When it comes to entertaining, boards are the ultimate in wow factor without a ton of fuss. More specifically I am a HUGE fan of cheese and meat boards. Selfishly when entertaining, since I prefer to avoid grains and greasy chips and snacks, cheese and charcuterie boards offer a great, pretty low maintenance way for me to have everything that I want, while still making all of my guests happy.
My cheese and charcuterie boards are generally focused around being totally grain-free and then depending on my guests, I will often have a generous pile of toasted crostini, that I serve to the side, separately for the non gluten-free or grain-free folks. I simple arrange sliced crostini in a single layer on a cookie sheet, brush both sides with olive oil and toss under the broiler for a few minutes on each side. Add a sprinkle of sea salt. It’s the fastest way to lots of toast.
Follow along for all of my tips on How-to Build an Epic Grain-free Cheese and Charcuterie Board.
Offer 3 or more selections. But no more than 4 or 5.
Offer a range of textures and flavors. I personally tend to prefer/buy goat’s and sheep’s milk cheeses and whenever possible, raw milk/grass-fred, especially if and when I buy cow’s milk cheeses. Ultimately when building the perfect cheese board, go with your own favorite cheeses, but it’s always nice to have a blend of textures fresh, hard, aged, soft, semi-firm and flavors, mild, rich and creamy, tart, funky, etc. Some of my personal faves are a soft herbed goat cheese/chevre. I adore Humboldt Fog, another goat milk cheese. A goat milk gouda and/or cheddar, for sure. If not, there are lots of great grass-fed, raw milk cow’s milk cheddars available, as well. Manchego is a great hard cheese and roquefort an aged blue cheese are two of my favorite sheep’s milk cheeses, both very different. Warm brie is a really nice touch to a cheese board, as well.
Amount: Best to figure 3-4 ounces of cheese per person, maybe less if you have a fair amount of meats.
Notes: Chat with your local cheesemonger about your offerings and your preferences and they will help you source the perfect options. Plus you can likely discover the regions and countries where the cheeses hail from, how the animals were raised, etc.
Avoid intensely flavored cheeses, like “ranch” or “Buffalo-style”, etc, outside the occasional and subtle herbs, as most will distract from the flavor of the cheese itself.
For a fully, legit paleo board, drop the cheeses and just go with meats for an epic charcuterie situation.
Cured Meats and Sausages:
Offer 3 or more selections.
- Paté, terrine or liver mousse (I love this recipe for chicken liver pate and this one for beef)
- Dried Chorizo
I always suggest sourcing from a quality, local butcher whom you can trust, where you can talk about where the meat was sourced from, how it was raised, how the meat was aged, ingredients, etc. Always be mindful of hidden gluten ingredients with meats like the sausages. If you don’t have access to an ingredient list, be sure to inquire.
Amount: Plan for at least 2 ounces of charcuterie per person. If you’re making a charcuterie board, where there is little or no cheese and it’s the main event, best to double the amount of meat and offer lots of crackers and breads, so around 5 ounces per person. Since myself and some of my pals do little to no dairy and some don’t do any, I often times go lighter on the cheese and opt for the larger amount of meat, per person.
Tips: Like the cheese, mix up the textures and tastes. Cured hard sausages, soft, rich paté or spread, thinly sliced smoked hams. Go for spicy, smoky, tangy, etc. Slice salami and other hard meats cold, but serve room temperature. Serve hams and the like, as thinly sliced as possible.
Sauces and Condiments:
- Caramelized Onion Jam
- Roasted Beet Cauliflower Hummus
- Salsa Macha or a pepper jam
- Raw Honey
- Orange Marmalade, Fig Jam, Apricot Preserves or other fruit jams
- Whole Grain Mustard
- Olive tapenade
Crackers and Such:
- Grain-free Everything Bagel Crackers
- Grain-free Jilz Crackers (I am so obsessed)
- Simple Mills Grain-free Crackers
- Chicharrones – my favorites are Epic, 4505 Meats or Galactic Hog Skins
- Toasted Grain-free Bread cut into triangles, I am loving Legit Bread currently
- Grain-free Savory Waffles (if you wanna get weird)
- Grain-free Granola (recipe coming soon)
Go with any grain-free or gluten-free crackers or breads you like. Rice crackers are an easy to find option, as well. If not grain-free or gluten-free, baguettes, crostini, breadsticks, whatever you dig.
- Nuts: Cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, pine nuts etc. Candied or maple sweetened nuts are great, marcona almonds are one of my personal favorites
- Olives: Castelvetrano olives are my favorite. I also love kalamata for some Greek flair, Niçoise or just plain black or green olives are great, too.
- Pickles or pickled veggies: I love cornichons, quick pickled red onions, pepperoncini, pickled okra, marinated or pickled mushrooms, pickled green beans, cocktail onions, etc
- Cured, roasted and dried veggies: roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, etc
- Fresh and dried fruits: grapes, pears or apples in the fall, melons in the summer, fresh or dried figs, apricots, dried cherries or dates.
- Fresh Raw Veggies: carrots, celery, cucumbers, radish, zucchini, etc.
For all the extras, spreads, dips, crackers, nuts and other extras, again, just mix it all up, textures, colors and flavors. Tart and acidic is a nice compliment to the meats and cheeses, as is crunchy, salty, sour and so on.
There are no rules when it comes to arranging your board(s), but not be afraid to have fun and definitely let go of any rigidity. Organized chaos somehow just works in this instance. Bring in various shapes and sizes with the cheeses. Cube up some cheese, cut others in triangles and be sure to include small cheese knives for the soft cheeses. Roll up the meats, make pretty roses, arrange in rows and stacks.
Bring the cheese to room temperature for about 30 minutes to an hour before serving to take the chill off and to soften. Room-temperature cheese brings about flavor subtleties that cold cheese does not and it’s easier and more enjoyable to eat, too!
Read more here about 6 common mistakes to avoid when building a cheese board
Read more here about choosing the best meats for your charcuterie board
Don’t forget the drinks. Pair red and white wines, chilled rosé or champagne, beers, classic cocktails. Have fun and get creative.