How to Make the Ultimate Cheese Board ~ an easy meat and cheese platter is ideal for the busy holiday season. ~ it’s quick to throw together, looks stunning, feeds 2 or 200 as an appetizer or a light meal, and even the pickiest eaters can’t resist!
* Today I’m teaming up with Pavilions to bring you all the fixings for easy holiday entertaining.
Holiday entertaining is mixed blessing, for sure. Whether you’re surrounded by an extended family, out of town guests, or just a few neighbors who show up unexpectedly, entertaining can be at best mildly stressful, and at worst downright costly! I turn to my local Pavilions to stock up on the makings for a festive and totally satisfying cheese and meat platter that solves just about every entertaining dilemma. Most of the ingredients are pantry or fridge stable for weeks, so I’m ready for anything.
My local Pavilions has everything I need for my cheese board, from the basics like cheese and crackers, to little luxuries like pomegranates and figs! I just grab my cart, start in aisle 1 and weave my way through the store. I look for O Organics® and Open Nature® products, available in my area exclusively at Pavilions stores, because I can get USDA certified organic and all natural products at a reasonable price.
Pavilions’ exclusive store brands help me treat my guests to the best, with money left over to fill those stockings!
TIP: Mixing less expensive domestic cheeses with imported cheeses helps to keep the cost in check and also provides a good variety for people’s personal preference. Some people love the basics when it comes to cheese, and others want something more exotic. I was able to find both at my store, which I appreciate.
I’ve always loved cured meats, and you have to have them on a great cheese platter, but I worry about eating nitrates. I’m so glad I discovered Pavilions Open Nature packaged meats because they’re uncured, with no nitrates ~ I can finally relax about eating my favorite salami!
By the time I’m in the checkout lane I’ve not only gotten my cheese board sorted, I picked up a beautiful fresh debbi lily balsam wreath for the door. That’s what I call one stop shopping, so sweet.
As my girls grew up and started to make their own plans during the holidays we developed a tradition to bring us together that’s stuck over the years ~ we’ll schedule a night, usually mid week to avoid conflicts, to decorate the tree and watch It’s a Wonderful Life. We’ll have a yummy cheese board like this one to nibble on while we work away on the tree, laugh like hyenas over the ornaments the girls made in elementary school, and argue over which part of the movie is the best. Fyi it’s when George walks into the old mansion after Mary’s ‘fixed it up’…duh.
So grab your largest platter, shallow basket, or cutting board and let’s get started on this epic cheese board. Don’t have a huge platter? No worries, you can even arrange everything directly on a clean table surface if you need to. You’re going for a rustic look, so don’t sweat the small details.
Ultimate Cheese Board Rules ~
- Allow about 2 ounces of cheese per person.
- Curate 3 – 6 different types of cheese. Make sure to include something gooey, something aged, something creamy, and something blue, then fill in with your favorites. Consider different shapes, colors, flavors, and textures. I used a mix of Open Nature brand and imported cheeses like Brie, Manchego, Blue, goat cheese, and my own HOMEMADE BOURSIN. I always add some cubed cheese for the traditionalists and kids in the crowd.
- Add 2 or 3 types of meat. I used Open Nature uncured meats like Prosciutto, Dry Salami, and Applewood Smoked Ham. I like to have sliced meats, which I sometimes roll for easier grabbing, and a whole sausage of some sort, partially sliced. I always try to include one smoked choice for that wonderful flavor.
- A variety of crackers, pita chips, and cheese straws, mine are Open Nature. They should be relatively plain so they don’t compete with the flavors of the cheese, etc. Rice crackers are nice for gluten free eaters.
- I like to include a vegan friendly dip, like O Organics hummus, along with fresh veggies like O Organics baby carrots, and some fresh green snap peas, and cherry tomatoes for dipping.
- Dried fruit like Signature Farms® and O Organics apricots, cherries, and figs.
- At least one type of nut, either raw or roasted. I used O Organics roasted cashews and almonds
- Fresh fruit adds color and helps balance out the richness of the meats and cheese. Classics are grapes, apples, and pears. But think seasonally, I used Mandarin oranges, cranberries, and a pomegranate for a festive touch.
- Olives and assorted marinated items from the olive bar, buy whatever looks good. Don’t forget to set out a little bowl for olive pits.
- One or two interesting condiments. I used O Organics Honey and Crushed Pepper Flakes to make my quick homemade HOT PEPPER HONEY. I love to include a WINE JELLY too.
- Every cheese platter needs some mustard, I used a classic Dijon.
- Tuck in some fresh herbs or leaves for presentation.
- Pay attention to color...you have the choice between purple and green grapes, a red or a yellow pear…choose a pleasing palette and your platter will pop! Details like glossy black olives or bright red sun dried tomatoes really make a difference.
- Don’t crowd your platter too tightly, leave room for people to maneuver. A gorgeous cheese platter can quickly devolve into a hot mess if you don’t.
- Provide a small cheese knife or spreader for every cheese and every dip. Pre-slice or cut into easy cubes any cheese that is hard or difficult to cut. Provide small spoons for the condiments.
- Set a stack of cocktail napkins and toothpicks within easy reach.
- Voilà ~ your cheese platter is ready and you can relax and enjoy the party!
I was in Pavilions early in the day when I picked up my cheese plate ingredients, and it was interesting to see how many employees were busy gathering items for their Home Delivery customers. They were wheeling around giant super carts with lots of compartments, and they were working off portable computer screens. I’ve gotten delivery many times, but never seen the process in action. I was reminded that the food comes straight from the store shelves, not some abstract warehouse, and you’re getting the same food you’d reach for yourself if you had the time to shop.
If you’re interested in giving Pavilions Grocery Delivery a try, visit shop.Pavilions.com and use the code SEASONSEATINGS to recieve free delivery on your first order.
How to Make the Perfect Holiday Cheese Board
- 1/2 pound each of 6 different cheeses, (get a mix of creamy (like Brie) aged (like Manchego) Blue, goat, and something unique, like the Ale laced Irish Cheddar I used.)
- 1/4 pound smoked ham, rolled
- 1/4 pound thinly sliced salami
- 1 log of dry salami or summer sausage
- 1/4 pound prosciutto, rolled
- 1/2 pound mixed olives
- 10 ounce tub of prepared hummus
- baby carrots and snap peas for dipping
- about a cup of dried apricots, use cranberries or cherries as well
- 1 cup marinated feta
- 1 cup marinated sun dried tomatoes
- 2-3 types of fresh fruit such as a ripe pear, apples, pomegranate, grapes, tangerines, figs, etc.
- nuts, either raw or salted and roasted, I used almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews
- Dijon or honey mustard
- wine jelly, hot pepper jelly, honey, fig jam, or other condiment of your choice
- 3-4 types of crackers or sliced baguette
- Arrange your cheeses first, providing a cheese knife or spreader with each. Lay down a small piece of parchment or waxed paper underneath the cheese if you like.
- Add the sliced meats, rolling some of them if you like, along with the hummus and veggies.
- Fill in the spaces with your dried and fresh fruit, olives, nuts, etc. Be sure to include a spoon or knife with each condiment like mustard that you use.
- Set out your cheese an hour ahead of time to give it a chance to come to room temperature. Cover everything loosely with plastic so nothing dries out.