One of my favorite foods to have with wine is a cheese and charcuterie plate. I don’t need a sandwich, pizza or anything else, so long as I have my wine and these goodies to go with it. A cheese and charcuterie plate is not something that you have everyday, so it feels special when you do. They aren’t hard to put together. You just need a few key ingredients and can add some optional additions to round it out and make it complete.
Don’t have the time to make a homemade version? Check out Wine Down Box and have a tasty spread delivered as a gift, with wine!
Let’s start with the basics. You need cheese. When you think about what kinds of cheese you should have, think about different textures and tastes. For instance, you don’t want to have 3 kinds of cheeses that are all soft and taste similarly.
2-3 cheeses are plenty for your homemade plate. I would recommend having a cheese that is a little bit tangy like a goat cheese, or bitey like a bleu cheese. But be aware if your wine lover dislikes stronger tasting cheeses. I love bleu cheese, but not my husband, so no bleu on our cheese plate (unless it happens to come that way when we order it out and I get to eat it all. Someone has to suffer!) Then, I would also recommend having something creamy like a brie or camembert. Finally, a hard cheese like a parmesan or grana padana will give a different texture and taste. You can also go with two hard cheeses instead of a creamy one and add in a sharp cheddar or smoked gouda.
Personally, I’m kind of bored by the cheeses available in the grocery stores. If you want something a little more exotic, check out a local cheese store or Whole Foods which has a better, more interesting selection. We found a great semi-firm cheese called Uniekaas Robusto at Whole Foods and it has been a favorite ever since. Dare to try something different on your cheese and charcuterie plate.
Add Some Meats
Next, you will need a meat or two. I like to have Italian salamis, or a salami and a prosciutto. For the salami, try something a little different like a Fennel and Black Pepper or one infused with Truffle Oil. Slice the salami as thin as you can. A little goes a long way with these salty meats. They will taste so good with the cheese and wine. All of these flavors will keep your tastebuds singing.
Hit a Sweet Note
A cheese and charcuterie plate should hit many tasting notes including sweet. To add some sweetness, thinly slice an apple or pear. Something like quince paste is often added to these plates to give another touch of sweetness. In case you are wondering what quince paste is, it is a thick jam made from quince fruits. It is usually firm enough to hold its shape and can be cut into a wedge to add to your plate. It’s sweetness gives a nice balance to the salty meets and cheeses.
Give Your Tastebuds a Thrill with Sour and Spicy
Now we want to move into an adventurous area and hit a sour or spicy note, or better yet, both! Adding tiny pickles called cornichons will surprise your tastebuds. You can also add olives or peppedew peppers. We recently had a cheese and charcuterie plate at Ponte Winery with a surprise item called caper berries. We never had these before and learned that they are the fruit of the caper bush. They are typically served with the stem on and pickled like olives. Very tasty! And different, which I like to see on a plate like this.
The Perfect Platform for Your Goodies
You will also need to add crackers or bread on the side. If you go with crackers, try to stay away from crackers that have too much seasoning. To pair well with all of the different tastes you have going on, a plain cracker is best. I prefer to have a fresh baguette with my cheese and charcuterie plate. You can pick up a fresh baguette at any grocery store, slice it very thin with a bread knife (my favorite bread knife review – Wusthof Grand Prix II) and you have the perfect platform for all of your goodies.
Go a Little Nutty
It’s also nice to have some nuts on the plate for some added crunch. You could go salty or sweet with the nuts. I love a good candied pecan and having that bit of nutty sweetness on the plate is a winner to me. But, if you prefer salty cashews or almonds, they will also go great with your tasty tidbits.
Spread the Love
Lastly, it’s also a fun idea to have a few different spreads or dips. These can range from little dollops of flavored mustard or a small dish of balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dip the bread into. An easy way to jazz up dijon mustard is to add some balsamic vinegar to it. It gives the mustard just a little more tang and a slight sweetness to go along with the mustard undertone. Yummy! This was on our cheese and charcuterie plate at We Olive and I thought it was very creative and easy to replicate at home.
Feeling inspired yet? I hope so. When you assemble your culinary masterpiece, choose a plain cheese board or white plate for your display. This will highlight all of the specialty items you have selected and make for a neat and appetizing presentation. We eat with our eyes first, so make it to look delicious.
Good luck and take some pictures for me when you do your creating! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me below.