An Indoor Picnic

Cold weather should never stop us from picnicking.

Picnics are a wonderful and informal way to entertain without stress.

One of the best ways to organize an indoor picnic is by creating a charcuterie board — or cheese board — rather than a full picnic meal.

A beautiful fruit and cheese set gifted to me by friends Jane and Larry.
Sure... fried chicken, potato salad, and biscuits would be great, but that kind of menu just adds the stress right back in.

By visiting your local butcher, cheese monger, and green grocer — or even your favorite supermarket — you can put together a spread that takes no time at all. Throw in a bottle of wine, and everyone will be happy!

For me, I started to put together today’s beautiful charcuterie/cheese board by visiting my local farmers market and then filling in from there.

The inspiration for the board came from some venison rillettes made by Top Knot Farms. Usually I get duck confit from them but the venison sounded so autumnal. They also have the smoothest chicken liver mousse I’ve ever had. Those two items were the starting point for my board.

To the mousse I added Dijon mustard and cornichons. I stopped at Whole Foods for some Tuscan fennel sausage and Serrano ham.

Cheeses are an integral part for me, as well. And, whenever Fiore di Capra has it, I get their blue-coated goat (chèvre bleu). I added a DOP Fontina from the Val d’Aosta, and a small wedge of P’tit Basque.

I like to have a little something fruity and sweet on the board, too. Honey goes well with cheese — I opted for a local wildflower honey — and I added a healthy dollop of apple-horseradish marmalade, a specialty of the Veneto. It is fantastic with cheeses. We learned about it when we were visiting some of Andrea Palladio’s villas in the Veneto, a pleasant day-trip from Venice.

I also added fresh pears from Larry’s Veggies because, well, fresh pears are amazing. And because I wanted to use the beautiful 19th-century fruit knives and forks passed on to us by friends Jane and Larry. What an incredibly thoughtful gift - it’s like we are part of the family now.

Nuts - I always add whatever is local. There are groves of pistachios near Tucson, so a few hands full are a default choice for our board.

The final touch is bread and/or crackers. If I have good fresh bread, I use that… Otherwise crackers work perfectly well.

Needless to say, wine is de rigueur. For this particular board, I started with a Provence white from Château la Calisse. To read more about the pairing, head over to the Provence WineZine.

So for a mid-winter break, call some friends, toss cushions and a tablecloth on the floor in front of the fireplace, or gather at the kitchen table by candlelight.

~ David

Charcuterie/Cheese Board

3-4 meats, pâtés, or sausages
3-4 cheeses (a mixture of soft, hard, mild, strong)
fresh fruit - apples, pears, grapes
preserved fruit - membrillo, cren, marmalade
condiments - mustard, pickles, honey
bread and/or crackers 

Arrange the items on a large board or tray, and set out a little early so all ingredients come to room temperature to maximize their flavors.

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer, or 3-4 as a meal.

Labels: , , , ,