How to WOW your Guests with Cheese and Meat

I always go through the highs and lows with writing a blog.  I get motivated to do it, stick with it for a few months, realize I’m putting in a lot of work and most likely no one is reading, and then it falls by the wayside.  Truth be told, I’m not a writer, and it becomes work.  But I love cooking, I love drinking, and I love traveling.  And most of all, I love sharing it all. I also just watched Julie and Julia twice, recently ,so that could be the reason I’m excited about blogging again.  Luckily I still have this free URL address, and can come and go as I please. So we meet again.

I’ve been fascinated by cheese for a while now, and when I worked at a wine store a while back, I managed the food department which was mainly cheese and charcuterie.  So I was in charge of ordering the cheese, cutting and wrapping the cheese, merchandising the cheese case, sampling the cheese on tasting days as well as with events, and pairing the cheese with specific wines for customers.  Needless to say, I spent a LOT of time with cheese.

I needed to make a cheese and charcuterie board for Christmas Eve, and I was meeting my boyfriends parents for the first time so of course I wanted to make sure I made one heck of a spread.

When making a cheese and meat board you always want to make sure to include a variety of milks and textures.  For this particular board we had to dial down the adventure and pick more mainstream cheeses.   I decided on Manchego, a Colby Jack, a domestic softer blue cheese-the name is escaping me, a sharp aged cheddar, and a goat Camembert that was recommended by the Whole Foods Cheese Monger.  I wanted to make the cheese easy to eat so instead of putting them on a platter in one large piece or blocks, I cut them in bite size slices or cubes to make it easier for guests to pick up with a toothpick as well as more aesthetically pleasing.

Manchego- Sheep’s Milk, hard

Colby – Cows Milk, semi-firm

Domestic Blue – Cows Milk, soft

Aged Cheddar – Cows Milk, hard

Goat Camambert – Goat, semi-softI made life easy for myself and picked up an Italian Charcuterie pack that had prosciutto, coppa, and salami which was the perfect amount of variety and quantity for the platter.  I also got a very mild salami to include on this platter, but mainly for the kids platter.  Yes, I made a separate cheese and meat platter for the kids.As far as accompaniments, I thought about items I like with cheese and meats.  I picked up a variety of olives from the olive bar at Whole Foods, truffle honey mustard from Trader Joe’s, and made herb spiced nuts, recipe below, because they were a favorite when I made them for guests before.  You could always do a basic mustard or even a fig jam, but when I saw this mustard I thought it would be a nice addition.  It adds the slightest bit of sweetness and truffle essence to the dijon. Really lovely with the cured meats. As far a crackers- I wanted to pick something that would allow guests to spread cheese on them with out breaking easily and mild in flavor since I wanted the cheese to be the main event.  This is just an inexpensive assortment I got at Whole Foods.

In order to bring some color to the platter, I used grapes and strawberries, but also some greenery I got at a Farmers Market.  I couldn’t find small pieces of greenery so I asked the florist if I could buy some of her clippings  she was going to throw away and she said yes!  I gave her a couple bucks and picked out this beautiful greenery that really added a pop of color and festiveness to the platter.I assembled the platter quickly and tried not to overthink it.  I started by putting the bowls of nuts, olives, and mustard first and then layered the cheeses and meats around them.  I tried to not have any two like cheeses together, and have a meat between each one.  Then just placed extra cubes of colby where I saw fit. Decorated with some fruit and greens and that’s it!

Herb Spiced NutsIngredients:

3C unsalted raw mixed nuts-cashews, almonds, brazil nuts, and hazelnuts

2 Tbs fresh rosemary finely chopped

2 Tbs fresh oregano finely chopped

2 Tbs fresh thyme finely chopped

1/4C butter, melted or 4 Tbs olive oil

1/2 Tbs salt

Directions: 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  While oven is preheating, chop the fresh herbs and set aside.  In a small saucepan melt the butter. Once butter is melted pour over the nuts.  Sprinkle nuts with herbs and toss gently.  Layer the nuts on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

I like to add cayenne and maple syrup to this recipe as well when I’m making nuts for a party, but because these were on a cheese board, I wanted to keep things more neutral.  These are great all year round and I always love having the leftovers through out the week.

What are some of your favorite cheeses and cheese board accompaniments?

 

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