The holiday season has officially begun and a party isn’t a party without a gorgeous cheese plate. A delicious assortment of cheeses, paired with the right foods, is a feast for the eyes and the palate. You don’t have to be a professional chef to create a cheese board that looks and tastes like a culinary masterpiece.
“For entertaining or just a quiet night at home, you can’t go wrong with a gourmet cheese board,” says Chef Michael Symon, co-host of ABC’s “The Chew,” author of three best-selling cookbooks and owner of several restaurants. “It’s a fast-and-easy appetizer that can make even a novice cook look like a culinary mastermind.”
Consider the following as you prepare your next cheese board:
* Determine the right quantity of cheese
If you’re serving it as an hors d’oeuvre, plan for 1 to 1.5 ounces of each cheese type per person. If it’s for a light meal, plan for 2 to 3 ounces per person.
* Purchase multiple cheese styles
For visual appeal, select an odd number of cheeses, such as three or five, depending on the number of people. Try a variety of cheeses in flavors that complement one another, such as:
Aged Havarti: Mild and buttery, this specialty cheese from Castello has a delicate, crystalline structure that forms during its long maturation period, creating a flavorful, crunchy surprise.
Brie: Extremely spreadable and creamy, Brie is easy on the palate and pairs with a wide variety of foods.
Blue: A full-flavor variety, such as Castello Traditional Danish Blue, has a wonderful “bite,” with characteristically tangy notes of blue balanced by sweet and salty undertones.
* Select gourmet pairings
The perfect cheese board includes foods that complement and enhance the taste of the cheeses. The best boards have four pairings: A bread item, charcuterie, something sweet and something savory or salty.
Breads to consider are flatbread, grilled crostini or baguettes, while great charcuterie options include prosciutto or a pork pâté. For sweets, figs, honey or berry preserves are delicious additions. And for savory and salty pairings, include Marcona almonds, cornichon pickles or Kalamata olives.
* Keep your presentation simple
Arrange your cheeses from mildest to strongest, in a clockwise pattern on the board. Be sure to leave space for pairings. Precut half of each cheese on the board, to make it easy for guests to dive in. Set out the cheeses 30 minutes before serving so the flavors fully come to life.
Before serving, place pairings on the board in small groups. Lastly, set out one knife per cheese to keep the flavors from mixing together.
* Find the perfect wooden platter
The choices are plentiful when it comes to a home for your artisinal meats and cheeses. Starting at just $15 (Target’s Threshold™ Acacia Plank Cheese Board) and upward of $800 (Gracious Home Pewter Large Round Cheese Tray) – there is somethin for everyone (and every cheese).
For additional cheese board tips and techniques, visit CastelloCheeseUSA.com.