Memorial Day marks the beginning of a magical North Shore summer jam-packed with beach days, barbeques, wine on the deck, and cruises on the boat. It’s a time of get-togethers galore and frequent spur of the moment entertaining. This summer will be better than the last, however. Because this summer, with my help, you are going to elevate your snack game and impress even last-minute visitors by mastering the basic cheese and charcuterie board.
A few simple steps will take your gathering from typical to a memorable adventure in cuisine – with no cooking involved! With so many sensational cheeses, meats, jams and pickles to choose from, don’t your guests deserve something a little more special than chips and dip? I’m here to help you wade through the options and come out victorious with a platter that will make your pals say wow!
Don’t know the first thing about cheese? Thought charcuterie was a town in France? NO PROBLEM! Visit me most Friday evenings from 4-7pm at Shubie’s for a taste of a few weekend winners. If you can’t make it, a good rule of thumb is one hard cheese (like a cheddar or Manchego), one soft cheese (yes, like a brie!), and, if you want, one blue (or goat or sheep or anything else that makes it seem like you’ve done this before!).
Budget 1–1.5 oz per person per cheese, and about 3 oz total of cheese per person. So, if you’re having 4 people, buy 12 oz of cheese, made up of approximately 4 oz of three different cheeses. Same equation goes for the meats. Whenever possible, pull cheese out of the refrigerator two hours before serving, so it can come down to room temperature, where it’s flavor is fully expressed.
Add a crunch factor, and I’m not just talking crackers here! Nuts, pickled anything, last night’s roasted veggies and grilled bread can be game-changers. If you go with crackers, choose something your friends wouldn’t already have in their pantries at home. I love Onesto Crackers from Newburyport, Urban Oven and Kii Naturals Bite-Sized Crisps.
I’ll say this once. Spreads. Be it a delicious local jam packed with ripeness to cut through the salt on your palate or a sense-awakening, sinus-clearing mustard, this step will kick things up to a whole new level. Try Mustard and Co. of Seattle, Fille de Ferme Fine Preserves of Marblehead, and Wildly Delicious Jams of Toronto. Each company believes in using the freshest ingredients in exciting combinations to make products full of flavor.
Once you have your components laid out, the important thing is not to over think the platter. You’ve just chosen a beautiful array of foods that shouldn’t need a lot of fuss to look stunning. Start with a simple, monochrome tray and follow the rule of keeping things together in big (or little) piles of color across the board. Add life with fresh and dried fruit, add height with short jars filled with mustard, pickles, and jam, and lastly, pour yourself a celebratory glass of wine, because you my friend, are ready for company!