The holiday season is approaching, and that means meeting friends and family. But making a hearty Christmas spread takes too much effort. Instead, consider setting up a pasture platter – a collection of bites resplendent with taste and texture.
A pasture platter can serve as a cheese platter, or function as a charcuterie board. Sometimes it can combine the two elements – or have neither. Think of these pasture boards as a giant snack buffet; a layered production of sweet, salty, sour, salty and everything in between, so there’s something for everyone.
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Cold meats are a staple of the pasture. These savory strips serve as a cover for the other items on the plate and taste just as addicting. At Salted and Hung, chef-owner Drew Nocente suggests looking at your personal preferences and offers a hearty selection of at least four different textures and complementary flavors. His proposal? Jamon, bresaola, rillette and pâté.
Da Paolo Group Executive Chef Andrea Scarpa agrees. “A common misconception is having as much variety as possible on a pasture plateau, which might not go well together,” he says. The key, on the contrary, is to find harmony.
For beginners, the Parma ham slices will never disappoint. “It’s the king of any charcuterie board,” he says. This rose-tinted thin meat has universal appeal, with sweet-salty layers and an almost creamy fat dripping down the side. He suggests pairing prosciutto di Parma with one or two more common cuts – a rich pistachio mortadella or a slightly spicy salami soppressata.
Leveled options can see more flavorful additions, such as game meats. You can try wild boar and kangaroo at gourmet butchers. They offer unexpected tastes. Otherwise, the culatello and coppa piacentina discoveries offer a richer and more daring profile.
There is a popular rule of thumb for choosing cheeses: something old, something new, something smelly, and something blue. But Cheeselads co-founder Chloe Lee thinks otherwise. “Not everyone is a fan of goat, sheep or blue cheese. You don’t have to include it on your pasture plate if you won’t like to eat it, ”she says.
When dining with people new to cheese, she recommends Gouda, Gruyère and Cheddar (“these cheeses are easy to accept”). Honey whisks can also help those worried about strong-tasting cheese, while adding crackers to the water will serve as a palate cleanser between bites and allow people to taste the cheese in its most typical form. purer.
For heavy snack eaters, Chloe shares that mature cheeses are the way to go; over time the flavors develop to become deeper and more complex. Cellar Aged Cheddar has robust, rounded notes, while Aged Rutland Red has a unique flaky texture and lingering caramel aroma.
Association Council: Cheeses don’t just taste great on their own; they go well with meats too. Parmesan prosciutto is a delicious union of sweetness and flavor, according to Ethan Tang, Senior Sous Chef at Tablescape. Or try gouda cubes, in notes varying from salty to smoky, with salami for tasty permutations.
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The empty spaces left between cheeses and meats are usually filled with other munchies and snacks. Anything goes – from dips to sauces, from fresh vegetables to dried fruits, from bread to cookies. Their main function is to refresh the palette, Ethan explains. Hot relish, like caramelized onions, and juicy fresh fruit are popular choices.
For a gourmet touch, work with seasonal finds and tropical fruits to enjoy maximum freshness. “Ideally there should be a wide variety of items so people can create their own ‘pairings’, play with the flavors and find out what works best for them. They can create their own snacks throughout the day, or however long the set is, ”he adds.
With the growing meatless trend, it might help to incorporate herbal options as well. Depending on guests’ dietary restrictions, dips and raw vegetables can be healthy inclusions, says food stylist Elodie Bellegarde. Nut dips and beetroot hummus can also add a good dose of flavor, while pickled artichokes and tempeh sticks are just as fun to munch on.
Working into your favorite Asian condiment can be a fun way to spice things up, literally. Elodie suggests sambal for a powerful heatstroke and umami, to be enjoyed with emping crisps; and even kimchi placed on crackers or thinly sliced bread. Or take away traditions altogether and create an entirely new tray filled with things you’d love to serve and eat. “I was actually thinking the other day of a plate of pancakes for breakfast with small pancakes, fruit, a few small ramekins filled with maple syrup or butter syrup, yogurt”, sharing- she does.
We feast with our eyes first, and building a visually appealing tray is just as important as the ingredients themselves. Elodie, who also works as a photographer, knows this very well; she compares the pasture boards to blank canvases and the accompaniments to “paintings and colors that follow a theme or an idea”.
She suggests starting with a nice base – a cutting board works, and a vintage piece of wood will surely add dramatic visual interest. You can also use ceramic platters and plates. Then tackle the larger items first (cheese towers, snack bowls, etc.) by spacing them out.
Scatter elements of different hues to fill in the blanks and add visual interest. Some red meats here, and sprinkled with orange products there. “By balancing the colors, you will create fluidity and harmony”, shares Elodie. And like all artwork, having a pair of skillful hands and an eye for design will help. “It’s about visually balancing the components of the platter, making it perfectly imperfect,” she adds.
Also, don’t forget to take the weather into account. It is best to leave oxidizing fruits on the plate until the last minute, and sweet herbs may lose their aroma after being outside for too long. Runny cheeses, like Camembert and Brie, may benefit from being taken out of the refrigerator earlier than other variations to give them time to breathe. If this all sounds a little too intimidating to you, Elodie has a tip: arrange everything to your liking in advance, then only remove the ingredients that need to be kept in the fridge. She says, “You will just have to prepare these last minute ingredients as your guests arrive without worrying too much about style.”
Equally essential is the drink of choice, and opening a bottle of wine is always welcome. A crisp raw will provide a much needed refreshing quality between bites to cut through any lingering flavors. French wines that are lighter in body will also complement a board with a high meat content. Or swap alcohol for alcohol-free options; any drink with carbonation works very well. Natural sodas and low-sugar variants with lively bubbles can help remove fat – from cheeses, meats – from the tongue. Dress the sparkling base with floral syrups and fresh herbs for added punch.
(Related: A Guide to Pairing Wines with Your Christmas Meal)