Eats + Drinks,  Gatherings

The PERFECT Cheeseboard

This girl just LOVES a good cheeseboard. They’re perfect for casual get togethers, dinner parties and you can even turn them into an actual dinner too – done it! Cheese, meat, fruit, nuts and carbs? All of the essentials, if you ask me.

I love to mix up my boards depending on what I’m in the mood for or what I have in stock. And I can get creative with the display which is my favorite part….I like for it to look pretty! Here are the basics I use to put one together. Play around with it and use what you like.

Have a variety of cheeses. Most cheeses are placed in one of four categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. There are also cheeses made from different kinds of milks: goat’s, sheep’s, cow, and mixed milk cheeses are the norm. I usually buy my cheese from Trader Joe’s because they have a great selection and the prices are excellent. I try to look for a mix of textures and milk sources for my board.

I usually have around three – five choices to choose from, depending on how many people will be eating. I like to have a cow, sheep and goat cheese on my board. 

Some examples:

Aged: Aged Cheddar, Gruyere, Manchego, Gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Soft: Made from cow, goat, or sheep’s milk and can be a Camembert, ricotta or Brie
Firm: Manchego, Pecorino, Mimolette, Parmesan
Blue: Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort

TIP: Make sure to serve your cheese at room temperature. If you plan on slicing, do so right before serving so the cheese doesn’t dry out. Dried out cheese is not cute.

Accompaniments to your cheeses. This is my FAVORITE part! I get to play with color, texture and placement. I love having lots of variety in the form of fruits, nuts, jams or spreads, and meats.

Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, grapes, blackberries, dried cherries or apricots, mandarin orange slices, dates, sliced pears or apples….nothing really is off limits. You pop onto that board whatever you want! Just makes sure everything is in small and easy bite size portions.

Nuts and a variety of crunchy crackers/breads. A sliced baguette, bread sticks (SO fun when I find these!), flat breads, and lots of crackers in all different sizes and shapes. Cashews, pistachios or marcona almonds (Trader Joe’s has them and also their Rosemary Marcona Almonds are amazing!).

TIP: Jarred condiments and vegetables are super quick and low maintenance. Don’t forget to grab a jar or three of something yummy from the grocery deli or aisle.

I like sweet preserves (fig!), honey, chutneys, and spicy mustards. An olive tapenade is a favorite around here (again, Trader Joe’s has a good one. I am looking into making my own one of these days). You can also add chopped artichoke hearts, olives (I prefer pitted ones so that I don’t have pits sitting by the cheese plate), roasted red peppers, or cornichons. Really, anything you think sounds good and is served in easy small bites is perfect. Pop open the jar and arrange onto your board. You can even pick up some veggies items from the local deli bar.

Your meat choices can be pepperoni, a slice of sausage or thinly sliced cured meats like prosciutto and salami.

A few other things to keep in mind:

Remove your cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Because the cold will mute the flavor. Muted cheese flavor….no thanks.

Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially for the soft ones. You don’t have to get fancy with your knives, but a cute set will elevate your board to fabulous status. Soft cheese spreads work well with a butter knife; firm cheese with a small cleaver knife is perfect and aged cheese often requires the help of a cheese plane. Or a very sharp knife and strong hand.

Separate those strong-smelling, pungent cheeses from the delicate cheeses. Place it on a separate plate so that it doesn’t overwhelm the more delicate ones. 

Label the cheeses so you won’t 1. need to keep the wrapper hidden somewhere so that you can peek at it if someone asks what cheese they’re eating or 2. need to memorize them, or 3. repeat yourself all evening. Speaking from experience.

Now, you’re ready! Call your people, plan a party or make a simple dinner out of it. And have fun with it too. Make it as colorful as you want and use what you have or try something that you’ve never tried before (caviar!).

Enjoy! xo

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