What’s not to love about grazing boards? The modern entertaining essential has found its way to our tables in increasingly elevated forms. Deli meat fashioned to look like flowers, intricately folded cheeses, layers of colorful fruits and veggies—the boards have become almost too beautiful to consume. But what happens if you take the cheese and meat off the board this winter in favor of, say, hot chocolate?
“Fun fact—without meat, a charcuterie board would not be called a ‘charcuterie board,’” says local charcuterie expert and teacher Kelsey Bassett of The Board Loon. But don’t fret. “You can really make any spread into a fun board,” Bassett says.
The Board Loon has garnered a large following on Instagram from Bassett’s easily digestible DIY videos and stunning charcuterie creations. While she once sold her grazing boards, Bassett now spends her time teaching local and virtual workshops to the masses. So, who best to teach us the ins-and-out of crafting this sweet twist on charcuterie just in time for winter entertaining season?
Let's Dip In!
1. Set the Table
Choose a board that fits the size and style of your gathering. Then, consider what items your board will need to contain. What will hold the hot chocolate centerpiece? What about toppings? Have fun exploring your kitchen and local shops for ramekins, unique mugs and other fun additions. “By placing these items down first, they will serve as ‘anchors’ for everything else you add in,” Bassett says.
2. Graze your Local Shops
Now that you’ve prepared the backdrop for your edible display, it’s time to get shopping! Start making a list of your board essentials, taking your guests into account. For kids, find unique ways to bring classic flavors—like sprinkles, cookies or dehydrated marshmallows. To appeal to your mature guests, Bassett suggests including an adult beverage— like Baileys Irish Cream, Kahlúa or a red wine. Or add a “warm and cozy” flavor to your hot chocolate offerings with a sprinkle of spice, such as cinnamon, cardamom or cayenne, or an extra syrup, like mint, caramel or white chocolate.
For a wide selection of seasonal goodies, she says, “I love shopping at Trader Joe’s; it usually is a one stop shop. But if I need … more elusive ingredients I go to Kowalski’s [Markets], Whole Foods and Jerry’s [Foods].”
3. Get Creative
Explore what swirls, shapes and sizes fit your fancy. Bassett recommends balance amid the chaos. “You will want your board to be well balanced with colors, shapes, sizes and even flavors,” Bassett says. “I also always try to place items in odd numbers.” As you near the end, use “filler” items, such as nuts, chocolate chips or marshmallows. “The key to a good board is not being able to see the bottom!” Bassett says.
Spiked Hot Chocolate
Recipe from Kowalski’s Markets
- 3 1/2 cups milk
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3 Kowalski’s dark chocolate bars (3 oz. each), chopped
- 1 1/4 cups liqueur or spirits, your choice
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract or paste
- 1 pinch of salt
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring milk and half-and-half barely to a boil. Add chocolate; continue cooking, stirring with a whisk, until chocolate melts and is smooth. Stir in liqueur, vanilla and salt. Divide among six mugs.
Tasty tip: Try your favorite boozy beverage in this indulgent recipe: rum, bourbon, port wine, crème de menthe, Irish cream or coffee liqueur, such as Kahlúa.