Get creative with casual Christmas charcuterie boards

Charcuterie (pronounced “shahr-ku-tuh-ree”) is translated from French meaning “delicatessen.” The term often refers to an assortment of meats paired with cheese, fruit, bread or crackers along with dips and sauces, creatively displayed on a board or serving dish.

With holiday meals being smaller and more casual this year, arranging the food on a large platter or board could create an interesting serving option.

The beautiful thing about creating a charcuterie board is that it is not difficult, there are many possibilities, and often everyday ingredients from your pantry and dishes from your cupboard can be used. Creating a charcuterie board allows for the imagination and creativity to run wild — have fun with it.

Decide what foods will be served and if the board will be an appetizer, meal, dessert, breakfast or snack. In planning, it may be useful to list the foods needed for the board. Anything can be used for the serving board, such as a large cutting board, pizza paddle, cookie sheet, platter, turntable, serving tray, pizza stone or a warming tray. Edges are useful to keep the food from falling off. If using a wooden tray, to prevent staining of the wood, wrap the board with plastic wrap. Also needed are small interesting dishes or containers for condiments and sauces. Some good options are ramekins, custard cups, teacups, small canning jars or jam jars. Serving spoons, forks and cheese knives will also be needed.

When creating a charcuterie board begin by placing the serving dishes, filled with dips, condiments or nuts. Add cheese rounds, slices or cubes. For colour add fresh fruits and vegetables.

Place crackers and bread on edge to save space and create height. Fill in remaining spaces with sliced, rolled, bunched or folded meat slices. Fold a circle of meat in half then roll and place pointed end down to create clusters of meat roses. Make piles of vegetables and fruits then fill in nooks and crannies with nuts, small fruits, crackers, pickles or dried fruit. Finish off with a garnish of green herbs or slivers of red pepper. Add serving utensils and the charcuterie board is ready to serve.

In deciding on the amount of food needed, two ounces of meat and two ounces of cheese per person is a good guide for an appetizer board.

For a healthy meal, think of a balance of items from all of the food groups: grains, nuts, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meat. The boards can be partially prepared ahead of time, wrapped with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerated before serving.

Fresh-cut fruits, like apples and pears, should be added just before serving. Cheese is best served slightly warmed so remove it from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving.

When choosing condiments, think about what would pair well with the cheese and meats on the board. Condiments could include jams, jellies, preserves, different types of mustards, cranberry or chili sauces, spinach or artichoke dips, hummus, salsa, dill or sweet pickles or a variety of olives.

Lightly salted or seasoned nuts like almonds, cashews, pistachios or walnuts are great fillers on a board while also adding a protein source. Sprinkle or arrange them around the board or use small serving dishes.

Imagine serving Christmas dinner charcuterie style. A rolled turkey breast may be more practical than cooking a whole turkey. I prefer the unstuffed turkey rolls because they are less salty.

Stuffing balls and potato puffs offer easy to serve options of these traditional holiday foods. Add cooked sliced sweet potatoes, sliced sausage rolls and bowls of hot gravy, corn and cabbage rolls. Finish the tray with a dish for cranberry sauce. Arrange the foods on a warmed pizza stone or cookie sheet and then place it on a warming tray to keep the foods hot.

A separate board of raw vegetables, pickles, dips and breads complete the festive meal.

Create a holiday dessert charcuterie board with a variety of baked goods, fresh and dried fruits, chocolates, nuts and a chocolate dip for the fruit and cookies. Why not dig out the china and sliver for a festive tea party theme.

Sources: Penn State Extension, Let’s Cook Charcuterie webinar.

Crispy Potato Puffs

These Chilean potato puffs, known as papas duquesas, are a cross between mashed potatoes and french fries. Yield: 60 balls.

  • 2 1/4 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 8 c. cooked, riced potatoes) 1.1 kg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted 15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. powdered skim milk 30 mL
  • 2 tbsp. Parmesan-Romano cheese 30 mL
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 125 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg 1 mL
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Put potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water, add salt and simmer over moderate heat until tender, about 20 minutes.

Drain potatoes and return them to saucepan. Cook for one minute over high heat, shaking pan frequently to dry out potatoes.

Mash or pass potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Stir in egg, butter, powdered milk, cheese, flour, salt and nutmeg. Using floured hands, roll potato mixture into one-inch balls.

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). In a large non-stick skillet, heat half-inch of vegetable oil until shimmering.

Working in batches of about 12, fry the potato balls over moderately high heat until they are browned on three sides, two to three minutes per side.

Drain on paper towels, season lightly with salt and transfer the potato balls to a large rimmed baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining balls.

When all of the puffs are fried, reheat in oven for about 10 minutes. Serve at once.

To make ahead, refrigerate uncooked potato balls overnight or freeze. Cook from frozen state. The potato balls can also be baked 10 to 15 minutes per side. Source: foodandwine.com

Stuffing Balls

Yields 8-10 stuffing balls.

  • 1⁄3 c. butter 75 mL
  • 1⁄4 c. onion, finely chopped 60 mL
  • 1⁄2 c. celery and some leaves, finely chopped 125 mL
  • 5 c. soft bread cubes, 1/2-inch, white, whole wheat or a mixture 1.25 L
  • 1⁄2 c. fresh parsley, chopped 125 mL
  • 1⁄4 tsp. black pepper 1 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1⁄2 tsp. sage 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme 1 mL
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1⁄4 c. chicken broth 60 mL

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

Line a baking sheet with foil paper and lightly grease.

Heat butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onion and celery and sauté gently until soft.

Remove from heat, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Shape mixture into eight to 10 balls. Dampen hands with cold water if necessary.

Place stuffing balls on prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 20 minutes or until set.

For an appetizer, make balls smaller and reduce baking time, then serve with cranberry sauce.

Make ahead and freeze the uncooked balls, bake from frozen. Source: food.com

In preparing my Butterball seasoned turkey breast roll, I noticed what looked like plastic sticking out of both ends of the roll. I contacted Butterball Canada and they responded with the following.

“The plastic layer you have seen under the netting is actually a vegetable gum known as carrageenan. It is completely safe and edible and will dissolve into the roast as you cook it. This carrageenan film is added to prevent the netting from cooking into the meat, while keeping the roast juicy and delicious!

Most times the film is not visible, every-once-in-awhile the carrageenan film will separate from the roast, which may be why it was more visible this time. I would like to assure you this is 100 percent plant based and is completely edible.”

In researching carrageenan, I discovered it is an additive used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks. It is a natural ingredient that comes from red seaweed (also called Irish moss). It is often found in nut milks, meat products, ice cream and yogurt.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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