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How to Make a Cheese Board
When it comes to entertaining, the centerpiece, the star—the true show-stopper—is the cheese board. Not only are they easy to make and taste great, but everybody can find something they love. So, read on for our best tips on how to make a cheese board that your guests will rave about (after they’re done nibbling, of course.)
Our philosophy with cheese boards is simple: the more the better. You’ll want to have a great selection of cheeses, some salty things, some sweet things, some fruit things, condiments and nuts—just to name a few. Tie it all together with some crackers and garnish and boom! You’re done.
The board is your canvas. Start with something that will let the cheese shine. We like stone, like a black slate, but a simple wood cutting board is great too. If you don’t have either, a large serving plate will do just fine. You want something that will give you the space to arrange your cheese, fruit, meat, and condiments in a way that feels more thought out than just a bunch of food thrown on a plate.
All about the Cheese. Of course, the most important part is the cheese. You’ll want a variety of 3-4 cheeses ranging from hard to soft and mild to knock your socks off. Consider trying a mix of cow, goat and sheep. A lot of people don’t like the really stinky stuff, but we love adding a mild blue cheese or stilton. If you can’t decide on which cheeses to include, remember, your local cheese counter is a great resource. Ask for some advice, try some samples and go with what you like.
Hard Cheese. Hard cheeses have been aged from 6–24 months, giving them a complex flavor profile that’s salty, savory and satisfying. Think Parmigiano, Pecorino Romano, or a nice Asiago. Unlike the softer cheeses, with these you’ll want to slice them into bite-sized pieces beforehand to save your guests the struggle of trying to saw through the hard stuff.
Medium Cheese. Make sure to include a medium-hard cheese, such as a Swiss Gruyère, aged Gouda, Drunken Goat or Havarti. These cheeses tend to be on the mild side but still have a lot of flavor. You can leave these in a wedge and let your guests slice them or precut and fan out for a nice display.
Soft Cheese. Soft cheeses are young cheeses that haven’t matured long and are easy to cut and spread with a knife. Think Double-Crème Brie, Camembert, Chevre or Humboldt Fog. These cheeses range from mild to pungent. The earthiness of these cheeses will be a great complement to the other selections on your board. You’ll want to set these out with a small knife so guest can help themselves.
Worth Its Salt. A great balance to the nutty, savory tastes of the cheese is something salty. Cured meats fit the bill nicely. One of our favorites is prosciutto, which you can fold into ribbons and place around the plate. Salami slices are great rolled up so they can easily be picked up and munched while strolling or visiting. Hard salami or pepperoni can be sliced and placed artfully on your board and will also add a nice bit of heat. Nuts, such as almonds, candied walnuts or spicy pecans also add a great salty/spicy punch.
Sweet and Juicy. Nothing goes with the earthiness of cheese like a selection of delicious, juicy fruit. Some people love dried apricots, which also add great color, but we prefer the fresh stuff. Our favorites are grapes, raspberries, sliced pears and apples. For something different, try an apple or pear slice with your cheese instead of a cracker. You still get the crunch but with all that wonderful juiciness.
Sweeter Things. A great complement to your cheese will be something sweet. Some local organic honey or jam fit the bill nicely. Instead of crowding your board with too many bowls, try putting a dollop of jam right on the board or even dribbling some honey over your Brie wheel. For something unique try a bit of chili jam—a spoonful of that on top of a creamy, soft cheese is something you have to try at least once in your life.
Going Crackers. Crackers are expected on a cheese board and easy to fan out, so you’ll want to include a couple varieties. We also love a baguette option. Slice it thinly and place it in a basket beside your board. Fresh bread is excellent with the jams and honey, and will give your presentation a soft, fresh, comforting feel.
And that’s all there is to it, you’re done! Put out the cheese an hour or so before the party to give it a chance to breathe and come to room temperature and add the sliced apples and pears right before your guests arrive. If you have any open spots, you can toss around a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme as a garnish. Now, sit back and wait for your guests to munch, nibble and dab their way to impressed!