Today, in partnership with ALDI, I’m sharing some tips and tricks for styling one of my favorite things for a holiday gathering: an abundant cheese & charcuterie board! I love putting out a cheese board over the holidays for 3 reasons: 1) it’s relatively simple to prepare; 2) it’s a great way to feed a crowd when they first arrive at your house; and 3) it automatically makes an impressive beautiful statement AND acts as a seasonal centerpiece on the table. The more vibrant the colors and the larger the display, the better! There is something to be said for a simple display of 1-2 cheeses and a few simple accompaniments on a simple marble board. However, during the fall and winter months, I love me a giant slab of dark wood, piled high with a lush arrangement of cheeses and charcuterie and all the accompaniments.
But what do you include on your board? And how do you style it all? And what wine should you serve with this epic display? Fear not; today I’m sharing my secrets for what to buy, how to style, and what wine to pair with the cheese board of your Pinterest dreams (go ahead, pin an image or two…).
For starters, I stopped by my local [and recently remodeled] ALDI (find your store here) and stocked up on some of my favorite items for a cheese and charcuterie board. It was so simple to find everything in the remodeled store, and it felt newer and much more spacious (without sacrificing product selection)! ALDI was the perfect one-stop-shop for everything on this cheese board! I’m so impressed with the variety and quality of the wine, produce, and snack foods at ALDI, and it’s all so budget-accessible. It made putting together this cheese board a cinch!
It’s hard to go wrong when choosing which items to include on your cheese board, so don’t stress out about it too much. You want cheese, meat, and a selection of tasty, seasonal fixings: fresh fruit, dried fruit, nuts & seeds, jam, and something to dig into it all with, like bread and crackers.
For the cheese, I typically choose at least one of each, aged, firm, creamy, and blue. Sometimes I’ll skip the creamy or the blue and put out two aged cheeses instead. ALDI offers a large selection of award-winning cheeses and wines, and for this particular board, I chose Happy Farms Preferred English Farmhouse Cheddar, Priano Asiago, Happy Farms Preferred Manchego, and Happy Farms Preferred Blue. As for the charcuterie, I usually just put out a nice prosciutto, but sometimes I’ll add in sliced hard salami.
I am a firm believer in lots of options and fixins on a cheeseboard. What you choose to serve with your cheese and charcuterie can really make or break the presentation. I like to encourage guests to experiment with flavors and textures, and some of my go-to accompaniments include:
– Raw nuts (pecans are yummy this time of year)
– Seasoned nuts (if I have any homemade sweet or spiced nuts on hand, I’m sure to include those; here I used Specially Selected Macadamia Nuts and Southern Grove Pistachios)
– Fresh fruit (make sure you cut some open for added texture and to encourage guests to actually dig in)
– Dried fruit (apricots, cranberries)
– Jellies and jams
– Honey (infused if I have the time)
– Salty or pickled items (pickled green tomatoes, cornichons, vegetables, dilly beans, etc; here I served Specially Selected Kalamata Olives)
– Bread, crackers, etc. (I like to put out sliced baguettes and a gluten free cracker option like liveGfree Gluten Free Sea Salt Multiseed Crackers)
– Something sweet (cookies, Specially Selected Dark Chocolate Covered Sea Salt Caramels, apple or pear chips)
– Something unexpected (a sliced cantaloupe, which was mainly acted as a beautiful garnish. I love the way the sliced cantaloupe automatically elevates the cheese board and brings to mind Dutch still life paintings)
You can prep your cheese board in advance, and it takes less than 20 minutes to prepare. Just style the board an hour or two before guests arrive and keep the perishable items refrigerated until 30-45 minutes prior to the party start time. Remember: cheese needs to sweat. You don’t want to be serving it cold. Since you won’t be busy preparing appetizers at the last minute, you can focus on finishing dinner, or maybe even greet guests and mingle with them while dinner finishes itself.
You want the board to look bountiful, so don’t be shy when it comes to quantities and everything spilling over in cornucopia fashion. Place a wooden board on the table or whatever surface you’ll be serving from. Then begin to map things out: place the foundation, the cheese and meat (still in their packaging), and then begin to build layers around that base. You literally want to layer and pile the pieces together. Think about what your guests might want to eat together, and place those things next to each other. Use bowls to contain things like jelly and honey and smaller nuts, but don’t be afraid to let the nuts spill out of their vessels onto the board. Items like apricots, meat, and dried cranberries don’t even need a bowl; just make a pile and allow them to cascade as they will. That’s how you’ll achieve the lush, bountiful look we’re going for. You basically don’t want to see the serving board, so fill in all the gaps!
If you like, you can even do this hours before your party. Simply place the cheese, meat and any perishables back in the fridge after you’ve mapped out everything, and put it all back out 30 minutes before the party starts.
Definitely serve it all with wine. While I am not a sommelier, I certainly enjoy a tasty glass or two of vino with my cheese and charcuterie. If you’re going to only serve one wine, I’d serve the Crystal Creek Cellars Riesling from ALDI. This Riesling was recently awarded the 2017 Chefs in America Gold Medal. It’s so affordable and has delicious apricot and pear flavors. And this Riesling pairs well with everything on a cheese board, so you can’t go wrong putting it out this holiday season!
When you’re shopping, think about creating a variety of textures and colors. Don’t just buy green grapes, green pears, green olives, and pickles. That would make for a very green [and boring] display. Stop by your local ALDI and pick up black AND green grapes, red [and green] pears, oranges for a pop of reddish orange, and cheeses that have different shapes (wedges, circles, squares, etc). Variety is the spice of life!
Sponsor Note: Although this post was sponsored by ALDI, all content, words, and ideas are my own. Thanks for supporting the partnerships that help keep this blog running.
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