Posted on October 06 2017
Assembly Time: 4.5 Mins
You're running into your local grocery store at 5:30 pm on a Tuesday afternoon having completely forgotten you signed up to bring the snack to your book club tonight… This is an all too familiar scenario for many of us on the go...
You park the car, run into the store, and you're completely out of inspiration…
As your head moves from your right to the left, your heart begins to pound out of your chest, your palms start to sweat, and with cart in hand, you have the most important decision of the evening to make…. You have two choices… Option 1. Do you take the “typical” unoriginal, dull pathway of purchasing something pre-made (Boring) or Option 2. Do you dare to be the snack hero of the evening?..
1. How many people are you planning on? I am a cheese connoisseur so you’ll typically find me diving in head first. However, if you are also budget conscious, this is an excellent place to start as you begin to process just how much you might need.
TIP: 3 – 4 oz of cheese per person is a fair serving goal.
2. NOT all cheese is the same! There are 4 Main Categories that could even be dissected further, BUT we’ll start with the first 4. You have your Fresh (Soft) Cheeses, Ripened Cheeses, Hard Cheeses and Blue Cheeses.
TIP: Having 1 from each category is an excellent place to start. From an aesthetics point of view, I try to aim for different colors & textures. (Emphasizing the dependence of point #1 on how many people you plan on serving)
Cheese Category Examples:
Fresh/Soft Cheeses – Chevre, Burrata, Ricotta, Fontina & Havarti
Ripened Cheeses – Brie, Camembert, & Humboldt Fog
Hard Cheeses – Swiss, Cheddar, Gouda, Asiago, & Parmigiano – Reggiano
Blue Cheeses - Roquefort, Gorgonzola & Stilton
3. Stay within familiar ground (or suggested) There is nothing worse than seeing your investment go to waste, and there are some varieties of cheese that are truly experimental. Lean into your favorites and then leave some wiggle room for experimentation.
TIP: Select 1 cheese you are not as familiar with or that comes with a recommendation by a friend or your super market attendant.
Totally Bamboo State Board
For your accompaniments, now that you have a killer cheese selection, I would recommend exploring your pairing arsenal. This can be as simple as you’d like to make it or complex, both will turn out beautiful. For purposes of being the designated snack lady, I would choose maybe 2-3 of the options below however if I were possibly hosting a more elaborate event, I would most likely dibble and dabble in all the options below to hit all the taste nodes and truly make an award winner charcuterie board.
Inspiration… If you have a Trader Joes near you they offer several variety packs to choose from and this is my typical go – to: Daniele Gourmet Spanish Combo Pack which includes: Salchichón Salame, Del Duca Jamón Serrano & Chorizo Cantimpalo.
Bread, Crackers, Crisps, Chips, Gluten & Gluten Free – Oh My! So many options, I like to offer an array but this is up to your preference, but my personal thumb rule goes back to providing at least 2 options. And the beauty of the charcuterie board is that you do not have to stick to the rules, if you want to get 1 cracker option, and 1 bread option so be it, you are guaranteed to make somebody very happy.
TIP: If you went with harder, sliced type cheeses then typically sticking within the cracker family would be a good option for you, I’ll tend to swing with an original cracker flavor and then I’ll get something seeded, and garlicky. Softer cheeses work wonders on a sliced baguette + I like the idea of making “mini sandwiches”.
My personal favorite? Slicing Garlic Naan into thin crisps, and for just a couple of mins will toast them in a frying pan with olive oil, salt & pepper. WARNING: Your bread crisps will disappear in a matter of seconds, plan on having extra 😊
- Honey & Jams...
TIP: If you swung into the Blue Cheeses then typically a honey pairs best. Then some of your Ripened or Hard Cheeses go swimmingly well with a jam/preservative. My personal preference is something local to the region. And this is an area I love to experiment in with a more nontraditional flavor, like for jellies/preserves a guava, rhubarb, apricot, or even a hot pepper jelly! Or honey flavors, like a peppered or truffle, will really send your senses wild.
Inspiration… For a “fun” spin on savory & sweet this is one of my favorite recipes when I have more time: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/baked-brie-in-puff-pastry-with-apricot-or-raspberry-preserves-48907 ( I sub the suggested preserves for Rhubarb and for my nut selection I sub the almonds for the pecans)
When you’re thinking of everything you could possibly incorporate on a charcutier board, nuts are another lovely addition, and you have tons of options, so I’ll leave this one to be a bit more self-explanatory but will share my favorite additions.
