the process. Better yet, stop in for a Happy Hour at either of our locations as you will enjoy a cheese and charcuterie plate along with tastings of two select wines each week!