“Have you ever noticed at restaurants that sometimes the appetizers and small plates are the most interesting dishes?” So asks Kylie Mazon-Chambers, creator of the popular blog Cooking with Cocktail Rings, in her new cookbook Share + Savor: Create Impressive + Indulgent Appetizer Boards for Any Occasion.
And she’s right. The East Coast native and West Coast resident grew up on ranch dressing but has grown up to love oysters and freshwater eel sushi. (She credits her palate’s evolution to an uncle who worked as a chef!) Snack boards, appetizer boards and cheese plates are the new hotness, and Kylie has a knack for them. They’re easy to execute and awesome for advance planners.
So whether you’re Netflixing and sipping wine or having a small family gathering, check out Kylie’s recipes and ideas below. (Need a beautiful board? Delicious shelf-stable condiments, pickles, fruits or nuts to put on it? We’ve got you covered on that front, too.)
Follow a soup-to-nuts recipe below or adhere to Kylie’s wise general tips. For one, she says, do as much holiday food shopping and pantry-stocking ahead of time as you can. Keep in mind that a great cheese and charcuterie board comprises four important elements: cheese, charcuterie, vehicles like crackers and bread, and fresh or dried fruits, nuts and jams “to balance the savory flavors.” She’s partial to an odd number of cheese and charcuterie, whether three, five or seven, to keep the board visually appealing. Always include one popular fromage, such as Brie or cheddar, and remember to keep wedges handy in the fridge for replenishment during the event without breaking your stride as a host.
Grab your board. You’re off to the races!
Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary
Camembert is a rich, soft, creamy French cheese with an earthy scent and a similar texture to Brie but with a stronger flavor. It lends well to baking since it stays somewhat contained within its rind. Its intense, slightly funky flavor complements the garlic, rosemary and maple syrup for an aromatic and enticing winter appetizer. This recipe takes only a few minutes to prep, but the garlic and rosemary can be added a few hours prior to baking. Camembert also stays melted for a longer period of time than a lot of other cheeses, making it a great option for entertaining. This hearty recipe fits well with the seasonal ingredients included in the Winter Holiday Board (below). This gooey, melted cheese contrasts nicely with the firm textures of the other cheeses on the board.
• 1 (9-oz/255-g) wheel Camembert cheese, in its wooden box
• 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
• 2 tsp (1 g) fresh rosemary leaves
• 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) pure maple syrup
• Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)
• Bread and crackers, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove the Camembert from any plastic wrapping and place it back into the wooden box it came in or another similarly sized shallow baking dish. Use a small, sharp knife to score a crosshatch pattern across the top of the cheese wheel.
2. Using the knife to make small holes as necessary, carefully push the slices of garlic into the cheese, followed by the rosemary leaves. Drizzle the top with the olive oil and maple syrup. Bake until the cheese is gooey and melted, 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the flaky sea salt and serve on the Winter Holiday Board (below) or with bread and crackers. Serves 6.
Cranberry-Orange Brie Puff Pastry Bites
The zesty citrus in these bites works well with the tart-sweet flavors of the cranberry and contrasts with the buttery puff pastry layers and melted bloomy Brie. Cranberries are actually one of just a few fruits native to the United States. They are only in season during fall, specifically months ending in “er”, so I like to stockpile them. They last in the fridge for about a month and for about a year in the freezer. These buttery, flavorful bites fit well on the Winter Holiday Board (below) when combined with nutty cheeses and pungent baked Camembert. This element balances the board perfectly for a wide variety of flavor profiles.
• 1 tbsp (6 g) orange zest
• 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice (from about 4 large oranges)
• 3⁄4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
• 2 cups (200 g) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
• All-purpose flour, for dusting
• 1 (1-lb/455-g) package frozen puff pastry dough, thawed to room temperature
• 1 large egg
• 1 tbsp (15 ml) water
• 9 oz (255 g) Brie cheese, rind removed
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 teaspoons of the orange zest, the orange juice and sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and continue to cook until the cranberries have burst and the mixture has a jamlike consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove the jam from the heat and let cool completely.
