Nibbles that will have your guests buzzing
No time for fancy entertaining? No sweat! With a well-stocked pantry, a favorite market, and a little help from the professionals, you can throw together a spread of nibbles that will have your guests buzzing about your “incredible party” well past New Year. Cheers!
Cheese and Charcuterie Board
With a few pantry staples and a quick stop by the wine and cheese shop, you’ll be entertaining in high style in mere minutes.
What You’ll Need:
Serving Platter—Use a large cutting board made of wood or bamboo, a large piece of slate, or even a slab of granite or marble.
Utensils—Provide an appropriate knife for each cheese, spoons for condiments, spreaders for spreadables, and small tongs for meats and fruits.
Cheeses—Allow approximately 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person, when serving with other small bites. If your cheese and charcuterie board will be the solo offering, 2 to 3 ounces per person should suffice. Select 3 cheeses for a crowd of up to 10 and 4 or 5 cheeses for larger parties. Choose one firm cheese (say, an English cheddar), one creamy soft cheese (Brie, Camembert, chèvre), and one strong cheese (bleu, Roquefort, Gorgonzola). Add a hard aged cheese such as pecorino and a festive cheese with peppers, soaked in port or with the addition of spices or truffles, for larger gatherings. Choose your favorites, or go with a theme—all cheeses from one country, or all cheeses of the same milk. If the choices are daunting, ask a trusted cheesemonger for help. Describe the occasion, your preferences, and the budget, and the cheesemonger can help you shine.
Meats—Find cured meats and charcuterie at the grocery, in specialty shops, or from your favorite butcher. Include 3 to 5 meats, depending on the size of your crowd, from these popular choices:
Cured sausages—Spanish-style chorizo, soppressata, salame, pepperoni
Whole-Muscle Selections—lomo, bresaola, prosciutto, Speck or Iberico ham, guanciale
Spreads—paté, rillette, liverwurst, chopped liver, confit, terrine
Breads—Choose toasted bread rounds, crackers, grissini (breadsticks), cocktail rye bread, or fresh warm baguettes to tear into.
Nuts—Choose your favorites, plain or dressed up a bit. Marcona almonds are popular and easy to eat. Walnuts and pecans go well with cheese. Toasted or raw cashews or hazelnuts have a rich underlying sweet note. Seasoned nuts are available on grocery shelves and specialty shops, and you can also season nuts yourself! Try your hand at the simple Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts (below).
Savories—Offer mustards, horseradish, aioli, pickled vegetables, cornichon, caper berries, pickled peppers, gherkins, and assorted olives. You can find many of these on grocery shelves, at olive bars, and in bulk bins, but at the expense of just a little time, you can make ordinary olives one-of-a-kind and extraordinary, like these Citrus Spiced Olives (below).
Sweets— Set out jam, jelly, fruit pastes, fresh or dried fruit, honey and honeycomb. Figs, sliced apples or pears, apricots, grapes, and berries all go nicely as well. You might even be inspired to add a little sweet and savory combination with an outrageously flavorful stovetop Balsamic Onion Confit (below).
Food writer, culinary instructor, and market chef Maggie Perkins shares her passion for life, culinary travel, wholesome food, and her vibrant community—its farmers, festivals, producers, chefs, restaurants, happy hours, food trucks, pop-ups, artists, and more—on her Texas-based blog Notes from Maggie’s Farm.