Grazing boards are so popular right now and can be served when you are receiving family and friends or on a romantic date. It’s festive and chic, yet friendly.
It is also not complicated to prepare and it’s ideal if you don’t feel like cooking. All you need to do is to place the ingredients on a platter, uncork a good bottle of wine and you’re done!
The charcuterie and cheese platter is simple to assemble, but there are some tips and tricks that will make it easier to put together an elegant, appetizing and visually interesting platter.
Tips and tricks for a successful aperitif board
Here are some tips provided by Jonathan Garnier, chef and founder of La Guilde Culinaire cooking school, as part of a collaboration with Matt & Steve, known for their delicious pickled vegetables and ready-to-drink Caesar.
1. Take your trays to another level: Have fun with this step, moving away from the classic square trays. Do not hesitate to use different types of boards of all shapes and sizes: diamond, round, rectangular, thin, thick…
2. Know your portion size: whether you are two or ten people, be prepared! In general, 55 g of meat per person is suggested if you serve it as an appetizer, or 140 g if it is the main attraction. For the cheeses, the proportions are approximately the same.
3. Cheese and Meat Selection: Platters should include different types of cheese and meat. Vary the flavors and textures and the level of spiciness (mild, medium, strong). As for cheeses, opt for a variety of soft, firm or semi-firm ones. For meats, try spicy or smoked meats of different sizes and textures, thin slices and cubes.
4. Timing is everything: To ensure that all elements of your board reach room temperature and optimal flavor, it’s crucial to keep your eyes on the clock. Cheeses should be set out 30 to 60 minutes before serving, while meat should be kept refrigerated until your guests are about to arrive.
5. Desaturate your taste buds with pickled vegetables: Have a nice selection of pickled vegetables on hand. The acidity of the marinades cleanses your taste buds and allows you to enjoy the second bite as if it were the first. Matt & Steve ‘s line * is perfect for the deli tray season, with The Extreme Bean in 3 different flavors, The Asparagoos and Extreme Pickle Spears.
6. Choose crackers and breads: The side dishes you use should be simple to allow the natural flavours of the deli to come through. We suggest using a variety of freshly baked breads, varying the textures and even serving some warm.
7. Texture and sweetness to finish your creations: Finish the board with a selection of fresh fruits, nuts, jams, preserves and honey.
Trays, accessories and utensils for an aperitif board
Here are some accessories, utensils and boards that will be very useful to create your aperitif board:
- A large wooden or slate board, round, square or rectangular in shape. You don’t have any? You can also use several serving plates;
- Small bowls for jams, marinades, olives and nuts;
- Cheese knives (one knife per cheese);
- Identifiers for cheeses.
What ingredients should I choose to make a great appetizer board?
There are no surprises here, cheeses and cold cuts are the starting point of an aperitif board.
In general, it’s best to choose 4 to 6 different cheeses per board. Make sure to vary the types of cheese: soft, semi-firm, goat cheese, firm, but you can also select them according to your preferences.
Blue cheeses, which often do not sell very well, are not recommended unless you are sharing your board with fans of this type of cheese.
Firm cheeses can be pre-cut into cubes or slices for easy serving. If so, provide toothpicks to help ourselves. On the tray, make sure the cheeses are not touching each other, to avoid altering their taste.
Not sure which cheeses to choose? The Quebec online company La Planche à Fromage offers different cheese boards from local artisans. For example, for our board, we used the cheeses from the Discovery board which includes the following four cheeses: Île-ASH-Island, a soft cheese, Meule des champs, Vacherin Fri-Charco and Bleu Bénédictin. It is possible to buy the boards as a single purchase or to subscribe to the monthly boards to receive different cheeses every month. Jams and spreads are also available on their site to complete your boards.
Here again, variety is the key.
Sausages, ham, salami, prosciutto, terrines, rillettes are all very good choices.
Deli meats can be served simply sliced, rolled or rosetted depending on the type of presentation you want.
Slices of dry sausage are cut in advance and knives for pâtés or terrines are also provided.
You can also wrapped blanched or cheesy baked asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.
Other foods to add
When all the others steps are done, complete your board with other foods. Play with textures and colors! The fuller a board looks, the more appetizing it will be!
Marinades: as mentioned earlier in Jonathan Garnier’s advice, marinades are not to be neglected because they cleanse the palate and balance the saltier and fattier side of cold cuts and cheeses. Antipastos, pickles, pickled onions, olives or Matt & Steve’s marinades are great options.
As for the olives, we really like those from InnovaSens, which offer varieties of olives stuffed (lemon jelly, blue cheese, anchovies or hot pepper jelly) or whole.
Fruits and Vegetables: Ground cherries, raspberries and strawberries add a nice splash of color to a platter and are easily placed. You can also choose pomegranate seeds, cranberries, grapes, figs or dried fruit.
On the vegetable side, you can add raw vegetables like carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes or Lebanese cucumbers.
Nuts: Nuts are a nice addition to a platter and provide an interesting crunchy texture. You can choose various blends, smoked or spicy like the one from La Fumisterie. Their nuts are produced in a smokehouse, without artificial flavors or preservatives. The nuts are available online and in more than 200 out lets in Quebec.
Condiments: to accompany cheeses and terrines, you can add fruit jams, candied onions, mustards or honey.
Breads: 2-3 choices of breads or crackers is a good idea. For example, you can choose a baguette, crackers and grissolinis. Chips, wine or nut breads are also good options.
Sparkling water: we mostly think of serving wine or beer to accompany our aperitif board, but sparkling water is also a good option, to cleanse the palate and hydrate a little. We recently discovered the excellent Harrington* sparkling waters, produced in the Laurentians, which we can’t recommend enough! They are available in different flavors: wintergreen, sweet spruce, juniper berry and apple and sweet clover.
Decoration: You can finish the aperitif board by adding some decorations…. or not! Some ideas: bay leaves, sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme, edible flowers, small shoots, etc.