Cravings | How to Make a Sweet & Spicy Charcuterie Board
How to Make a Sweet & Spicy Charcuterie Board

Using a foolproof method for building any board from Marissa Mullen of That Cheese Plate.

Whether you’re having two people over for snacks and drinks or hosting a holiday soirée, charcuterie boards are an entertaining essential. But sometimes looking at the seemingly endless types of meats, cheeses, and accoutrements at the store can be overwhelming and it’s tough to know where to start when building out a board that looks impressive but won’t take you hours to put together. 

To help demystify the charcuterie board building process, we tapped Marissa Mullen, founder of That Cheese Plate and author of That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life, to share her Cheese By Numbers method. This is a step-by-step guide to make a board that has complementary flavors, an assortment of colors, and a mix of textures using six elements: cheese, meat, produce, crunch, dip, and garnish. Marissa built the board using our new Show-Off Charcuterie Board—which Chrissy designed with ridges and divots in which to arrange different foods—and a sweet and spicy concept. It features Chrissy’s Thai twists on two cheesy centerpieces: mini mozzarella balls inspired by Pepper’s Spicy Salt & Sugar Dip for fruit and a pimento cheese with a little extra kick (and fish sauce, obviously). 

Follow along with Marissa's illustrated Cheese By Numbers method, our shopping list, steps for building, and Chrissy’s cheesy recipes below—and then find an excuse to host a cheese-filled get-together ASAP. You can apply this method to any boards you make in the future, whether they’re sweet and spicy, super savory, or something totally unique and out-of-the-box.

What You Need

Cheese

  • 5 ounces Gruyère 

  • 3 ounces Thai-ish Pimento Cheese (plus more for refilling; recipe follows)

  • 7 Sweet & Spicy Mini Mozzarella Balls (plus more for refilling; recipe follows)

Meat

  • 2 ounces (14 slices) of spicy soppressata, folded into quarters

Produce

  • 3 ounces pimento or peppadew peppers, sliced

  • 3 ounces candied ginger

  • 3 ounces dried mango (plain or chili-spiced)

  • 2 ounces fresh pineapple, cut into small triangles 

  • 3 ounces dried apricots 

  • 3 ounces dried clementines

  • 2 ounces dried papaya 

Crunch

  • 4 ounces sesame sticks

  • 4 ounces sesame honey almonds

  • 1 box of fruit-and-seed crackers, such as Mary’s Gone Crackers or Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisps

Garnish

  • 2 sprigs of Thai basil 

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How to Build Your Charcuterie Board

  • Begin with your foundation: the Show-Off Charcuterie Board and a pinch bowl (like The Daily Pinch Bowls). Use The Cheese By Numbers method to build the board. This method follows six steps and categories: cheese, meat, produce, crunch, dip, and garnish.

  • Step 1: Cheese—Add Sweet & Spicy Mini Mozzarella Balls to the largest divot on the board. (You can refill as they are eaten, as the recipe makes more than will fit here.) Fill a pinch bowl with Thai-ish Pimento Cheese and place on one side of the board toward the corner. Slice gruyère into small triangles and fan across the opposite end of the board.

  • Step 2: Meat—Create a "Salami River" (which will separate wetter and dryer foods on the board) across the middle horizontally, flowing in the same diagonal direction as the cheese. Here we used a spicy soppressata. This will complement the spice in the Sweet & Spicy Thai-ish Mini Mozzarella Balls, and acts as a nice savory component on the plate. 

  • Step 3: Produce—Layer your produce items diagonally on the plate, in the same direction as the meat and cheese. To the left of the Salami River, create a stream of peppadew or pimento peppers. To the right of the Salami River, make another stream of dried apricots, dried clementines, and dried papaya. This gives us savory, bitter, and sweet pairings for the cheese on the plate. In between the dried fruit and Gruyère, add a stream of dried mango. At both ends of the board, add small piles of dried ginger (including the smallest divot in the board). This will act as a great pairing for both the Gruyère and Sweet & Spicy Thai-ish Mini Mozzarella Balls.

  • Step 4: Crunch—Fill the medium-sized divot in the board with sesame almonds and sesame sticks, which provide an added texture element and a salty-sweet pairing. Around the perimeter of the board, stack Mary's Gone Crackers (or other fruit-and-seed crackers, or other crackers of your choice) for your crunchy cracker vehicle. 

  • Step 5: Dip—The Thai-ish Pimento Cheese is your dip. The recipe makes much more than fits in the small pinch bowl, so you can have an extra bowl on the side for refilling or letting people dip in separately!

  • Step 6: Garnish—Garnish the plate with Thai basil.

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Thai-ish Pimento Cheese Recipe

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces sharp orange cheddar, grated by hand (2 ½ cups)

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, at room temperature

  • ½ cup Kewpie mayonnaise

  • 1 (4-ounce) jar sliced pimento peppers, drained well and finely chopped (or 1 whole roasted pepper from a larger jar, drained well and finely chopped), about ½ cup

  • 2 small Thai bird chilies (seeded if desired), finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon Thai chili flakes)

  • ½ cup finely chopped scallion greens, plus more for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chunky-smooth, 15 pulses. (You can also use a stand mixer, electric mixer, or mix vigorously by hand. For all methods, scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.) Transfer to a serving bowl, top with scallions, and serve immediately. Pimento cheese lasts, sealed in an airtight container, for up to 5 days in the fridge. 

Sweet & Spicy Mini Mozzarella Balls Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-ounce) container mini fresh mozzarella (bocconcini), patted dry

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1 tablespoon Cravings’ Chili-Garlic seasoning (or 1 teaspoon kosher salt and ½ to 1 teaspoon Thai chili flakes or red pepper flakes)

Directions

Combine the sugar and Chili-Garlic seasoning (or salt and chili flakes) in a small bowl. Dip the mozzarella balls lightly in the mixture. 

Pairing Ideas

  • Thai-ish Pimento Cheese with spicy soppressata and pimento or peppadew pepper on a cracker

  • Sweet & Spicy Mini Mozzarella Balls with spicy soppressata, and chili-spiced mango

  • Sweet & Spicy Mini Mozzarella Balls with candied ginger on a cracker 

  • Gruyère with spicy soppressata and pineapple

  • Gruyère with dried apricots, clementines, or papaya and sesame sticks 

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