Platters for the WIN
Football season is here and we must munch while players get crunched. Growing up, every gathering I attended, whether it be with family or friends, included these items: rotel dip and tortilla chips, wings, layered bean dip, bowls of candy, potato chips and French onion dip, and an untouched store-bought black plastic veggie tray with nasty ranch. And lots of beer and soda. The games are every weekend, for several months! I can’t eat like that every Sunday!
I propose a healthier, much more beautiful option that will satisfy. Grazing platters are piled with bite-sized goodness, mostly things you may already have in your pantry and fridge. In restaurants they are called charcuterie boards or cheese boards. If I see one on the menu, I ask specifically what is on the board, because sometimes charcuterie isn’t just meat, and cheese boards aren’t just cheese. This is why I’m calling them grazing platters or grazing boards, implying that you don’t have to wolf it all down before half time, and several people can eat off of them at once.
Charcuterie is a branch of cooking involving prepared meats, such as ham, sausage, bacon, confit, or other pork products. The word originated in France, and it translates to "pork-butcher shop." In French, the person that prepares the meat is called a Charcutier. Additionally, the English pronunciation of charcuterie varies slightly from the original French. The correct French pronunciation of charcuterie is "shar-coo-tree."
A grazing platter is a feast for the eyes. There are no hard and fast rules to creating a grazing platter. It’s really up to your creative imagination. The key is to include a variety of colors, textures, and tastes: salty, crunchy, crispy, tart, sweet, smoked, sour, bitter. Most I put together are vegetarian, with the exception of a good salami or prosciutto.
Be sure to include a couple cheeses, pork products or for a healthier version, turkey deli meat. Fruits and vegetables are a must, the more colors the better. Don’t forget your favorite dried fruits such as cranberries and apricots. Include olives, cornichons, quick pickled red onions, and marinated artichoke hearts or roasted red peppers. Nuts of all stripes provide more protein on the platter, whether they be raw, roasted, toasted, or candied. Then there are the carbs. You can leave them out, but I always need some crunchy crostini, nut or whole wheat crackers of different shapes and textures. Don’t forget a touch of dark chocolate, condiments in tiny bowls like marmalades and mustards, and pretty garnishes like cut fruits or herbs. Lastly, I always include something I made myself. Hummus is perfect, or a honey Dijon dip or a buffalo blue cheese dip to remind you of that pile of wings.
The possibilities are endless! Start chopping and lay out something lovely you’ll want to eat with your eyes. Lay out the meats, cheeses, and dips first. Then fill in with fruit, veg and nuts. Finish with garnishes. Set out the platter for your crew, and enjoy. Below, find three easy dips to feature on your grazing platter.
Honey Dijon Dip
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons other oil, such as canola
Whisk all ingredients until mixed.
Buffalo Blue Cheese Dip
4 ounces Greek yogurt
4 ounces crumbled blue cheese
2 tablespoons favorite hot sauce
Squeeze of half a lemon
Dash of kosher salt
Mix with a fork in a medium bowl, or mix in a mini food processor if you like it smooth.
4 ripe avocados, halved and large diced
Half red onion, finely diced
Juice of one lime
½ cup chopped cilantro
Teaspoon kosher salt
Smash and mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until desired consistency. Add more salt if needed.