Happy Memorial Day Weekend, guys! I hope you’re enjoying your long weekend and doing some Hip Hip Hoorays because Summer is on its way and all is right with the world. I am certainly doing that, glass (bottle) of rosé in hand, obvs. Truth be told, there are some days when I just don’t feel like cooking. Like today. Sometimes it’s too hot and sometimes I’m too busy and other times I just can’t be bothered. Livin’ that lady of leisure life. Bring me all the bon bons.
But in times when I don’t feel like crafting a meal or when I might need to throw something together real quick like if I have friends coming over to help me enjoy that glass (bottle) of rosé, that’s the perfect time for the cheese and charcuterie (cured meats). It’s easy and delicious, and a little know-how and minimal effort can get you an amazing spread, one that will surely impress your guests (or simply satisfy you, as you laze about your day, feeling luxurious).
To prep my spread for the day, I took a little field trip to the Grand Central Market, one of my favorite places in NYC, which is located inside the dreamy Grand Central Terminal. This market is amazingly photogenic (as you can see below) and honestly feels like you’re walking onto a movie set of what a gourmet market should look like. Lucky for me, it happened to not be too busy on this Sunday afternoon, so I was able to peruse the market at a leisurely pace. I picked up a selection of meats and cheeses — the foundation of any good cheese & charcuterie board, and I grabbed a few other treasures that not only pair well with the stars of the show but enhance their delectable flavors.
Now, let’s get down to business and get to shoppin’.
For cheeses, I like a sampling of flavors and textures, so I usually go for one creamy cheese, one firm or hard cheese, and one blue cheese. For creamy cheeses, I would go with a triple cream brie, a brunet, or a fromager d’affinois. For a firm or hard cheese, a gouda, a manchego, or a cheddar are great choices. And for blue cheese, I tend towards a gorgonzola dolce, a cambozola, or the Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue (swoon).
If you’re in the mood for a little adventure (or even if you’re not), I highly recommend having a chat with your local cheese guy (or lady). They can be a great resource for selecting cheeses that will suit your needs, and they will usually let you sample the goods before you buy, so you know what you’re getting into. Taking this extra step has led me to some of my very favorite cheeses ever, so it’s worth a little extra time in the grocery store.
For your charcuterie, you really can’t go wrong with any selection. For reals. However, that’s probably not very helpful, is it? Apologies, cured meats are my kryptonite. My must-haves are typically some form of prosciutto and a spicy salami or a sopressata. If you’re feeling fancy and a little dangerous, throw in a nice paté. If you can get these freshly sliced, that’s the best. If not, no worries, they’ll still be delicious. Mmmm, salty meaty goodness.
The Bread & Crackers
OK, now you’ve got your meats. You’ve got your cheeses. You need something to put them on. I don’t think there’s anything better than a good crusty French baguette in this scenario, but I would also encourage you to grab some sort of crisps or crackers, like these or these. They are a fantastic pair to your firmer cheeses and a delicious addition to any board.
And finally, every good meat and cheese board comes with a few extra treats, either to pair with your meat and cheese, or to eat along side them. My go-tos fall into two categories — snacks & spreads. For snacks, I must MUST have olives and cornichons (thank you thank you thank you, tiny French pickle gods for bringing this creation to my table). A good nut — like marcona almonds or spiced pecans — are a great addition, and you might also want some fresh berries.
When it comes to spreads, anything in the fig, cherry, apricot or quince family will do the trick. You want something tangy and slightly sweet; it will balance the saltiness of the cheese and the meat.
Putting It All Together
Once you’ve procured all of your ingredients, you have to put it all together. The idea is to make it easy to snack on, so you can enjoy little bits over the course of a few hours. If you have a cheese board, use it to lay out your cheeses and your meats. Put your snacks in small bowls along side, and either add a dollop of your spread to your cheese board or just spoon it from the jar. Grab another plate and lay out the crackers and the bread. Add a few cheese knives (or regular butter knives if you are cheese knife-less) and get to snackin’. No forks or plates necessary, remember, this is the lowest maintenance of meals. All of the above goes perfectly with a big ol’ glass of wine and a nice view. The laziest of meals for soon to be lazy days.