HOW TO MAKE THE ULTIMATE CHARCUTERIE BOARD
I love entertaining friends and family, but if you’re anything like me, you start to feel the panic of so little time and so much left to do before company arrives.
This year, you’ll be able to make those lovely dinner parties a little better by bringing the perfect antipasto platter; beautiful local meats, a variety of cheeses, veggies and more. If you’re thinking that’s great but I have friends who are vegetarian/vegan or who have dairy issues, don’t worry, we've got you covered! The best thing about antipasto (or charcuterie if you prefer) is you can arrange a platter that incorporates something for everyone. All dietary considerations included!
Antipasto is a staple at every party and luckily, it is far less time consuming than making even one or two appetizers. The trick is a bright, beautiful board with lots of variety. Sound a little challenging?......I promise you, it’s the way to go!
Here are my steps to making an epic antipasto platter!
1) Choose the board or platter: large cutting boards, marble slabs, slate boards, or large ceramic platters are all great options. Generally speaking, larger is better, but you don’t have to run out and grab something new. You can arrange a couple of smaller platters, or if you have the space, you can do a tablescape. Instead of putting the food on a platter, you can actually arrange the antipasto right on the table on some butcher or parchment paper. It looks gorgeous, is different and will give guests something to talk about!
2) In our meat-friendly version, the next step is to choose a variety of local meats. I suggest choosing between 3 and 5, depending on how big your group is.
My rule of thumb here is:
* something mainstream like roast turkey
* something a little more wild like a dry style sausage
* perhaps a pate or rillettes – it’s nice to have something spreadable for those that eat meat but can’t eat dairy
* the wild card - something with a little spice, smoke or heat.
For the vegan pIatter, I prefer wild mushroom pate, marinated tofu, or roasted eggplant.
3) Next step is to choose your cheese. Again, I like to incorporate 3 to 5. One soft, one hard, one blue (blue cheeses are hit or miss for people, they either like ‘em or they don’t) and the last two you should have fun with.
You can still have cheese for the vegan guest. True it can be difficult to find a great vegan cheese but I promise you there are some. I will give you a few choices below.
4) Next up are the veggies. This is a place where you can have a ton of fun with texture and color. I like to do a mix of raw, roasted and pickled veggies and the best part is you can buy the veggies in their various states already prepared!
5) The dress up step – fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts and more. I call this the dress up step because this is where the pretty little touches come in. My favorite things to add to a platter are those mini bite size mandarin oranges. I peel them and place a few around the platter for a beautiful edible garnish. You can also sprinkle some pomegranate seeds or gooseberries (tip – you can buy the seeds frozen). Add a few truffles or chocolates of some sort, your guests will love this sweet little addition. A few little bliss balls are the perfect companions for the vegan boards. A few other items: grapes, dried cherries, dried blueberries, apple chips, coconut ribbons and of course this is a perfect time to grab that Christmas blend of nuts you see everywhere to add to your platter.
6) Dips, spreads and preserves are up next and the step that pulls everything together. There are so many fun things to add. My staple suggestion is a red pepper jelly and honey (honey drizzled over a hard cheese or a blue cheese is to die for). Feel free to add a couple of flavors that you love – because after all, it’s your platter: fig jam, roasted shallot preserve, and a couple of mustards are great additions. A quick stop at the grocery store or farmers market will yield a dozen choices at this time of year.
7) Last but not least, the bread and crackers. This part is super important because it’s the avenue for all other things to get in your mouth! I usually do one fresh bread (ie: a baguette), a fruit and nut cracker, table crackers and a couple of gluten free options.
In Calgary I have a few favorite places to shop for my antipasto platters, but at this time of year almost every grocery store and market have good options.
For cheese, crackers, dips, spreads and preserves my favorite place is Springbank Cheese. For meats I love Valbella Meatsproducts - check out their website for what and where to buy. Another option is Sunterra Market; they have some great cheese, meats, veggies, and more.
If you’re looking for great vegan options, the best place to go if you have time is Vegan Supply. They are an online vegan shop with so many amazing goodies that you can’t get anywhere else in Calgary.
Some of my favorite vegan cheese options:
* Basic Roots Herbes de Provence Spread
* Basic Roots Smoky Chipotle Spread
* Daiya Smoked Gouda Style......you can also find this at Community Natural Foods )
* Field Roast Tomato Cayenne Chao Slices
* Miyoko’s Creamery No 01 Classic Double Cream Chive Cheese
* Miyoko’s Creamery No 04 Fresh Loire Valley in a Fig Leaf Cheese
* Miyoko’s Creamery No 06 French Style Winter Truffle Cheese
* Pulse Cashew Kind of Blue Cheese
* Nuts for Cheese Red Rind
I hope these tips and tricks help make your dinner parties a little bit easier this year! I also hope that you have some leftovers to indulge in for yourself!