And how to build one.
The presents have been opened, but there’s still hours 'til dinner. Welcome to Christmas Day, where lunch is more of a paradox than a midday meal. You don’t want your guests to fill up before you serve the dinner you’ve likely worked all day preparing, but if left to their own devices (or to drift further towards the emotional state known as “hangry”), that too puts said dinner at risk.
This is why my family has adopted the Christmas Day cheese board: a easy-to-assemble, just-enough-sustenance, convivial solution to keeping everyone even keeled and entertained until the prime rib has finished roasting. It also keeps us all congregated in a certain area while those involved in cooking can tag team in and out of the kitchen without having to navigate a gaggle of jabber-jawing relatives.
Interested in implementing this practice into your own holiday? Here is the formula for a board that has just the right amount of options.
1. The Cheese
There is a certain algorithm for picking the right type and number of cheeses. To achieve the right balance of textures and flavors, you need something creamy, something sharp, something mild, and something blue. For example: a brie, an aged hard goat cheese, a sharp Cheddar, and a blue cheese that has been wrapped in grape leaves. Or for another option, try Camembert, manchego, a clothbound Cheddar, and a Stilton. For four to six people, you will need a quarter pound (4 oz.) of each cheese. If you have a larger group, between 12 to 16 people, go with a half-pound of each cheese.
WATCH: How to Make Homemade Cheddar Cheese Straws
2. The Vehicle
Whether you go with crackers or bread or both, texture and flavor are also key here. While toasted baguette slices are a classic choice, you can also serve them alongside a wafer-like cracker (great for carrying strong, pungent flavors) and a more substantial seeded one. We like Raincoast Crisps for their complementary, subtle flavor profiles like fig and olive or date and almond, plus they stand up to the weight of a denser cheese.
3. The Spread
Whether it’s a chutney, preserves, or relish, every cheese board needs a spread to tie the whole board together, much like the rug in The Big Lebowski. We prefer a fruit-driven, chunky option like Blackberry Patch’s preserves (made in Thomasville, Georgia), which were developed to be paired with cheese. The Peach Bourbon Cardamom served with chèvre is a slam dunk.
4. The Charcuterie
The protein power provided by a few cured meats can make all the difference in your guests' ability to wait out a kitchen mishap. For smaller crowds, splurge on prosciutto, but for a larger gathering, try a mixture of Capocollo and salami. We like these cured meats made by Olli out of Mechanicsville, Virginia.
5. The Trimmings
Round out the board with Castelvetrano olives, candied pecans, pear slices, spicy mustard, marcona almonds, pickled produce, local honey, or cheese straws.