Appetizers — they’re the new dinner party. Tapas and appetizers (or appies as my friends like call them) have become the new staple for get-togethers.
As the holiday season is upon us, you may be looking for some fast, simple ideas for hosting get-togethers for family and friends that everyone will enjoy. A charcuterie board is one of the top choices for any type of entertaining, and with our tips and suggesetions it's quite easy to put together.
A charcuterie board is a meat and cheese platter that typically includes a variety of items that can be paired in mouth-watering combinations. They usually include various ingredients that complement the meats and cheeses for a fun do-it-yourself appetizer experience for your guests. With Zengarry fauxmages and other easily found meat- alternatives it's pretty effortless to put together a meat and dairy free version of this traditional treat.
We are all naturally drawn to beautiful things, and when guests are presented with a spread that is appealing to the eyes, it can even impact the taste. When building a charcuterie board, serveware plays a huge role in stepping up your presentation game. I prefer natural materials like slate or marble slabs or large wooden platters or boards.
Some of my must-haves are a long wooden board, a cheese board, cheese knives, a few serving trays and a selection of mini bowls/dishes (short, wide-mouthed mason jars work well here). The rustic yet modern look of these serving elements will bring out the vibrant colors of each food item in this impressive spread, and serveware in natural materials and neutral colours let the food take centre stage.
Yves has a number of meat alternatives like veggie turkey slices, ham slices and bologna that I use frequently for charcuterie platters. Another of my readily available faves is Fontaine Santé veggie paté. It is available at most grocery stores or you can try your hand at making your own!
There are a number of meatless sausage alternative readily available today including Gusta, Field Roast and Yves. Cut them into rounds and sauté them on each side just before serving.
Coconut Bacon, Tempeh bacon or vegan jerkey can all be great additions if you can get your hands on some at your local health food store.
For a more natural alternative serve thinly sliced marinated portobello mushrooms, or tempeh.
Using a variety of cheeses with different textures and flavours is preferable on your charcuterie board. Some milder cheeses and well as some with fuller, sharper flavour provides variety for pairing with the different elements of your offerings.
I suggest using two or three of your favourite Zengarry fauxmages. We used the Cumin Gruyère style, the Sun Dried Tomato and Pub Cheddar below and the Cumin Gruyère style and the Garlic and Fine Herbs above.
Bread and Crackers:
I always like to include some sliced baguette along with a selection of crackers. I usually include at least one or two gluten free options like Mary's crackers or Rice crackers. You want to avoid crackers or bread with too much flavour, but Energive makes a new Ranch style gluten-free multi-grain cracker than is vegan, gluten free and low in sodium that would work well here and I find an olive foccacia is a welcome addition.
Grainy flavoured mustards are a great addition to your charcuterie plate. I am partial to a horseradish dijon myself, but have run across many smokey and savoury mustards that would be great here.
I also particularly like spicy jellies like Garlic Pantry Garlic Scape and Jalapeño jelly, Niagra Peach and Jalapeño jelly or a spicy Red Pepper Jelly. You could even go with your favourite chutney or a corn salsa.
Anything pickled or briny adds a bit of tang to your charcuterie board. There are so many amazing options here: gherkin pickles, pickled beans, cocktail onions, olives, artichokes, sundried tomatoes and my personal favourite; capers.
Add in some seasonal fruit and veggies. Concord grapes, pears, apples, sliced tomatoes or cherry tomoatoes are some of the traditional favourites. Look for produce that looks fresh and colourful since this is where most of the colour on your charcuterie board will come from.
Nuts and dried fruits help to cleanse the palette between meat and cheese samplings. Try adding dried apricots, figs or dried prunes. As for nuts we've included pistachios and pecans, but pine nuts, walnuts or almonds would work well as well.
Try adding a few fresh herb sprigs or pine boughs for a decorative element.
Putting all of these elements together, you will end up with a board that has a variety of pairing options so that each and every bite is a little different from the last.
Serve with a variety of white and red wines and perhaps some locally made craft beer.
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