I was so flattered when Annie (my friend and Most Talented Blogger at Most Lovely Things) asked me to participate in this month’s Project Design. Each month Annie – along with Mary Ann of Classic Casual Home and Cindy of Rough Luxe Lifestyle – choose a topic and ask 2-3 other bloggers to join. This month is all about charcuterie boards, with whatever twist the blogger wants to take!
I of course said “Yes!” without thinking twice (I REALLY like Annie).
But then I panicked.
I mean, what could I share about this topic that hasn’t already been shared? So I did what I always do in these situations – that is, I think about what questions I always had in the beginning, thinking maybe some of you do too?
And the thing that always tripped me up when I first started creating cheese boards was:
“How much/How many?”
As in, “How much cheese/meat?” “How many varieties?” “How much fruit/nuts/garnish/crackers/accoutrements?”
And this being September and back-to-school and all, I decided to turn this post into a math lesson.
……….Um, are you still there?
DON’T freak out. It’s FOOD-math. Which is way more fun (and easy) than MATH-math.
See, it’s always easier to remember things if you’ve got a formula, and the formula for setting up a perfect cheese board is all about 3’s. And you won’t need a calculator, protractor or graph paper, promise. I’ve created a board that perfectly serves 2 – 3 people; scale up as needed!
Let’s start with your cheese – 3 varieties, and count on 1.5 ounces (half of 3!) per person. I like one soft cheese (Brie), one hard cheese (Manchego) and one spreadable cheese (Boursin). Make sure to have the appropriate knife/spreader for each variety.
Now add your meats. Again, I like to put out 3 varieties, and I’ve used salami, prosciutto and coppa here. A good rule of thumb is 1.5 ounces, or about 3 slices per person (!!). To make it easy for guests to help themselves, take the time to separate the thinner/more fragile meats and either fold or roll them before placing on your board – this will prevent them from sticking together.
So easy, right? And the rest of your board has no rules at all!
Fruits and Nuts
Optional but I love the color and crunch they add. I prefer dried fruits over fresh for 2 reasons – they can sit at room temperature without sacrificing flavor, and they don’t oxidize like most cut fruits. I love the color of dried apricots and used them here. Nuts are always welcome and I’m showing roasted almonds. I tend to go with unsalted varieties, as most meats and cheeses are salty enough, but the choice is yours.
Spreads and Breads
No proper cheese board would be complete without them. I adore fig jam and always use it but the sky’s the limit – honey, mustard, chutney – whatever you like! And I like to have 2 or 3 grains – some sturdy crackers (like these “everything” flats) for layering, and others for dipping and nibbling (grissini shown here).
This final step takes minimal effort but yields lots of punch. Fresh herbs such as rosemary and sage look lovely, and tiny clusters of purple grapes are great for color and filling in any gaps.
A few more tips:
** Let your tastebuds (and those of your guests) be your guide. Any nibbles that feel right ARE right. Olives, cornichons, pickled vegetables – it really is all good.
** While it’s nice to have everything on one long board, don’t feel limited – better to have things on 2 or 3 boards (or other containers) than all crammed into a too-small one. And get creative! Cookie sheets, marble slabs and cutting boards all work – and the more rustic the better! I love Home Goods, tag sales and flea markets for inexpensive and unusual finds.
** Food boards can be sweet too! A dessert board is a fun and inventive twist on a traditional cake or pie; no oven required (just look at Kelley Nan’s killer fondue board)!
All this “equals” a starter that’s as easy as “1-2-3” and will certainly earn you an “A+” with your guests.
For more inspiration, please take a look at these other fabulous bloggers!