A well-crafted charcuterie and cheese board is a beautiful sight to behold. Thankfully, my husband and I share this deep-seated belief. I’m not sure we would be as happily married as we are without our common affinity for smoked meats and artisanal cheese. (Everyone has their vices, k?…)
A spread like this is an equally perfect way to settle into a cozy evening at home for 2 or keep a big crowd of cocktail or dinner party guests pleased before the main event. It’s decadent enough to wow but rustic enough to devour, altogether avoiding the who-goes-first dance. I also love that, unlike other hors d’oeuvres, this is communal, interactive and encourages creativity. It’s scaleable and if you ask me, most enticing when you put your own spin on it.
For example, with me and Marshall, I’ll maybe choose a favorite hunk of Brie or smoked blue, a few paper thin slices of prosciutto and some good wild honey and figs or berries. However, with a large crowd, I go for a selection of about 5 cheeses. I use this rhyme as my guiding muse…
“Something old, something new, something bloomy, and something blue.”
Sorry, my 2nd grade teacher is showing! But lie to me and say you’ll forget that rhyme the next time you’re assembling a cheese board. Bet you won’t.
For something “old” this simply means aged, like a cheddar, gruyere, gouda or my favorite manchego.
For something new, I like a fresh goat or chevre. The one pictured I rolled into a ball and covered with pistachios for added dimension. Other favorite are burrata/mozzarella. Humboldt fog doesn’t technically belong in this category but it’s too good to exclude.
For something bloomy (used to describe the edible rind that has been rubbed with strains of certain fungi), think aged but soft and creamy, like brie or Camembert. Heaven.
As for blue, I’m really into smoked blue. It’s to die for. But I also fancy gorgonzola, roquefort, and cabrales.
As for meats, I like to have a selection of salami, pate, and this time I included this insane bacon jam. Seriously, you can just forget everything I said and put out bacon jam with crackers and everyone will love you. Forever. Don’t forget to add a few other little nibbles like pickles (ie cornichones) olives, figs, grapes, pomegranates, etc. on the board as well and you have yourself a party on a plank of wood (or stone).
- 2 packages thick-cut sliced bacon (about 24 oz), chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 1 teaspoon herbs de provence
- a dash of red pepper flakes
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup pure maple syrup
- In a large skillet (preferably cast iron) cook bacon pieces, rendering the fat, about 20 minutes on low-medium heat.
- Add onion, garlic cloves, fennel seeds, pimenton, herbs de provence and red pepper flakes and cook down about 5 minutes. Drizzle in the vinegar and maple syrup and bring to a boil for a few minutes.
- Let mixture cool, then transfer to a food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached. Serve at room temperature.