Pair this artisan cheese board with a bold winter red wine.
This cheese board features an orange marmalade with an alluring combination of sweet and bitter flavors that cut through the rich saltiness of the cheese. The bacon almonds are genius. First, they’re slow-roasted with bacon, so they’re infused with smoky flavor. Then, the bacon gets crisped and pulverized with smoked salt to make an addictively tasty coating for the nuts. They hold their own on any cheese platter, and they’re the perfect pre-dinner nibble to enjoy with a smoky Cabernet, a glass of sparkling wine, or your favorite signature cocktail.
For the bacon almonds:
- 1 cup blanched almonds
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, preferably Nueske’s brand, cut into lardons about 1⁄4-inch thick and 1-inch long
- 2 1⁄2 tablespoons Maldon smoked sea salt
For the orange marmalade:
- 2 navel oranges
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
For the crostini:
- 12 baguette slices, each 1⁄2 inch thick
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- About 1 lb. assorted local cheeses, ideally three different types (5 oz. each)
- Assorted crackers
- Fig & Onion Jam (recipe below)
To make the bacon almonds: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a plate with paper towels. On a sheet pan, spread the almonds and bacon in a single layer, keeping them separate. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes, for about 25 minutes, until the almonds are browned, toasted, and crunchy. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the almonds to a bowl and continue cooking the bacon until crisp. Using the slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the towel-lined plate to drain and cool slightly. Leave the oven on.
In a food processor, combine the bacon and smoked salt and process until finely ground. Return the almonds to the sheet pan and place in the oven for about 3 minutes, until warm. Toss the almonds with the “bacon salt,” coating evenly, then let cool to room temperature. The almonds will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
To make the orange marmalade: Cut the oranges into quarters, then slice crosswise very thinly on a mandoline, julienning the end slices by hand. In a medium pot, combine the orange slices, sugar, and 2 cups water and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until the oranges are translucent and the mixture is sticky. Add 1 cup water and continue to simmer for 15 minutes longer.
Remove from the heat, transfer to a food processor, and pulse until the mixture has a chunky marmalade consistency. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the mustard, and let cool. You should have about 2 cups. The marmalade will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
To toast the crostini: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Arrange the baguette slices on a sheet pan and drizzle one side evenly with a little olive oil, then sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake for about 6 minutes, until crunchy on the outside and still slightly chewy in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
To serve: Arrange the cheese on a large cutting board or platter. Place the crackers and crostini around the platter. Serve the almonds, marmalade, and fig jam alongside.
Fig & Onion Jam
MAKES ABOUT 3 CUPS
- 2 tablespoons rice oil or other neutral-flavored oil
- 2 cups minced red onion (about 1 large onion)
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1⁄4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 1⁄2 lb Black Mission figs, stems trimmed and each fig cut lengthwise into sixths (5 cups)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
In a 2-qt pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft and glossy. Add the vinegar, honey, cardamom, coriander, and bay leaf and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until the vinegar is reduced and the onions are wet but not soupy. Add the figs and cook, stirring often, for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the figs have cooked down.
Remove from the heat and remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the salt and let cool. This jam will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.