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How to make an epic meat and cheese board your guests will love

Think beyond your basic pepperoni and cheddar. Here's how to build the snacky graze board of your dreams.

In recent years, more and more people are realizing that putting together a beautiful graze board is a stellar way to entertain. The idea of a graze board is quite similar to a charcuterie board or a cheese platter, but with the two combined and then all sorts of other goodies added on. There are very few hard and fast rules when it comes to a graze board, but there are a bunch of tips to keep in mind to end up with the most gorgeous presentation of snacky, nibble-y foods.

So, here’s what you can think about putting on a graze board — and noted are what I picked for this one. Take inspiration from what you like, and then do what I do: stand in front of the fridge and start pulling out anything you think might get eaten. Don’t get too caught up in what goes with what —rice crackers and olives? Pickles with raspberries? Sure. People will dip in and dip out of a graze board, and this is the opposite of a planned out three-course themed dinner.

  1. Pick a simple board or platter. Wood is always a good idea, it looks super homey and warm, and you want to give the various foods a chance to pop.
  2. Get the good stuff. For the most part the items on the board are going to be eaten in the pure state, so quality really counts. If you are on a budget, keep the offerings simple and streamlined, but get nice products.
  3. Keep cheeses in varied and interesting pieces — some cut, some whole, triangles and squares and rounds.
  4. Make sure meats, for the most part, are sliced as thinly as possible; paper thin slices are much more enjoyable to eat in the case of things like prosciutto and other hams.
  5. Allow meats and cheeses to come to room temperature before serving.
  6. Add something fresh and leafy green, like sprigs of fresh herbs, shishito leaves, carrots or radishes with their frondy tops.
  7. Think about texture — make sure your graze board components present a good mix of crunchy and creamy and tender, substantial and delicate.

Foods to consider for your graze board

Cheese: It’s nice to offer a selection: hard cheeses such as sheep’s milk manchego or cow’s milk cheddar (here, a Cabot Private Stock Vermont Cheddar Cheese) and Parmesan or Grana Padano in nice chunks or with a knife for breaking off pieces. Then a soft, creamy cheese or two, such as a double cremes, like brie or camembert, or a triple creme, such as Le Delice de Bourgogne, pictured here. Include a blue cheese, like this Sweet Grass Dairy Asher Blue.

Add a goat cheese or two: I like to offer an aged goat cheese, like the Couple from Vermont Creamery, on this board, and maybe a fresh goat cheese — Vermont Creamery makes a load of those, too, from plain to herbed to one with a smoky pepper jelly. You can also add something simple and super accessible, like Colby or Monterey Jack, so even less adventurous nibblers can find something to love.

Meats: Cured meats in particular are great choices, all kinds of sausages and salumis (fancy word for the salami family) and hams (prosciutto and soppressata on this board, speck is another good choice). Get some cut, and some in uncut form, like this unctuous Olli Napoli Applewood Smoked Salumi. Pates and terrines are other options.

Fish: Smoked fish is a luxurious food many people are excited to see. Salmon, of course, but also smoked trout, whitefish and sable are all gorgeous on a graze board.

Pickled and jarred things: Consider everything from olives (big fat green Castelvetrano olives, here, are my favorite) to capers to pepperoncini to artichoke hearts (check out the impressive big grilled ones with their stems) to pickles (like these cornichons, a classic and crowd-pleasing choice, especially when paired with cured meat). Hearts of palm and sundried tomatoes are other nice options.

Nuts: Roasted, candied, marcona almonds, herbed, spiced, smoked — there are a lot of nuts to choose from, but always check for allergies.

Vegetables: On the vegetable front, think about carrots, celery and cucumbers, peppers, and cherry or grape tomatoes (on the vine is pretty, as you can see), baby vegetables, fennel, radishes (leave the greens attached for visual appeal), sugar snap and snow peas. Cooked vegetables, such as potatoes, roasted cauliflower or lightly steamed asparagus, are also good options.

Fruit: Think: grapes, apricots, cherries, figs, cranberries, melons, plums, apples, pears, peaches and figs. And don’t forget about dried fruits: apricots, cherries, cranberries, and also, crystallized ginger is a spicy sweet touch. On this board: fresh figs, golden berries, teardrop grapes and blackberries.

Herbs: Sprigs of fresh herbs are a pretty touch — thyme (here), rosemary, oregano, marjoram, sage, all will add life to a graze board.

Eggs: Semi-soft yolk hard-cooked eggs are a really nice addition to a graze board. Sprinkle them with a pretty flaky salt, maybe a pink salt, to make them all the more enticing.

>> How to boil the perfect egg

Condiments: Don’t just think savory, sweet is really nice, especially when paired with cheeses. Mustards, pestos, mayonnaises and aiolis. Jams, jellies, tapenades and honeys. You can also put out a chunk of pure honeycomb (Savannah Bee Company is one producer) which is super cool looking.

Dips: You might want to add a dip to the mix. Think about Green Goddess Dressing and Dip, Easiest Herb Dip Ever, Arugula-Basil Dipping Sauce, tzatziki, hummus, or Harissa Dipping Sauce.

Bread and crackers: Sliced baguette or other small pieces of good bread or toast, and any and all stripes of crackers. Include some gluten-free crackers, like these ones from Crunchmaster, some hearty biscuit-like crackers, like these ones from Effie’s, and flatbreads, such as these Firehook Baked Crackers. And puff pastry and other breadsticks are nice (and you can wrap breadsticks with prosciutto or other thinly sliced cured meat). People can use them to enjoy the other things on the tray, and also to snack on bare naked on their lonesome.

Chewy Bites: Snacky things are fun on a graze board. Try granola bites, sesame seeds, or these nutty, seedy Clean Snax from Melissa’s.

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