Chef Tips and Tricks: Holiday Platters

With all of the holiday sugar and treats around, a Charcuterie board is a delicious way to (covertly!) offer healthier bites that are still satisfying. 

Think of the healthy fats in olives and goat cheese, protein in uncured salami or prosciutto, the raw nutrients in carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes, and the high fiber natural sweetness of dried apricots or mangos.  

We asked our friend and culinary expert, Chef Jeff Anderson, for tips on creating dynamite Charcuterie boards that can be used all year round. 

From our family to yours, happy holidays! – Natalie Mariani Kling, CCN

1. Think about your guests. Is there anything they won’t eat, allergies, dietary restrictions, etc.?  With the right selection of ingredients, it should be easy to meet everyone’s needs. But you might also consider creating more than one platter or board to address any preferences.
2. Variety is key! Complimentary tastes, textures, color & cuts bring a higher level of appeal and elicit the “wow” factor when your guests first see the beautiful platter you’ve created.
3. Choose a theme. A theme helps to narrow your choices. For example if you choose to build off a theme such as dried fruit then pick your hero items i.e. dried apricots.  Apricots pair well with rich creamy cheeses because the acidity balances the fattiness of the cheese, keeping each bite interesting. Mango plays a similar role by refreshing your palate.
4. Add Texture. Texture is important, toasted almonds and walnuts add crunch but so do sliced vegetables such as carrots and celery. Adding spices and roasting veggies bring in another layer of taste to the experience.
5. Anything Pickled - cured, marinated, macerated or dressed variations are ways to introduce more nuance to the plate.  Dressing thinly sliced onions in a warmed, seasoned rice wine vinegar will quickly pickle the onions. Keep them in the vinegar until it cools for a quick tasty pickle that pairs with meat and cheeses.  The same can be done for dried fruit i.e. raisins, macerated with warmed orange juice, cinnamon stick, brown sugar and salt until rehydrated for an “instant” relish perfect for roasted meats.
6. Choose the right presentation: pick a beautiful platter or a butcher-block style board with plenty of room for service ware such as forks, knives, spoons and small bowls of various food items.  Don’t forget plates and napkins, both can add additional appeal to the experience for your guests.
7. Beverages…you know what to do, think about your celebratory holiday experience and whether wine and beer, champagne or spirits, or non-alcoholic beverages fit the moment. And don’t hesitate to have your guests contribute to the offerings as well.
8. Lastly, add your favorite dip and crackers or bread and you have your holiday platter complete.  Take a moment to photo and capture a brief description so you can build upon your experience, improving your platter next time by keeping the foods and flavors you liked, and swapping out the items that maybe weren’t your favorites.  Eventually you will have your “core” Holiday Platter that will become a tradition and a family favorite year after year.