Festive is the buzz word this time of year. Well, my friends Kuhlman Cellars– just down the road in Stonewall, TX- and I wanted to share a great way to celebrate the holidays. A Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board is painfully cute, easy to make, and impressive enough for even the most critical guest. The wine was provided to me by Kuhlman Cellars, but my opinions and suggestions are- as always- my own.
What is a Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board?
Quite simply, a Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board is a fancy meat and cheese platter. “Grazing” is just what it sounds like. Give your guests an appetizer dish and release them to mill about your beautiful home picking at this easy to assemble board. Receive the oohs and aahs with as much (or as little) humility as you can muster and the holidays will be off to a great start.
Step 1: The Base
A grazing board is only as good as its base. And the base need not be overly fancy, either. My standard base is a large cutting board. You can use a sheet pan, a large platter, or even a sheet of butcher’s paper. Just make sure it looks decent. Nothing is “festive” about a gross-looking base.
Because we celebrate Christmas, I want to mimic the color of a Christmas tree. So, after the board, you’ll need to lay down a green backdrop. *just opt for a general shape if you don’t celebrate Christmas* For my green base, I’m using green leaf lettuce. The leaves of kale, romaine, or chard can also be used to create the base.
Form your greenery into a tree shape. This also serves as an outline for the rest of the assembly.
Step 2: Begin your Festive Grazing Board with Charcuterie
Probably because they’re so easy, charcuterie board always make an appearance at my events. It’s important, though, to use quality meats on your boards. I mean, no one has ever raved about bologna slices at a party. Not a single person.
Surprisingly enough, for this board, I’m only using three types of meat. Doesn’t it appear to have more? It’s MAJICK! Not really. It’s just a technique called “fluffing”. Build up the meat by curling and folding it and you’ll make 6 ounces of meat look like enough meat to feed a Hector. Hector’s my husband. Who probably would’ve eaten this entire board himself if he wasn’t intimidated by my knife skills.
What type of meats to use:
The following are probably the most popular meats to use on boards:
- prosciutto, pancetta, speck, or Iberico ham
- salamis (sopressata, Genoa, Calabrese, or Bresaola)
- pâtés (liverwurst, foie gras, or blood sausages)
Of course, these are just the basic types of meats one can include in their boards. Head to your local deli and ask around for regional specialities to use.
Step 3: Add a Mix of Cheeses
Just as you did with the meats, when it comes to the types of cheeses to use, choose a mix of textures and flavors. I- once again- used only 3 types of cheese for this year’s festive board. Chevre, which is soft and tangy, to mimic a popcorn garland. I know, I’m a genius. I used firm, sharp cheddar for the bottom branches of my tree. Towards the top of the tree, I added sliced gouda, which the twins insisted we have.
Arrange your cheeses- cut into different shapes or crumbled- in between the meat “branches”.
How much and what types of cheese should you use?
I used no more than 4 ounces of each cheese for this entire tree. That’s 3 ounces of cheese per person, which is more than enough for an appetizer. Shoot! That’s more than enough for a festive lunch, forget a starter course.
Because you’re going to have different types of flavors from the meats (and any accompanying garnishes), choose a blend of cheeses:
- soft cheese that crumbles: feta, chevre, roquefort, cotija, or ricotta
- semi-soft: colby jack, blues, young cheddars, or goudas
- firm: comte (my FAVE), gruyere, or aged cheddars
Don’t be shy about asking your cheesemonger about the tastes and textures of the cheeses you select. Most cheese purveyors want nothing more than to drown you in useless cheese facts. Take advantage of their expertise. Bear in mind that you’ll want your cheese to take on different forms. Choose cheeses that you can crumble and slice or shave for the best aesthetics.
Step 4: Garnish with Festive Ornaments
I wanted to keep my board simple without sacrificing the look of it. Cherry tomatoes and grapes not only pair well with the meats and cheeses I selected; they actually look like legit ornaments.
A quick wash and strategic arrangement and you’ve ornaments for days.
Another way to mimic ornaments is to slice up a couple of round fruits or veggies and place them randomly. You’ll see I did this later with starfruit.
Here are more ways to create “ornaments”:
- olives (in a variety of colors)
- strips of sweet peppers arranged as garlands
Finishing your Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board
To finish my charcuterie board, I arranged sprigs of fresh rosemary around the edges of my tree. Nothing mimics the branches of a pine tree like the sprigs of a rosemary bush. Since it’s edible, why not use it?
Why not, indeed, Marta. Why not, indeed.
Finally, I created my tree’s stump with an arrangement of wheat crackers. You can also use sliced wheat bread or baguettes to accomplish this look.
I also added a garland of that sliced starfruit and propped a slice on a few crackers to create my tree’s star topper.
All that’s left is to set out plates and small tongs. Tongs will come in handy if you have savages like me who like to rampage through your grazing boards.
Serve a quality Wine with your Festive Board
I prefer to drink a good rosé with my meat and cheese boards. Kuhlman Cellars 2018 Hensell is crisp blend of hand harvested red berries and sweet violet aromas. Hensell has a firm acidity which cuts through fattiness of the meats- perfect for enjoying with meat and cheese boards. This refreshes the palate after a mouthful of salami and leaves it ready for the next bite of goodness.
The folks at Kuhlman Cellars were gracious enough to give me a shipping code to share with you. Just use code: “senseandedibility”, which can be applied to any order of 3 or more bottles at Kuhlman Cellars. Let’s face it, you’re probably going to go through much more than 3 bottles this holiday season. Why not save a few bucks on it?
Enjoy your festive board and your festivities
Tis’ the freaking season to indulge and enjoy. Whether it’s with desserts, friends, or food, you need to enjoy yourself with abandonment and no guilt. Certainly, New Year’s and those god-forsaken resolutions are coming, regardless.
Go out and purchase all the ingredients for this Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board and you’ll have what you need on hand for an amazing centerpiece.
Pin this for later, head over to Kuhlman Cellars to purchase your wine, and get ready to party.
Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board
This easy-to-assemble meat and cheese board is all you need for holiday soirees. Adjust quantities to accommodate your guest list.
- 1 head green leaf or romaine lettuce, or kale
- 8 ounces (each) thinly sliced cured prosciutto and salami
- 4 ounces (each) chevre, cheddar, gouda, gruyere, or blue cheeses
- 8 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 10-12 wheat crackers
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 8 green or white grapes OR olives
- 1 starfruit, thinly sliced
- sweet multi-colored pepper, thinly sliced
Form the lettuce into a tree shape on a large display or cutting board.
Arrange the meats on the bed of lettuce in three rows to mimic garland.
Position the cheeses- cut into different shapes or crumbled- in between the meat "branches". Crumbled chevre can be arranged to look like a popcorn garland.
Towards the outer edges of the meats and cheese, arrange the sprigs of fresh rosemary to create "branches".
Use the wheat crackers to create a tree stump towards the bottom.
Arrange your optional garnishes to mimic ornaments by placing them randomly around the meats and cheeses.
Add a garland of sliced starfruit and prop a slice of this fruit on a few crackers to create the tree-topper.
Serve the Festive Charcuterie Grazing Board within 4 hours.
Here are more Charcuterie Recipes: