This past Thanksgiving we did our annual Houston trip with Lin's family. The theme this year was a to sign up and bring a dish and it was such a fantastic idea . I volunteered to bring the cheese and charcuterie tray. There were 40 people attending the lunch so I knew a needed to prepare a larger tray so everyone could enjoy it ! I wanted to incorporate various cheeses, fruit, and delish meat. I also wanted it to scream Fall with a nice autumn color palette. 

 To start, I found a beautiful rustic wooden serving tray from Pier One Imports. It was the perfect size and all I had to do was line it in parchment paper. I also knew I could use the tray again in my home for all my olive oils and spices.

·       Decide how many types of cheese to include.  I had 40 people in mind, so I included 9 types of cheese.  For a family gathering of 12-15 people, you’d only need 3-5 types of cheese.

·       For cheese, I like to have the following:

·       Something sliced that can be picked up and placed on a cracker (colby jack, extra sharp cheddar, swiss, monterey jack)

·       Something smoky (gouda is my preference; smoked cheddar is another option)

·       Something blue and creamy (Stilton, gorgonzola) – Keep them in a triangle

·       Something tart (goat cheese is my preference)

·       Another creamy one, kept in a triangle (brie). Brie goes perfectly with fruit and toasted bread.

·       Additions: shaved parmesan; another type of blue; another sliced cheese

·       Havarti and fontina are two great types as well

·       Select your fruit.  Think seasonal and also consider the colors you want.  You’ll want some dried fruit and some fresh fruit.

·       I browsed Whole Foods and found Satsuma mandarin oranges with beautiful stems and leaves still attached.  I peeled some and then placed a couple whole oranges on the tray for garnish and color.

·       Dried figs, if fresh are not in season.  Cut them in half and they are lovely!  Plus they pair so well with many of the cheeses.

·       Sliced pears would be perfect for Fall.

·       Grapes are always a must for a cheese tray.  I found these very dark purple grapes to help with the color scheme.

·       The raspberries at Whole Foods were pretty, and though they were technically out of season, I added them for color and tartness. Even melon would be nice on a cheese tray.

·       Add some nuts.  It is nice to have some crunch, and nuts, cheese and fruit go so well together.  I had two flavors of nuts – one more sweet, one more savory and herbal.

·       Sesame cashews

·       Rosemary and sea salt marcona almonds

·       Other additions.  If this cheese tray is all you are serving, adding something with a briny flavor pairs well.

·       Marinated artichokes

·       Olives (buy the nice kind – from an olive bar, such as the ones from Whole Foods)

·       Charcuterie.  I always like to add some type of Italian deli meat.

·       My favorite is prosciutto.  The appearance is nice, it pairs perfectly with figs and creamy cheese, and it adds texture to the cheese tray.

·       Salami or another harder Italian meat are nice choices.  

·       Garnish with herbs.

·       I used fresh rosemary to garnish the cheese tray.

·       Sage leaves would be beautiful in the Fall.

·       Bread and crackers.

·       For this event, I had 4 types of crackers.  Buy or make crackers with different flavors, shapes and sizes.  I had one that had a touch of sweetness with dried raisins, then some flatbread crackers with rosemary, and a basic but pretty, large round cracker with whole grains and black sesame seeds.

·       Buy something with height.  Cheese straws and breadsticks are great.

·       Make crostini.  Thinly slice regular or whole-wheat baguettes, brush with olive oil, and bake at 400 until crisp and lightly browned.

Random tips: Place the cheese on the tray first, and not all facing the same direction or right in line.  After the cheese, place the larger fruit and the prosciutto· Fill in with the smaller fruit and nuts next. Garnish with the oranges and herbs last.

Such a huge hit !!! Eager to try a Spring /Summer option with all the amazing seasonal fruit!!