It’s November my friends, and that pretty much signals the beginning of the holiday season. For the next two months many of you will be busy entertaining, (or if you’re lucky, being entertained) and mining through your cookbooks and Pinterest for some inspiration.
To me, a cheese platter is a great choice when thinking about what to serve guests while dinner is brewing. It’s best served at room temperature, so go ahead and put it out an hour or two before your guests arrive and you don’t have to think about it during the hustle and bustle.
But I’m not letting you off the hook that easy. Don’t think a cheese log and some nachos are what I’m talking about here. Far from it. If you follow some of my suggestions, I can guarantee your cheese board will be the star of the show, unless of course you cook this or this for dessert. Then all bets are off.
Creating a cheese board can be, well…creative! It’s fun to think about the colors and textures as well as the flavor combinations. Try to have something for everyone when making your choices. After all, everyone loves cheese, but not everyone loves every kind of cheese.
With this cheese board, I began by placing four different cheeses in the corners and then went hog wild with dried figs, cured meats, crackers, cheese sticks, mixed nuts, olives, candied ginger, apricots (soaked in madeira for a nice, sophisticated touch) and some grapes. I also added some ricotta cheese mixed with a little bit of honey, and a honeycomb right in the center of the board. I placed some fresh pears and quince on the board for some color and texture too.
Still a little intimidated about putting a fabulous cheeseboard together? Here are some quick tips for a ‘no-fail’ board:
Keep It Simple
Avoid serving too many different cheeses all at once. Too many cheeses can easily overwhelm your palette. A good rule of thumb is 3-5 different cheeses.
Taste In Order
The other day I was sampling some sausages in a supermarket. There were 6 different kinds, and I was given the mildest first which was somewhat sweet, and ended with a very spicy one. There was a reason the sausage was given to me that way. If I had started out with the spiciest, it would have overwhelmed the milder sausage. Same thing with cheese.
Use Lots of Knives
Try to have a different knife for each cheese to avoid mixing flavors.
Clear Your Palette
If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting, you know it’s a good idea to clear your palette between tastings. Same principle with cheese. Water is fine, but crackers, bread or even an apple or pear slice will work.
Sample The Cheese Before You Buy
If you happen to be in a specialty store, you should be able to do this easily. Most good cheesemongers are happy to oblige. If not, just do what I did…pick a soft, hard, blue and aged cheese and hope for the best!
When I put this platter together I thought it might be too much food. There were only six of us, but scroll down…
This is what was left. I guess we were hungry ;).
A week later I was ready for round two. Since cheese keeps well I decided to put together another platter, this time using a board I made earlier. I had a piece of wood and some leftover stained glass which I glued on, added some rope and I had myself a cool, unique cheeseboard.
The only thing I added this go around was some Jalepeno jelly on goat and cream cheese. (Recipe will be coming. You’ll definitely want this one!)
Want some other ideas for what to serve with cheese? How about some grilled stone fruit, caramelized onions, preserves, and even chocolate.
This season, why not gather a few friends and some of your favorite wines and have them compare them all alongside each other while you talk about what you like and don’t like about the pairings. It’s a great way to learn!
In other news…
After 31 years, I donated my wedding dress this week! Yup, the local High School’s theater department is now the proud recipient of my puffy, poufy 1983 wedding dress. I know some of you thought I should keep it, and I admit it felt kinda weird giving it away, but it was time. I’m actually encouraging my daughter to have her dress shortened and I think it would make a very pretty cocktail dress, maybe to be worn on their first anniversary. I doubt she’ll do it though.