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by Angela Peterson

With summer just around the corner‭, ‬I am ready to spend some quality time outside in the sunshine and warmth‭! ‬Whether you are entertaining all of your besties with small bites and cocktails or just sitting under the stars with the love of your life and a glass of wine‭, ‬a charcuterie board is the perfect accompaniment‭! ‬Here are some easy rules to make a stunning charcuterie and cheese board every time‭. ‬

Be sure to have lots of variety‭! ‬Variety is important when it comes to color‭, ‬texture‭, ‬flavor‭, ‬and fat content‭. ‬You probably don’t want the entire board to be four different kinds of heavy meats and cheese‭. ‬

First‭, ‬you’ll want to choose your board‭. ‬You don’t have to select anything fancy‭. ‬After all‭, ‬it’s going to be covered in food‭! ‬I prefer to use my thick wooden cutting boards‭. ‬They are rather large‭, ‬sturdy as all get-out‭, ‬and‭ ‬are pretty as the food disappears and more of the board shows‭. ‬

Next‭, ‬we choose our food items‭! ‬Depending on the size of your party‭, ‬you can include‭:‬

• Cheeses

• Meats‭ ‬

• Fruits

• Dried Fruits

• Nuts

• Crackers and Breads

• Mustards‭, ‬jams‭, ‬dips

• Olives

• Pickles

• Honeycomb

Meats and cheeses tend to be heavy and sometimes creamy‭. ‬You can balance that out by adding fresh fruits‭, ‬mustards‭, ‬olives‭, ‬and‭ ‬pickles that will add some acidity to your board and act as a palette cleanser‭. ‬Dried fruits‭, ‬nuts‭, ‬and crackers add texture to‭ ‬your board‭, ‬as well as some more complex flavors‭. ‬Jams‭, ‬honey‭, ‬and dried fruits also add some sweetness to your board that can help keep the flavor profile interesting‭. ‬If you really want to make it fun‭, ‬you can add spice by adding spiced nuts‭, ‬pepper jellies‭, ‬or spicy pickles‭! ‬

Utilize small bowls for items that tend to roll around like nuts‭, ‬mozzarella balls‭, ‬dried fruits‭, ‬etc‭., ‬as well as to add some interesting shapes to your board‭. ‬They also give you some structure that allows you to stack other items around them‭. ‬

You can add visual texture by cutting your cheeses in different ways‭. ‬Some can be cubes‭, ‬slices‭, ‬wedges‭, ‬or crumbles‭. ‬Meats can‭ ‬be fanned out‭, ‬rolled up‭, ‬or folded and placed with their edges facing up‭.‬

Use the fresh fruits‭, ‬olives‭, ‬and dips to add some much-needed color to your board‭. ‬Meats and cheeses are great but tend to be pretty monochromatic when that’s all there is on the plate‭. ‬

Generally‭, ‬I place the bowls first‭, ‬then the meats and cheese as they are the main food items‭, ‬and then fill in the gaps with the other items‭. ‬It sounds a little complicated‭, ‬but I think once you have a few items on your board‭, ‬you start to have your own opinions about how to lay things out‭. ‬

‭ ‬

Recipe‭:‬

One of my favorite non-traditional charcuterie board items is a savory cheesecake‭. ‬Here is an easy recipe that will leave your guests begging for more‭! ‬

Note‭: ‬I use a 4-inch springform pan to bake these in‭. ‬

Crust‭:‬

1‭ ‬1/4‭ ‬c herbed cracker crumbs or panko crumbs

8‭ ‬TBL unsalted butter‭ (‬melted‭)‬

2‭ ‬TBL minced pecans

Combine the three ingredients in a bowl and mix until they are evenly hydrated‭, ‬then press them into the base of your pan‭. ‬Make‭ ‬it as even as you can so that it will bake evenly‭. ‬Bake for 5‭ ‬to 10‭ ‬minutes until the crust is golden brown‭. ‬Allow to cool completely before adding your filling‭. ‬

Filing‭:‬

1‭ ‬lb cream cheese

2‭ ‬eggs

1/4‭ ‬c onions

1‭ ‬tsp rosemary

1‭ ‬1/2‭ ‬oz dried figs‭ (‬chopped‭)‬

1/2‭ ‬tsp lavender

1‭ ‬oz honey

Preheat your oven to 350‭ ‬degrees and grease your baking pan‭. ‬Place the cream cheese in your electric mixer and cream using the paddle attachment until it is completely smooth‭. ‬Add the eggs and mix until smooth again‭; ‬mix as little as possible‭. ‬Fold in the‭ ‬remaining ingredients and pour the mixture into the pan‭. ‬Bake at 350‭ ‬degrees for approximately 1‭ ‬hr‭. ‬The center of your cheesecake should still have some wiggle to it‭, ‬but the edges should be firm‭. ‬If you aren’t sure if your cheesecake is done baking‭, ‬you can use a quick read thermometer to check the internal temperature‭. ‬You’ll want to check the very center of your cheesecake‭, ‬and it should read 150‭ ‬degrees‭. ‬Allow to cool completely before removing it‭ ‬from the pan and serving‭.‬

Angela has worked for a number of celebrated chefs in the Boston area‭, ‬including James Beard-awarded chef Jody Adams at Trade‭, ‬and under two-time Food Network finalist Joshua Livsey at Harvest‭. ‬She then became the Pastry Chef at Catalyst Restaurant and then at Fox‭ ‬&‭ ‬the Knife under James Beard-awarded Chef Karen Akunowicz‭. ‬She now owns her own local donut bakery‭, ‬Colorado Shield Maiden‭. ‬coloradoshieldmaiden.com