How to elevate that boring old tray of cold cuts and veggies
Platters of meat, cheese and veggies are some of the easiest ways to feed guests during the holidays. But there's nothing more boring than going to party after party that's serving the same old carrot sticks and suspiciously slimy turkey rolls.
Luckily, there are tons of ways you can switch up your crudités and cold cut platter game, from what you put on the tray to how you display it, so you don't have to worry about sending your guests home to nightmares of drowning in ranch dip while watery slices of ham look on laughing.
Roast your veggies
Tired of boring crudités? Try roasting your veggies. You want to toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast at a very high heat (425 degrees F). The key is to get some color and char on them while keeping them firm enough that they don't require anything more than fingers or a toothpick for eating them. Roasting will deepen the flavor of your veggies, adding a layer of complexity to what would otherwise be just another cold and crunchy vegetable tray.
Shop at an international or farmers market
Instead of sticking to the usual carrots, celery and bell peppers, add variety to your crudités by checking out the selection at your local international grocery store or the seasonal offerings at your farmers market. Whether you opt for sticks of jicama or Romanesco florets, your tray will be a lot more interesting (and people may actually feel compelled to eat their veggies).
Jazz up your dips
Stop serving standard dips with your veggie platters (the ranch dressing that comes with a pre-made crudités tray should basically be tossed in the garbage — your guests deserve better). Even if you still go with higher-quality store-bought dips, making them unique can keep your spread from feeling too boring.
Skip the ranch dip and serve your crudités with:
- Homemade blue cheese dressing
- Spinach-artichoke dip
- Labneh swirled with za'atar and olive oil
- Baba ganoush
- Avocado whipped with feta, lemon and herbs
For maximum visual impact, try color-coding your crudités tray. Serving all green veggies with a green goddess dip makes quite a statement, as does beet hummus served alongside crimson produce.
You don't have to cut your veggies into sticks and leave it at that. Items like zucchini and carrots can be cut into thick ribbons that are fun to dip, or you could abandon the platter concept altogether and serve your crudités in individual cups, stuffed into baguette slices or in a bowl made of ice.
Head to the international deli
If you have an international grocery store in your area, stop in and see what kind of sliced cured meats and cheeses they have on offer. Many Eastern European grocery stores have a full deli counter, while stores from other areas around the world offer up their own cured meats and dairy products — it's worth a trip to see what's on offer in your community, apart from the usual large grocery chain.
Switch up your condiments
Yeah, mayo and yellow mustard are the classic condiments to serve with a cold cut platter, and they do the job, but even a few small changes can elevate your tray. Try offering:
- Stoneground mustard
- Chipotle mayo
- Cranberry mustard
- Hot honey
- Green goddess dressing
- Feta, Peppadew pepper and cream cheese spread
Serve with carbs
Whether you're serving crudités or cold cuts, there's something sort of weird about feeding your guests just raw veggies or just meat and cheese without any carbs (especially if people are drinking at your party).
Serve a basket of mixed crackers, rolls or flatbread along with your platters so your guests can feel like they're eating something a little more substantial. And think outside the box when it comes to your offerings alongside your meat and cheese tray. Plain white rolls work just fine, sure, but you can add a lot of pizzazz to the mix by opting for ciabatta rolls, jalapeño-cheese rolls, halved croissants, pretzel rolls or homemade flatbread.
Mix and match
There's no reason you can't add cold cuts and veggies to the same platter, and it can be a fun way to run with a culinary theme. See how well it works to combine the two into one epic Italian antipasto platter:
- Cooked, sliced Italian sausage
- Italian cold cuts like prosciutto, mortadella and capocollo
- Italian cheeses like fresh mozzarella, provolone and Asiago
- Basil pesto, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted red pepper dip and ricotta for dipping
- Artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, marinated roasted red pepper, roasted asparagus and other veggies for dipping
- Crunchy bread sticks, ciabatta, focaccia, garlic bread
Once you choose a theme, you'll be surprised at how easy it is to throw together a totally impressive spread of cold cuts and crudités.
As a last bit of inspiration, we leave you with this cold cuts pig. Yes, it's cray. But who's not going to be delighted by it?