Awesome platters for entertaining your guests
Charcuterie boards are one of my favourite things to create. There are endless ways of putting them together but there are a few basics I like to include.
- Soft cheese
- Hard cheese
- Fruit – fresh and dried
- Cured meat
- Marinated veggies
- Crackers/bread or any mode to eat cheese
Let’s break them down individually
This is a fun one because you can literally make any dip you want. I made a roasted red pepper feta dip but you can make a hummus which is a little more inexpensive to make. (Tin of chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, EVOO and some tahini-optional and you can also add in extras like sun-dried tomatoes etc.. ). Eggplant dips like baba ganoush or like a melongene choka or tomato choka are always a hit too. I also like making a sour cream and chive dip especially if I’m serving veggies like carrots and celery. And I also like making a herbed whipped feta dip made with herbs and cream cheese and feta. You can also do store bought as well. My favourite store bought dip to this day is an artichoke and asiago dip. I also like using mustards too. You can dish out a little whole grain or Dijon and it’s great as a dip or spread with some of the salami’s. So you see, you can be creative with your dips and there are lots of options for keeping it budget friendly.
I’m clumping the soft and hard into one because it’s your board so you get to choose what kind of cheese you want on it. This is where things can get expensive though. Because cheese, especially the rarer kinds can get very expensive. You should really think of the crowd your serving when you’re deciding on cheeses. Is the crowd a cheese loving one? Do they appreciate stinky, distinct cheeses or is the most exotic cheese they have ever had-pepper jack? These are things to consider, because say you splurge on a fabulous Gorgonzola but your guests won’t even venture into trying a mild goat cheese then you will be the only one eating that Gorgonzola. You see what I mean.
You should really think of the crowd your serving when you’re deciding on cheeses
I kept mine pretty basic. I like a hard cheese like Parmesan or Grana Padano and a soft Brie. My first choice was a double cream one but I got this larger wheel of herbed and it was great!! Brie tends to be one of those cheeses that is perfect for wine and cheeses. It’s versatile and one of the more inexpensive ones to get. And you can leave it as is or you can bake it and top it with honey and nuts. You can get fancy with it. But it’s mild and most people like it. If your really on a budget no biggie. Get a slab of pepper jack, white cheddar or marble and slice it or cube it. I have done that and it’s perfect!! In the end cheese is cheese and if your friends can’t appreciate that then you have some pretty snooty friends and you should tell them to bring there own cheese! Hahaha!
I will also add honey and chutneys to that as well. There are a lot of options here. There’s so much out there that you could add. Fancy chutneys, pepper jellies, aromatic honeys, you name it. But you can totally keep things basic and inexpensive by dishing out some raspberry, orange or apricot (which is my fav) Smucker’s jam in a tiny bowl. Any sweetness is a delight when paired with cheese. I used some delicious local pepper jellies that a good friend gifted to us. You could even spice up your own by using pepper flakes and a grape jelly. It’s just a matter of using your imagination. You really get good at that when you’re on a budget.
Fresh or dried fruit
Pretty simple but there’s options here too! I used portugal’s and grapes which I love. And I also used dried apricots. Another favourite of mine. But really any dried fruit will do like mangos and even dates or prunes. Dates are fabulous with cheese!
You can even slice up some apples and pears with a dash of lemon juice to keep them fresh looking or try caramelising them in butter and cinnamon. How delicious would those be on a slice of baguette smothered in Brie?!?!
Ok my favourite cured meat is Soppressata. I also love Prosciutto and Genoa salami as well as German salami. But those can also be super expensive. Have no fear good old ham and even turkey breast go great with cheese as well. I have made homemade baby meatballs and served them up with a homemade tzatziki dip. And I have also sliced and fried up kielbasa sausages and served them as the meat component with some mustard as a dip. There’s great stuff to choose from at every price point. I also always check to see what’s on sale and I freeze it and use when i need it. Like a wine and cheese.
So I love olives of all sorts. And although they are technically a fruit I’m still putting them under this category. You can get the really fancy ones at the specialty stores or you could get a basic jar of them or even canned and gussy them up by marinating them in EVOO and some herbs. Or you can turn the canned and pitted ones into a tapenade dip by pulsing them in the food processor with EVOO, and some garlic and salt and pepper. I love marinated artichokes too. Same method for those. You can drain the canned ones and marinade them in EVOO and some herbs and salt and pepper or spice them up with garlic and chilli pepper flakes or just buy the already marinated ones.
One of my favourite things to put out is marinated stuffed grape leaves. I love them and you can get them canned as well or you can make them if your adventurous. Mine didn’t make it to the board because I had dished them out and knocked them off the table by accident in my preparatory frenzy like ten minutes before my guest were to arrive. You can imagine my disappointment first, of not being able to serve them, and second to clean up the oil and glass spill from off my beautifully mopped and clean floor.
Crackers and breads
The options are endless in this category also. I like a couple of good baguettes and I love hard and hearty seeded crackers that can hold up. I havn’t seen those here in Trinidad in a long time so I usually just opt for a simple water cracker or Crix. Really anything you choose at any price point is going to be great because really you’re just using it as a medium to scoop or layer cheeses and dips.
You can even make your own bread or pita chips work really well too.
I love to add some crunch to the board as well. On this one I have spiced and candied pecans that I made but any salted nuts are great with the cheeses! I like to have some extras on the side of this especially if I’m doing a a smaller charcuterie board. I do my marinated goat cheese with pita chips on the side and I like doing a hot dish as well like a puff pastry stuffed cheese and sausage pie which gets eaten like in 60 seconds. I will share the recipe to that and some of my dips soon. I also love to add a sweet component to it. I will buy some dark chocolate and break into pieces. This time I got some chocolate crisp wafers and totally forgot to take them out of the fridge for the guests to eat. That is my brain folks! Chocolate covered almonds are great too. Anything chocolatey goes really nicely with the wine.
The main thing is you don’t have to spend a fortune to make a pretty charcuterie board or even to host a wine and cheese. Let your guests pull their weight also. Allow them to bring a bottle of wine or a cheese of their choice. I also make sure to have lots of water. I like to do a jug of lemon water and I always have juice as an option for those designated drivers or my non drinking buddies.
Hope these were some helpful little tips on making a great charcuterie at any price point. Please share any of your favourite things to add to a charcuterie board. I would love to know!!