On a Sunday afternoon in January, about 30 men and women packed a room at Bellefonte Brewing Co. in north Wilmington.
Although they were sipping pints of beer, they were there for more than the craft brews.
It was another sold-out class on board making taught by Robbie Jester, owner of Pizzeria Mariana and In Jest Events.
The attendees were brushing elbows with a TV star — Jester is the winner of “Pressure Cooker,” a Netflix culinary competition and reality show.
The Delaware chef won fans nationwide for his affability and authenticity, and both traits were displayed during his classes.
His first session last November was on cheese-and-meat boards, which many people — and restaurants — call “charcuterie.”
But boards aren’t limited to the traditional. This class, for instance, was on brunch boards, and the Feb. 8 class is on the Lover Board, a sexy mix of chocolate and cheeses.
Boards also go beyond, well, boards.
For example, Jester often covers an entire table.
Here are some tips and tricks for brunch made easy.
Start with butcher paper
The paper will protect the table or linens and give the “board” a defined space. You can also use deli wrapping paper.
RELATED STORY: Robbie Jester takes the trophy on Netflix cooking show
Gather your serving pieces
You don’t need to spend much.
Jester bought two silver trays from a thrift shop for $1.25 and shops Target for affordable dishes for catering gigs.
Choose solid wood or solid marble board — but not a mix.
Too often, the marble comes free from the board.
“They’re not made well,” he said.
You’ll also need spreaders and tongs, which Jester buys on Amazon.
Use whipped cream cheese for spreads
A tub of cream cheese costs more, Jester acknowledged.
“But it will make your life easier, and you’re going to whip it anyway,” he said.
The cream cheese should be at room temperature before you add seasoning.
Use seasoning blends
For fast flavor, reach for a spice blend.
Jester likes Spiceology products and used Really Ranch and Everything Bagel for the demonstration. However, use whatever blend you wish, he said.
Before adding the seasoning, flip the container upside down and shake well. Blends contain particles of varying sizes, the chef explained, and shaking them ensures they’re well mixed.
Add only a little at a time — you can always add more.
Jester used a stand mixer for the task.
When done, spread the mixture on a cutting board. To make a chef’s “swoosh,” put a dollop down and drag a spoon through it.
Embrace soft bread
Crackers and crisp bread aren’t required.
Jester, for one, served soft baguettes.
“I like the texture — that’s just me,” he said. “But if you want to toast them, by all means, toast them. Put them in the oven with Really Ranch seasoning or Everything Bagel.”
Leverage premade dough
While Jester made the cream cheese spread, his assistant placed Pillsbury cinnamon bun dough on a waffle maker and skewered the finished product like a kebab.
“You don’t have to make everything from scratch,” Jester noted.
Indeed, he held up a roll of mini piecrusts with precut dough.
To make mini quiches, he pressed the dough into muffin tins.
Press the dough evenly into the corners so it doesn’t pop up and become a mini pizza, he said. Fill empty cups with water to promote even baking and prevent the pan from warping.
Jester also used premade biscuit dough, which he jazzed up with cinnamon and sugar.
After applying an egg wash on the others, he sprinkled Everything Bagel mix on them.
When making biscuits from scratch, freeze the butter and use a cheese grater to incorporate it into the mix for “higher, fluffier and more delicious” biscuits, he said.
Either way, don’t grease the pan; it will burn the bottom of the biscuits.
Add a pinch of salt
When the chefs made whipped mascarpone cheese with maple syrup, they added salt.
“It accents the sweet flavors,” Jester explained.
Consider candied bacon
The typical American breakfast includes bacon or sausage, which doesn’t work well on a board.
That’s because bacon is best consumed when hot— unless it’s candied.
Cook bacon until it’s about 90% done and let it cool, Jester instructed.
Then heat honey in a pot and, using tongs, dip the bacon in the honey and move it to a rack to drain. Add seasoning and cook the bacon in a 450-degree oven for about six minutes.
As for the sausage, choose the hard variety, Jester said. Consider a kielbasa or summer sausage, which is fine served at room temp.
Make breakfast sandwiches
For a savory touch, Jester made ham-and-cheese on mini croissants.
Other options include smoked turkey, honey mustard and bacon on mini bagels and biscuits.
All about fruit
How do you know if a pineapple is ripe? If you can smell a pineapple scent on the bottom, it will be delicious, Jester said.
For a melon, look for a deep indentation on the stem side.
Slice off the top and bottom large fruits to create a stable platform, and slice the peel or rind.
Since scooping the seeds can lead to a ragged appearance, use a knife.
He also served strawberries. Keep the stem intact, he said. Guests can use it as a handle.
A board of any kind usually includes cheese.
Always put them out about an hour before serving so they slice easier.
For perfect brie slices, freeze the wheel just long enough to easily slice it, and put the sections on wax paper.
Bring it to room temperature before placing it on the board.
For a hard cheese, use a knife to break off what Jester called abstract pieces.
“I don’t like everything uniform,” he said. “A salami rose, to me, means that someone has handled the ever-loving crap out of it.”
Assembly is the final step. Unlike a small meat-and-cheese board, a table-wide board needs varying heights to create interest.
Jester turned a wine rack on its side to serve as a dais for a cutting board. (He placed flowers and foliage in any empty holes. He also stacked biscuits and croissant sandwiches into pyramids.
With the final touches in place, Jester stepped back. “And there we have it — our brunch board!” he said to applause.
The hungry audience swarmed the table, and in under 15 minutes, little was left.
Across the board, the event was a success.
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