Cheese boards are my ultimate “go-to” for any type of gathering. They can be budget friendly, or over the top extravagant. They are perfect for a solo dinner, or can be adapted to any number of guests. From ingredients you pick up at your corner store, or the most fashionable cheese shop, the possibilities are endless. There are no rules for building the perfect cheese board, but I do have a general rule of thumb I follow when I’m channeling my inner cheesemonger that I think will make it easier for you to impress and delight your guests.
3-5 cheeses: I always use an odd number, and more than five will overwhelm your guests, and their palates.
Cheese Selections: There are more cheeses to choose from that I could ever count. To keep the selection simpler, I always include a soft cheese, such as Camembert or Brie. A firm cheese like Asiago, Parmesan or Cheddar. And a spreadable cheese is always a nice addition. If I’m serving five cheese I will usually add another firm cheese such as Gouda, or my current favorite Manchego. And last but not least, a strong, pungent Bleu rounds everything out. To make your cheese board more memorable try an unusual artisan cheese that is a little out of the ordinary…Plan for 1 oz. of each cheese you are serving per person as a general guideline.
The Serving Vessel: Wood trays or platters are more traditional, while marble can add a more elegant touch.
Accompaniments: This is the fun part where you can let your imagination run wild. All the goodies that make your cheese board stand up and shout party!
1. People aren’t likely to just pop a bite of cheese in their mouth. You’ll need crackers, but nothing too strong whose flavor will compete with the cheeses. Remember the cheese is the star here, the rest are just supporting actors. And don’t forget the sliced baguette, I never make a cheese board without one..because..who doesn’t like bread!
2. Something Sweet- Grapes, sliced pears, apples, or figs. Dried cherries, or apricots are nice too. And of course my own personal favorite, one of our divine herb infused wine jellies, jams, or preserves. Each infusion suggests the cheeses that will pair perfectly with your jam choices.
3. Something Salty: Olives or cornichons are equally delicious, and sometimes I’ll add both just for the salty crunch factor, but definitely choose one or the other. If you’re feeling like a real game changer, try thinly sliced radishes along side salted butter, you won’t be sorry!
4. Optional: If your cheese board planning is leaning towards a heavier appetizer or even a light meal, you may decide to add a meat for those guests who feel no meal is complete without a protein. Salami, prosciutto or summer sausage are perfect additions, and will also add that hint of salt that pairs so well with cheese.
Now…get creating your edible work of art with these tips:
1. Always take your cheese out of the fridge about an hour before serving to let it breathe. The flavor is best and most intense this way…your cheese will thank you.
2. To cut or not to cut: This ends up being personal preference, but I usually cut half of each cheese to make it easier for those guests who just don’t want to be the first one to dig in an uncut piece of cheese, and leave the other half in it’s natural state. To me it looks prettier, and more elegant.
3. Dress it up: Add some finishing touches of fresh herbs or edible flowers, just so your cheese board will feel like it has it’s party clothes on..
4. Stand back, admire, wait on the compliments..then dig in and enjoy!