Pimento olives. Celery. Carrots.Cheese spread—never cheese cubes or sticks, thank you very much. We’re talking relish trays, a Midwestern tradition. And when they’re good, they are very, very good indeed.
Anyone who has ever tucked into the celery sticks, carrot sticks and blue cheese dip that accompanyBuffalo chicken wingscan appreciate the premise of a relish tray. As one of their many fans explains, “Relish trays are like snowflakes. No two are identical, and you see a lot of them up north.” Classicpickleditems such as canned black olives and cherry peppers might make cameos, but you also might spy tiny cornichons or local dill pickles, asparagus or beets. Here’s how to build an excellent relish tray, plus our ideas for how to serve it. (For those looking for a way to kick off a heavy dinner, such as—ahem,Thanksgiving—this is a great way to eat your veggies in a delicious fashion.)
First things first: A relish tray is neither acharcuterie-ladenItalian antipasti platter nor anappetizer board, beautiful though those are. It’s less cheese- and meat-heavy. But you’ll wantpickledelements, whether you make your own quick pickles (ittakes an hour!) or purchase something yummy, such as pickled peppers, cauliflower, beets, and so on. We do love thesePiccalilli, a tangy-sweet “pickle” with a saucy blend of mustard and cider vinegar, studded with cauliflower, onions, carrots, green beans, peppers, gherkins and capers. But get a variety of colors if you can; this is where the tray becomes a rainbow.
Somewhere in the Relish Tray Doctrine (just kidding, there isn’t one… that we know of) is the Olive Mandate. Let there be olives. They can be green or black, stuffed or not, a throwback to the stuff you ate as a kid or some of the best around. But the color balances your tray, and most of us love an olive.
Speaking of things we love, good grief, break out somecheese spread. Make your own椒粉奶酪or buy it; it’s so popular these days you should be able to find it. Stuff魔鬼蛋with it; those often make cameos on relish trays, too! If you’re going to do a second spread accompanying your relish tray and don’t have room for cheesy dip, we’d suggestwarm beer cheese and pretzels.
Another thing this isn’t: a crudités platter! But there must be vegetables that have integrity and crunch, so bust out the celery and carrots, make sure there are plenty of them, and don’t overthink it, folks.
For those who love thrifting and flea markets, this is the excuse you don’t need to keep an eye peeled forvintage glass relish trays,anything with a handleupon which you could set littleramekins, or vintage-inspired trays, likethis one.
OK, go! Get on out there and get your relish tray on this Thanksgiving!