A charcuterie and cheese plate is a no-cook appetizer that's perfect when you're pressed for time. Simply shop, plate, then sit back, relax and enjoy a festive bevvie while your guests graze.
? The more meat you offer, the more people will eat. For a cocktail party, if you set out only one choice of meat, one ounce per person will suffice. With two or three different meats, plan for two ounces total per person. More than three, three ounces. For a dinner party or a gathering lasting longer than a couple of hours, double these amounts.
? Pick three meats: a dry-cured meat (such as serrano ham, the Spanish equivalent of prosciutto), a cooked sausage (such as San Daniele mor-tadella, a mild, crowd-pleasing Italian-style veal bologna) and a dry-cured sausage (such as soppressata).
? If you like, add a fourth, non-pork option such as bresaola, a beef dry-cured to the point of perfection. This one's definitely a luxury, but well worth it. It was Picasso's favourite, after all.
? Pick three cheeses: a soft cheese (such as Riopelle, a cow's milk cheese, similar to brie, from Quebec), a blue cheese (like Roquefort Papillon Noir, a blue cheese made by the aristocracy of Roquefort producers from ewe's milk aged in mountain caves) and a hard/sharp cheese (such as Picobello, a uniquely nutty, sweet Dutch cheese with a texture similar to Gouda but a more complex taste and longer finish).
? If you're going to add a fourth cheese, splurge on a conversation starter like Testun Occelli al Barolo, a raw aromatic sheep's milk cheese from Piedmont in northern Italy. It is covered in wine must from the Barolo grape and aged 18 months.
? When laying out your selection, you can serve the meat and cheese together or arrange them on two separate platters.
? Place sweet garnishes (dried pineapple, apricots, honey, honeycomb, fresh or dried figs, fig jam, dried cranberries, grapes) next to the salty cheeses; and pickles, cornichons, olives and other acidic accompaniments (aged balsamic vinegar) next to the meats.
? Nuts (walnuts, plain or candied almonds or pecans) pair especially well with cheese. A drizzle of honey makes them the perfect partner for salty cheeses, in particular. -CP
This recipe bursts with colour and can be easily tailored to meet personal tastes and include items you have on hand. Any kind of sparkling wine or Prosecco would work, and it's OK to omit the brandy.
4 cups strawberries
3 navel oranges
4 cups ice
30 fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
1 bottle (750 ml) of your favourite Champagne or Prosecco
1 1/2 oz brandy
1 1/2 oz Cointreau
1 bottle (1 l) club soda
In a bowl, place strawberries and mash them with a masher. Keep mashing until the juices are released and you're left with strawberry pulp. Slice oranges into thin rounds. Peel and core pineapple. Cut half of the pineapple into rounds. Cut the other half into small cubes that will fit into punch glasses.
Add ice to punch bowl. Place a few mint leaves in your palm and slap them. This will release the natural oils and aroma of the mint. Add to punch bowl.
Pour in Champagne, brandy, Cointreau and club soda. Add crushed strawberries, orange slices and all the pineapple. Stir well. Serve in punch cups.
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