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This simple charcuterie board for two is perfect for a winter date night appetizer or an easy snacking platter. Don't worry if you're a beginner, I've got all the tips and tricks to making a delicious and impressive cheese board!
I've got something even the person who can't stand cooking can whip up easily: a charcuterie board. With no cooking skills required, these popular platters are perfect for anyone to make.
I love a good charcuterie board for Thanksgiving and Christmas entertaining, and they're simple dishes that spruce up your everyday dinner or date night in. As long as you use some of my favorite guidelines here, you'll make a great charcuterie board every time.
Origins of Charcuterie
Charcuterie is the French term given to the arena of cooking devoted to preparing diverse processed meats, usually made of pork, like pate, bacon, cured meats, terrines, and so on. The shops these meats and products are sold in are also called charcuteries! In the professional culinary world, this is what the word charcuterie means.
To the average home cook and foodie, a charcuterie board is basically like an adult lunchable. But this time you pair it with wine or sparkling instead of a Capri-Sun.
Charcuterie (pronounced shar-koo-tree) boards, a term interchangeable with cheese boards, are impressive platters of different ingredients. Meats, cheeses, seasonal fruits, vegetables, nuts, dips, spreads, and 'vehicles' for these items. They're usually some type of cracker, toasted baguette, pretzels, etc.
All charcuterie boards are cheese boards, but not all cheese boards are charcuterie boards. In order to be a charcuterie board, it must have some aforementioned charcuterie meats.
How to Make a Winter Charcuterie Board
The board I created in these photos is a small 'date night appetizer' charcuterie board made with winter produce, snacky bits, some carbs, and cheese I know my husband and I enjoy. Here's what to keep in mind to make an easy cheeseboard no matter what:
First things first, choose your board
The right kind of board is first and foremost food safe! Meaning that the slice of log your husband just cut you outside from that Christmas tree because you wanted a raw edge wood board will most likely end up making you sick and won't be washable or reusable without it being treated properly for food safety first.
Wooden cutting boards make great charcuterie boards that look nice, and trays with handles for entertaining are always a good idea. I found my raw edge food-safe wood board on Amazon, but you can also get them at Target for about $15. The smaller size is perfect for putting together a date night cheeseboard.
You can also use your prettiest large dinner plate or a serving platter that you already have, especially since this is going to be a small cheese board for two.
Find your bowls
I like placing the bowls that will hold certain items down first as the bowls are usually the biggest things on the board with no give to their size or shape, along with big wedges of cheese.
Smaller prep bowls (definitely not your average cereal bowl) are perfect for holding snacky bits that should be kept separate for flavor reasons or so they don't roll away like nuts, or are liquid, like honey. I love a good mini creamer cup for anything I want to drizzle or pour.
Pick Your Cheeses
Here I used sharp cheddar and goat cheese, which are two kinds of cheese I know my husband and I both enjoy. The goat cheese I used was Cypress Grove's Purple Haze, which has fennel pollen and lavender added. For me, this covered the creamy, interesting, and goat cheese aspects I like in my cheese boards.
For the average board, I like to have at least four types of cheeses to choose from: something creamy, something 'classic', something interesting, and goat cheese. This gives everyone a choice for their own individual likes; but when it's a smaller board just for two people or as an appetizer, two to three cheeses work well, too. It's about variety and interest when it comes to making these boards, y'all.
A few of my favorite cheeses:
Classics aka 'Hard' Cheese: Cheddars, Gouda, Gruyere for the pickier bunch, Parmesan, Asiago, Hard Goat Cheese, Manchego for the cheese lovers. These can be in wedges to slice or cubed for easy consumption. I love cheddar year-round since it goes great with apples in the fall and berries in the warmer seasons.
Creamy (aka Soft Cheeses): Camembert, Brie, Cream Cheese, Havarti, Burrata. I really love triple-cream brie; if you're wanting to impress your boo, this decadent brie is absolutely amazing with a 75% butterfat content and an extremely creamy, buttery flavor. It goes great with fruits and sweet wine!
Interesting: These are cheeses that are fun to add, funky, or unique. Or just something you're just getting introduced to! Cheeses like Stilton, 1000-Day Aged Gouda, Roquefort (one of the best known blue cheeses--also probably the funkiest...like ever.), Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor or Purple Haze goat cheeses, Ossau-Iraty, and Gorgonzola Dolce are cheeses that definitely add interest to your board.
Goat: I like goat cheese as it's own category, even though you could place a type goat cheese in every single category here on your board. Goat cheese is tangier than cow's milk and there are many different kinds of goat cheeses: soft and fresh, aged and hard, covered in ash or herbs, etc. If you're new to goat cheese, try a fresh 'bare' cheese, it's creamy and lighter in flavor like a tangy cream cheese that spreads easily on crackers.
Here are a few goat cheeses I like so give them a try:
Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog. It's a French-style soft-ripened goat cheese with ash and it's delish, definitely not too funky for a newbie.
Bleuet de Chevre is a great brand for blue goat cheese, meaning the mold, not the color of the cheese.
For hard goat cheese, I like Drunken Goat cheese and Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon. Drunken Goat is soaked in wine and aged for a little over two months and fruity tasting while Midnight Moon reminds me very much of gouda with nutty, buttery, caramel-ly flavors.
