By Melissa Dean – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

Downhome Downtown

Ok, so we are back at it again! That’s right, it’s Christmas time in the city. The holidays are in full swing and the hustle and bustle of all the shopping, and the baking and the cooking and the parties….

But wait a minute: Are our Christmas shopping experiences the same as they always have been?

Maybe for some.

Are we really having get-togethers and company holiday parties like we normally would?

Probably not.

But you know, honestly, there are some ways that we can have a little fun without leaving the comfort of our own cozy homes.

I mean, truly. Let’s think about this.

Yes, it is difficult to not be able to hang out with all of our friends and family like we would normally. But how about focusing on the folks we have right here at home? The loved ones, friends, and family that we most likely see every single day?

We can celebrate the magicalness of this time of year with those who are sitting right here next to us on the sofa, egging to watch Die Hard. Because is it the holidays if we don’t hear, John McClane exclaim, “Yippie-Ki-Yay”?

Well, you know the rest, and if you don’t, we may have a bigger issue.

Anyway, allow me to offer a sure-fire simple way to do just that. I can offer you a brilliant beyond brilliant idea, to do a little celebrating in your very own abode.

Allow me to introduce to you the cheese and charcuterie board, that elusive creature, who up until recently, was truly a culinary master’s blank canvas.

A cheese and charcuterie board from Melissa Dean – Courtesy Photo

The board, as it has become known, is one of the hottest food trends right now.

There are breakfast boards, brunch boards, hot chocolate boards. But no board is more powerful or can be used to feed more people than the cheese and charcuterie board.

No board can command the attention of an entire room, like the cheese and charcuterie board.

I mean, there is even a best-selling book by Maegan Brown called Beautiful Boards, which I highly recommend, because boards are sooooo fun!

They are literally one of my most favorite things to create as a culinary artist, and I do fancy myself an artist. Trust me.

Variety abounds on a cheese and charcuterie board. – Courtesy photo

The term charcuterie can be menacing, in and of itself. It is really just a fancy French term for prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, pates, which are mostly made from pork. So, the term charcuterie just refers to the meat portion of the board.

Now, most artisans of the board will say that you must include some variety of fancy cheese. I say use whatever kind of cheese you want!

I have used brie, goat cheese, and even a block of cream cheese on mine. They turn out beautifully, and there is typically not a bite of food left for anyone!

Nuts and dried fruit are what we call fillers. These items are typically the last things eaten on the board after all of that delicious cheese and salty meat has been devoured.

I will also, generally add grapes of different shades and possibly Mission figs if you can find them. H-E-B will have everything you would ever need to put together a really nice cheese and charcuterie board!

Aldi’s as well, will have some things that you may not be able to get at H-E-B, believe it or not. Carey Dean and I bought an espresso dusted aged cheddar that was amazing! 

And so, the lay out of the cheese and charcuterie board is in the eye of the beholder. I like to group like items together or flavor profiles that I enjoy, and therefore know others will enjoy. One of my favorites is grapes and pepper jack cheese. The spice of the peppery cheese with the sweetness of the grapes is one of my favorite combinations on the cheese and charcuterie board. I swear by it!

Also, if you have read any of my other writings, you may recall that I am also a huge fan of the Strawberry Balsamic Serrano Jelly at H-E-B. It kind of has the same hint of peppery sweetness that the pairing of the grapes and pepper jack cheese has, only I spread it over a block of cream cheese or lovingly spoon it atop a creamy wedge of bread.  Beautiful and masterful.

The main thing is to have fun with it!

The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and what could be more JOYOUS than building something amazing. delicious, and nourishing for your family, or with your husband, or for your kid,s or with your kids! 

Let me tell y’all something.

My job is beyond anything I could ever imagine.

My job of creating and designing cuisine and food and fare for other people is beyond the reaches of mind. It fulfills me in no other way imaginable. But I cannot tell you the satisfaction at its purest level that I get from feeding my family.

And that my friends, is Downhome Downtown.

So, make that cheese board and share it with your closest people.

Use that weird term, charcuterie, and know what you are talking about.

And then serve about beautiful board with pride and JOY.

Happy Holidays,

Downhome Downtown

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