Think Beyond Cheese and Charcuterie: These Creative Food Boards Are Your Answer to Easy Holiday Entertaining
Communal snacking and sharing is at its prime during the holidays, so creating a grazing board that everyone can enjoy together makes for a warm gathering. Resist the temptation to go over the top and keep your holiday food board simple, says Yasmin Fahr, author of the new cookbook Boards and Spreads. Making a Christmas board should be a source of pleasure, rather than stress.
Fahr's book is the perfect guide for making inviting holiday boards with a mixture of homemade and store-bought ingredients, resulting in impromptu spreads that are more celebratory than fussy. If Fahr's "low-effort, high-reward cooking" sounds too good to be true this hectic Christmas, then you need her tips. Her ideas for entertaining with boards are all about fostering an easy gathering around an inviting, delicious table spread, where you don't have to cater to certain diets or even have a certain theme.
So do as this board guru does and strive against perfection; forget about Instagram envy. Making a holiday food board isn't about being competitive, it's about finding a lovely, easy way to share the bounty of your household with guests. With her clever tips for entertaining a crowd, you'll be ready for the holiday season.
Build Your "Board Starter Kit" Before the Holidays
Don't wait until the last minute to get the building blocks of your boards. Having two boards on hand will make holiday board-building a cinch, so purchase them early.
Fahr recommends having one small wooden (or plastic) board and one larger square or rectangular wooden board. If you want to add one more, she suggests a large round wooden board for aesthetics and convenience.
Use the larger board to create the bigger overall presentation; Fahr uses this board for her no-cook tartines or feta flatbreads. Use your smaller board to arrange smaller portions of food, like sides, dips, and sauces. You can also use your smaller board as the staging, slicing, and prep board, since it's much easier to clean. The smaller board can also cater to vegans, vegetarians, or pescatarians.
Don't limit yourself to the two or three boards you have out—make the table a spread that has bigger bowls full of snacks that could be mixed or mingled with the proteins, produce, and sauces you have on your boards.
Make Your Holiday Board Truly Grazeable
According to Fahr, whatever kind of board you're making, you want to make everything easy to graze. Guests should be able to quickly pick up food here and there without making a mess or exerting too much effort.
"When a board is so beautiful and perfect, (guests) don't want to pick anything up," Fahr says. So make it approachable and inviting instead: Use scissors to cut clusters of grapes into snackable portions, and cut into cheese instead of leaving whole wedges. The board will also stay neater this way, and need less refreshing or tidying up by the host.
Go Beyond Cheese and Charcuterie
In Boards and Spreads, Fahr doesn't limit herself to cheese and charcuterie and she says you shouldn't either. The new holiday board is all about experimenting with how a board can make your meal or snack even easier and more fun, but you'll have to break some boundaries to make it more modern. So go rogue this holiday, and make Fahr's sausage hero board or top-your-own chili board, and let guests serve themselves and decorate their plate just how they'd like.
From fried eggs and pitas with scallion labneh, herby yogurt dip, and a simple green salad, to feta flatbreads with a variety of toppings, Fahr's boards are anything but traditional. Pancakes, spread out across a board with jams, jellies, fruits, and syrups are a stressless Christmas breakfast. For afternoon holiday snacks with your extended family, try her oh-so-hip collection of tinned fish, accompanied by quick-pickled shallots and crackers galore. You could even create her taco spread, using her trick of buying a rotisserie chicken at the store, broiling chipotle shrimp, and adding tortillas, quick-pickled jalapeños, sliced avocado, and a charred corn salad to the side.
Make the Board Your Palette
Look at your board as a whole color composition—an aerial view may help, so you can even take a photo to examine. Balance color distribution by moving items around and grouping them in small bowls.
"Though (using bowls) is more to clean afterward, it helps with styling," Fahr says. Employ a variety of hued bowls to add pops of color to your board or spread. If you're using red and green food, don't be afraid to add in other colors. Add to the color scheme with some small pinch bowls or sugar bowls in warm or bright tones, filled with spices, grated cheese, dried oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, chives, and capers.
Vary Heights and Shapes
Fahr says to consider the shapes of your food, and add shape and dimension to your board by stacking and layering. There's an architectural design element to building a beautiful and interesting Christmas board, and where the eye is led.
She recommends slicing food such as tomatoes and stacking them in layers. Fold pliable food like charcuterie and fan it out, to bring a sense of adventure and play. Or stand charcuterie up on its side vertically and gather pieces together to fill a space, as Fahr does with prosciutto on her Italian Aperitivo Board. Whatever board you choose to make this winter, make it welcoming and fun.