#AskAntoinette: Casual Soiree Recipes

Q:  Antoinette, I want to host a few close friends at my house, but I can't figure out when to do it or what to serve. I don't want to cook a full meals...but I do want what I serve to be filling with minimal clean-up. Any suggestions? I always feel so overwhelmed just thinking about it so I give up.

A: Fall is my absolute favorite time of year for hosting guests. The weather is cooling off and the days are shorter. That means.... guests can come dressed casually, spiced apple cider and sparkling wine are easy to keep on-hand in the pantry, and people will leave once the sun goes down...leaving you plenty of time to nestle in under your favorite blanket with a great book or watch your fave show on t.v.

I usually keep everything I need to serve an irresistible cheeseboard & wine in my cabinets. They're simple to make, easy to customize, and can serve as an appetizer or a meal! It's real up to you what you add to yours....but here are a few basics I try to keep in mind:

  • Mix Textures + Shapes

Cheeses should range from creamy (think, blue cheese) to dry (Parmigiano-Reggiano). Other great choices like fresh mozzarella and brie are great additions too! Serve the cheese in wedges, slices, and rounds. Add cheese made from sheep and goat's milk on a separate platter for those sensitive to or allergic to cow's milk.

  • Less Is More

You'll only need about 3-4 ounces of each type of cheese for each guest. Limit the types of cheese you choose to 3-4 varieties and buy less than 1lb. of each for up to 5 guests. The dry cheeses will last longer in the fridge if stored properly....while the softer cheeses are best used right away.

  • Fill In The Gaps

Once you've selected the cheese...now all you have to do is add things that satisfy other parts of the palate. Dried and fresh fruits bring sweetness, nuts + dried meats like pepperoni and salami lend spice. Chopped dark and milk chocolate round things out and a few pieces of fresh honeycomb or dollops of great jam takes things up a notch!

Crackers are the norm for guests to pile their toppings onto...but I prefer different types of sliced bread. Try a mix of crispy, crusty, and soft fresh baked breads sliced into cubes, rounds, or just torn off the loaf.

Assemble your board and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving!

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