2. On a clean, lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 sheet of puff pastry into a 10 x 14–inch (25 x 36–cm) rectangle. Use a knife to cut the pastry into 20 equal squares. Repeat with the remaining sheet of puff pastry. Arrange the squares in a single layer on two parchment paper–lined baking sheets and place in the freezer.
3. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Remove the pastry squares from the freezer. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the water. Brush the squares of pastry dough with the egg wash. Cut the Brie into slices, then spoon 1 rounded teaspoon of the jam onto the center of each piece of puff pastry. Place a piece of Brie on top of each.
4. Bake until the puff pastry rises and turns golden brown, 15 minutes. Garnish with the remaining teaspoon of orange zest and serve warm or at room temperature on the Winter Holiday Board (below) or on their own. Makes 40 bites.
Winter Holiday Board
The holidays can be a hectic time. In my mind, there is a dichotomy between two versions of the holidays: the ideal that exists in my head filled with the clichéd chestnuts roasting over the open fire, sitting fireside with a good book and a glass of wine, swathed in cashmere as if I just stepped out of a Nancy Meyers movie; then there’s the more realistic version that I always forget until I’ve overcommitted to parties and my days are spent hectically rushing around for last-minute gifts in a constant bone-chilling cold. To find a middle ground between these two contradicting visions, I like to make as many lists as I can before the holidays and overplan to be as prepared as possible. I’d recommend doing any holiday food shopping a few days ahead of time and prepping as much as you can. Serve with a few nice bottles of red wine for a warming winter dinner party.
- 1 loaf crusty bread, cut into 1” (2.5- cm) slices
- 1 cup (135 g) sugared cranberries, for garnish (optional; see tip)
- Cranberry-Orange Brie Puff Pastry Bites (above)
- Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary (above)
- 9 oz (255 g) Pecorino Romano cheese, cut into 1⁄2” (1.3-cm) pieces
- 9 oz (255 g) Gorgonzola cheese
- 4 oz (115 g) Genoa salami
- 1 (11-oz/310-g) piece honeycomb
- 1⁄2 cup (71 g) cornichons
- 1⁄2 cup (50 g) candied walnuts
- 8 oz (225 g) seedless red grapes
- 1 (2-oz/6-g) package mini breadsticks
- 2 medium pomegranates, cut into quarters
- Rosemary sprigs, for garnish
- 2 medium Fuyu persimmons, for garnish
- 10 dried oranges slices, for garnish
EARLIER IN THE WEEK
Purchase all the ingredients needed for the board. Slice the bread and store it in resealable plastic bags. Make the sugared cranberries for garnish (if using) and store them in resealable plastic bags at room temperature.
1 DAY BEFORE SERVING
Make the Cranberry-Orange Brie Puff Pastry Bites; once cooled, store them in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
1 HOUR BEFORE SERVING
Make the Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary.
1. While it bakes, heat a large grill pan or grill over medium-high heat. Add the slices of bread and cook until grill marks appear, about 1 minute. Flip and cook for an additional minute. Remove and halve the slices on the bias.
2. Reheat the puff pastry bites if desired, then arrange them on a plate or on a corner of the board. I like to use a darker-colored board for a more wintery feel. Arrange the Baked Camembert with Garlic and Rosemary, Pecorino Romano and Gorgonzola on different corners of the board so that guests are drawn to the various areas. Fill in the rest of the board with the salami, honeycomb, cornichons, candied walnuts and grapes, using the photo as a guide, if you’d like.
3. Position the breadsticks and bread on the outside of the board and garnish with the pomegranates, sugared cranberries (if using), rosemary sprigs, persimmons and orange slices. Earthy seasonal elements like these add color and dimension. Subtle garnishes with a purpose help the board come alive! Serves 10 to 12.
Tip: To make the sugared cranberries, in a medium saucepan, bring 1⁄2 cup (100 g) of granulated sugar and 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) of water to a boil until a syrup forms, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and add 1 cup (100 g) of fresh cranberries, let them sit in the syrup for 10 minutes, then drain and spread them on a wire rack until they’re tacky to the touch, about 1 hour. Roll the cranberries in 1 cup (200 g) of granulated sugar and serve.