TIP: You can never ever go wrong with Marcona Almonds! Trader Joes offer two of my absolute favorite flavors either a rosemary or truffled option and you truly can’t go wrong. My other favorite option is buying raw almonds, and in a small bowl adding a slight tsp. of olive oil and a few dashes of Chinese five spice and baking at 350 for about 7 mins.
- Fruits & Vegetables...
You have a ton of options in dashing in some odes to freshness and I’ll leave this up to you, but sometimes it’s nice to incorporate some fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, and depending on the season some fresh strawberries, cherries or peaches are a lovely addition.
TIP: If I am preparing my holiday charcuterie board, I will typically incorporate a bruschetta with fresh tomatoes (AND Strawberries) I’ll add this recipe later in this month but it’s a definite crowd pleaser.
- Something Pickled...
Speaking of contrasting flavors, I like to think of something pickled as a palate cleanser. When talking a charcuterie board, there is an immensity of richness, and these pickled nodes help cut through some of that. Completely optional, but in reaching for the gold medals of charcuterie boards, these are always a great addition.
TIP: I will typically provide 1 olive option, I am not a huge fan of olives so I will typically lean on my compadres for their favorites and then I’ll add in cornichon pickles.
One of the finishing touches I love to offer is another element of freshness to accompany any one of assembly items.
TIP: I will typically add in fresh sprigs of parsley, basil, mint & maybe some rosemary (on the occasion since it can be somewhat on the stronger side).
You have narrowed down your options, your basket is full of goodies, and if you’re like me or most consumers I doubt you’ll have a charcuterie board lying around in the back of your car, and the most amazing news is that you can find a lovely assortment of Totally Bamboo’s cutting boards in the kitchen supplies aisle. For today’s board, we used my personal favorite and truly the champ of all cutting & serving boards, the Big Kahuna which is part of our Pro Collection. So, whether you’re the aspiring Emiril Legasse or just trying to nourish your body half decently, then you really couldn’t go wrong.
At this point you may be thinking okay I now have enough to feed a small army – what the heck do I do now? This is the fun and easiest step!!!! The pressure is off, you have all the good stuff and now it’s just a matter of placement.
You can arrange your board by color and I like to Stick to the ROYGBIV “rule” (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet) when doing this.
You can arrange your board by food group - Meat, Carb, Cheese, Fruit/Veggie, Nuts, etc.
Once you’ve chosen your path you can start to lay out your ingredients and placing them.
TIP: I will typically create “starter” assembly lines for everyone. I.e if I have an entire block of cheese, cut slices about half way in and leave the remainder whole in case it doesn’t all get eaten. Same thumb rule for the meat options, etc.
Inspiration: I like to think of things in creating shapes if I am laying out a cheese or meat slice and adding in a slight curve it makes all the difference and really enhances the entire look.
But other than that? This can literally happen in minutes, and you’ve taken something from the ordinary to truly a gourmet extraordinary experience – something truly worthy of celebration. Congrats and we are so very proud of you!
We’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions and your own charcuterie experiences below:
For Today’s Inspiration and the Complete Look?
Featured Board: The Big Kahuna, Totally Bamboo Pro Board Collection
Grocery: All products purchased at Trader Joes
Cheeses – Brie, Fresh Mozzarella, White Stilton: Lemon Ginger, Blueberry Goat cheese, Caramelized Onion Cheddar Cheese, Smoked Gouda, Peppered Goat Cheese
Carb Selection - Cookie Thins: Meyer Lemon (To Pair with the Blueberry Goat cheese), Brioche Toasts & Grilled Garlic Naan
Meat – Chicken Italian Sausage, Prosciutto, Capocollo & Calabrese Salame.
Vegetables – Mini Cucumbers & Chopped Red Bell Pepper
Garnishment – Fresh Parsley & Rosemary Sprigs.
Miscellaneous – Hot Mustard and Garlic Hummus utilizing our Totally Bamboo Mini Bowls.
Additional places you can purchase the Totally Bamboo Pro Board: Big Kahuna