So, I have to admit that I can go a little overboard sometimes. Well, a lot of the time. I’m working on it, I really am. I am famous for packing my schedule, not knowing how to say ‘no’ and just doing things that have ‘over achiever’ written all over them.
I like being helpful, I like having things to do and most of all I love a challenge. I have learned the hard way that sometimes it’s okay to take a shortcut and that it’s okay to make things easy on myself.
One of those famous ‘trying too hard’ things I do is make really awesome (translate – complicated) appetizers at Thanksgiving. There is nothing inherently wrong with that but when there is so much other cooking going on that day and everything has to be timed just right and there is limited space in the oven – who needs complicated?
It took me several years but I finally wised up and started serving things that only need assembly – hence the amazing cheese and charcuterie platter. I don’t know about you but I could live off the stuff on a cheese platter – cheese, cured meats, olives, breads, nuts, crackers, fruits – I could go on and on. Plus, in my experience people are so in awe of a visually appealing cheese plate – it’s like ‘guys, I bought it, unwrapped it and put it on a platter. What’s so amazing about that?’
Here is a little small scale (remember, I’m an over achiever – which means lots more types of cheeses and lots more meats) mini-example of what I am planning for Thanksgiving.
Okay, so here are your materials. In my opinion, it all starts with a great serving platter. You will see above that I have invested in a an awesome slab of slate. There are many options such as wood or marble but I love my slate – you can write on it! Next to a cheese I will write its name in chalk. Its adds a bit of visual interest but honestly, anything will do.
Here are the main elements:
There are some schools of thought that say when making a cheese platter, one should include at least three of the following – a soft cheese, a hard cheese, a goat cheese, a sheep milk cheese, a cow milk cheese, a blue cheese, etc but I say, serve the cheese that you and your guests like. Here, I just grabbed what I had in my fridge – a smoked Gouda, a double cream brie and a herb goat cheese. If I had them, I would have added a Manchego and a truffle cheese. All of my favorites.
I just grabbed again what I had on hand – a Calabrese salami, prosciutto and the delicious Capocollo. Meats add a salty and savory pairing with cheese. If you don’t have fancy meats, don’t worry – a bit of Genoa Salami will do the job quite nicely.
I try to include the following items to help pair with the cheese – something acidic (olives), salty (meats or nuts), sweet (honey comb, preserves or dried fruit), nutty (nuts – go figure?) and fresh (sliced cucumber, fruit or crudités).
I’m not a fan of pate, terrines or aspics but they do make great parings if you like those types of foods.
I love crackers but I love crostini more. Thin slices of great bread, toasted and brushed with olive oil – can’t go wrong with that.
Bread, cheese and meats. Heaven.
Next up – the assembly. There are no hard and fast rules here (I’m sure there are somewhere but I don’t follow them) but one thing I try to do is have lots of color. Color is what creates visual interest. You will see the deep reds of the berries and meats, green of the pistachios, orange of the apricots and so on.
For placement, I usually let my fresh fruit be the anchor of the plate either in the center or on one of the top corners. The cheese is placed at fairly accessible areas on the platter for ease of cutting and then little bowls of color at various places to create contrast.
All in all, just start placing things until you come up with the magic combination. You’ll be a pro in no time.
Hope this was helpful. Enjoy.