Choose Your Charcuterie
Aka, the meat parts. This was an appetizer before a very tasty pan-seared NY strip steak dinner so I only added some prosciutto, a huge favorite of ours that went really well with the tangy goat cheese on crackers. For a large board I like having cured sausages and whole muscle cuts, but if you want to get really fancy add pate, terrines, and lard for a classic French spread.
Need a few ideas? Here are my favorites:
Genoa Salami. Which is like 'bougie auntie' salami. It's pork seasoned with peppercorns, garlic, and wine and comes from Genoa, Italy, where the pigs dine on hazelnuts and acorns. Like I said, Bougie Auntie Salami, and I love it. Other salamis work well, but this is a great entry-level salami that'll make everyone feel just a bit fancier. Calabrese is also a great one for those who love spice.
Prosciutto. This is a whole muscle cut from the leg, sliced thinly it tears apart easier than wet paper and is great for this small board. A few slices do a lot for just two people or an appetizer, so don't think you need to spend a ton for a lot of prosciutto. Other great whole muscle cuts, sliced thinly, of course, are jamon de Iberico, jamon Serrano, and bresaola, which is air-dried and cured beef tenderloin that is so good!
Get your fruits and veggies
Because this is a small winter board, I used my all-time favorite winter fruit --pomegranate-- and added grapes to the board. You could also add mango, kiwi, citrus fruit like oranges or grapefruit, persimmons, cranberries, pears, and pineapples since all of these are great cold-weather produce.
You can also grab veggies, most people tend to add a pickle like cornichons, brined peppers, and olives but we aren't too fond of pickles so they didn't make the plate.
Snack bits and Condiments
These aren't necessary parts, but they certainly make for a delicious charcuterie board. Nuts, dips, oils, honey, fruit spreads and jams, whatever you love to snack on that pairs well with cheese or salty meats, add it in.
Here we have chocolate covered almonds, an herb dipping oil for the baguettes, and local raw honey with its own honeycomb which is totally edible and tasty. It's also a fun and unexpected addition!
Time for the Carbs
The crackers, bread, pretzels, or whatever you decide to use to smear cheese on, scoop things with, and use as a vehicle for all the good stuff is an important decision. Variety is the spice of your charcuterie board, so different textures, colors, flavors should be used while keeping in mind what
For us, I placed black sesame and poppy seed crackers and rosemary crackers that taste great with the different items we chose, and slices of baguette (for dipping into that herb oil!) and some pretzels for that creamy, tangy goat cheese.
Can I Make an Affordable Charcuterie and Cheese Board?
A date night cheese board can be super affordable, especially during the fall, winter, and holiday seasons as Aldi has a ton of charcuterie and cheese board products on sale and Trader Joe's has an amazing array of cheeses that are incredibly affordable.
Like that decadent triple cream brie? I got a huge wedge of it for about $5, but you can find smaller ones for even cheaper. And since we're using about 2-3 cheeses...buying a bag of cubed cheddar for $2 at Aldi and maybe some smoked Gouda or creamy goat cheese for $3.50.
Then buy some salami and another meat like prosciutto ($4 for a pack that'll leave you with leftovers but go to the deli counter at your local store and get $2 worth for this board!), then get an apple to slice, pomegranate, a bag of grapes, and some crackers and a baguette, you've got a really nice, affordable charcuterie board for about $20.
Serving Your Cheese and Charcuterie Board
First, let your brie, camembert or other soft cheeses sit out for an hour so they can soften up and remove the chill from the fridge. Yes, this is safe. Culinary safety protocols allow items to sit at room temperature for two hours.
Arrange your platter by setting up the big items (wedges of cheese, bowls) since the other stuff can change shape or maneuver around these big, sturdy items.
Tips on Arranging your Board: I like to plate things that pair well together around one another and I like to put fruit all around the platter so everyone can have something fresh and sweet with all the fermented/savory/rich things.
Meat and cheese aren't that colorful, so the condiments and fruit can really jazz up your platter aesthetically. The bright colors from the red pomegranate and the green grapes give subtle Christmas vibes that brighten up neutral colored cheeses and brown meat and almonds.
- Round Raw Edge Food-Safe Wood Board
- Small Acacia Wood Bowls (as seen in photos)
- Mini Creamer Bowls (as seen in photos)
- Cheese Knives
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- 3 ounces sharp cheddar, cubed
- 3 ounces soft goat cheese
- 2 ounces chocolate covered almonds
- 4 ounces carbs (crackers, bread, and pretzels)
- Arils of 1 pomegranate
- 1 bunch of grapes, split apart
- ¼ lb cured meats
- 1 ounce raw, local honey
- 1 ounce extra virgin olive oil with ½ teaspoon Italian Herbs
- Put the board where you'll be serving the charcuterie and cheese. Once assembled the board will be heavy and too dangerous to move, so make sure it's in a safe, flat, and sturdy place before you start.
- Let the soft cheeses rest on your countertop for 30 minutes to 1 hour to take the chill off them.
- Put any bowls you need down first, then the cheese, crackers, and the rest. I like to put anything that can be folded up or put into small spaces last, but there is no wrong way of putting a charcuterie or cheese board together!
- Garnish with herbs, edible flowers, slices of citrus, or anything your heart desires.
- Serve immediately and save any leftover cheese by wrapping it in wax paper and keeping in the fridge.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 132
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.