How to Make The Ultimate Bagel Board
Here's what you need to know to assemble the ultimate bagel board at home, with tips from Adam Eaton of Saint Dinette in St. Paul, Kevin Crowley of The Lox Bagel Shop in Columbus, Ohio, and Amanda Daly of The Daly Bagel in Oak Park, Illinois.
The classic bagel experience is a savory game, so think plain, sesame seed or onion. (Skip the blueberry.) "A lot of Jewish food is very salty, and a bagel is a perfect canvas for balancing all that salt," Eaton explains. "When you bite into a bagel with the right toppings, it's a complete flavor bomb."
Eaton, a purist, favors plain cream cheese. But Crowley votes for chive and caramelized onion. (Buy tubs or mix your own.) Daly suggests stirring olive tapenade or pesto into cream cheese. Vegan at the table? Try hummus or whipped tofu.
Lox (cold-smoked salmon that comes thinly sliced and is often bright pink-orange) is a classic, but not everyone loves its texture. Hot-smoked fish is meatier and flakes nicely for topping bagels. Try trout, whitefish, herring or salmon. (If you're lucky enough to live near the Great Lakes, Eaton says, shop local.)
The seafood skeptic's protein (and nice with fish too). "Hard-boiled eggs are easy to keep at room temperature," Eaton says. He likes to separate the white and yolk and grate them into two bowls. Crowley prefers to slice the whole egg. Our board takes that route: sliced and sprinkled with a dash of salt and pepper.
Cucumber, red onion and avocado are sure wins. Fresh tomato, too—but only in season! Wispy dill looks and tastes gorgeous. And don't forget something briny, like cornichons, spicy pickled green beans or capers. "Fresh, crisp or pickled ingredients cut through the richness of a cream cheese," Eaton explains.
And a Little Note on Caviar
Bagel pros really dig the stuff. In the name of pocketbooks (and squeamish readers) everywhere, our board leaves it out. But if you want to go super luxe, Eaton recommends matching caviar to the fish: "If I'm serving herring, I want to choose herring roe."