Holiday Entertaining Part 1 - The Charcuterie Display

I love the holidays.  I love entertaining.  That being said, we are in the busiest stage of our lives running small businesses and raising kids.  And I actually don't think I know anyone at the moment who isn't busy no matter what stage of life they are in!  That being said it seems like entertaining at home can be daunting and more and more we shy away from it and just opt to meet friends out.  But it's just not the same.  My favorite part about the Fall and Winter seasons is that we have holidays that bring us together, weather that calls for extra coziness and a time to reflect on the year and slow down a bit.  For that reason we have put together a series on entertaining at home that will hopefully help with ideas and encourage you to bring back gatherings at home as something of the present!

This week I'm discussing the ultimate "go to" for being the hostess with the mostest without the usual stress or much preparation needed.  I'm talking about a true love of mine, that charcuterie display.  Think cured meats, an array of cheeses, a few delightful sauces, crunchy vessels and you have yourself a total winner that will impress anyone coming to visit.  Add in complementary wines and you have yourself a party!  The best part about this is that it truly is so simple, but so beautiful at the same time.  

Step 1 - Start with Your Ingredients:

Blomma Designs - Charcuterie Display

I'm fairly certain the Fred Meyer cheese counter employees can spot me a mile away.  I approach and promptly begin to smell cheeses.  I'm usually looking for the stinkiest bleu I can find as it really makes me happy.  When I'm having guests over I'll head to one of our local grocery stores or specialty shops and pick out a variety of cured meats and cheeses as a base for the display.  And I usually taste about thirty options!  If you're tight on time I suggest selecting 2-3 cheese that vary such as some soft, some sharp and something user friendly like an approachable cheddar.  For meats you can't go wrong with a prosciutto and salami.

Step 2:  Build Your Base:

Blomma Designs - Holiday Entertaining

I like to start with placing my cheeses.  This gives me a map of how much room I'll have to fill in with the rest of the ingredients and they are typically the largest item.

Step 3 - Add In Your Meats

For this particular display I used a Prosciutto, dry sliced Salami and traditional Sorpressata.  Tuck them in with the cheeses, but keep in mind to leave room for the other items you're planning to display. 

Step 4 - Add In Your Sweet and Savory Elements:

Think salty, crunchy and sweet.  I like to add mixed or spiced nuts, something pickled like olives and then some sweeter items like dried cranberries, figs and grapes pictured here.  Use these to fill in all of the gaps and you're almost finished!

Step 5 - Garnish

Add in your garnishes.  I love to use herbs like rosemary to add in a little bit of color and it makes your display feel complete.  You can even throw in seasonal items such as clementines or persimmon to add in even more color.

Step 6 - Dress Up Your Vessels:

I prefer to set up a separate display for the vessels, meaning what the meats and cheeses will be paired with.  Baguette or a hearty grain bread and assorted crackers are easy to find and quick to set up.  I also mix in sauces.  Here you see a spicy garlic mustard and a fig jam.  Use leftover grapes, figs and a few clementines to fill in any gaps.  Having a separate board for the vessels means not everyone is grabbing in the same place and you have more girth to your display never leaving it feeling skimpy.  And if one needs replenishing there is still plenty of nosh for guests to pick at until you freshen it up.

And there you have it!  This whole setup takes about twenty minutes of shopping time and about ten minutes of setup at home.  I always keep stocked on cheeses, meats and crackers in the cold months so I can invite friends over on a whim and whip this up for the perfect gathering!