Creating an attractive cheese plate, board or gift isn’t hard. It just requires a little planning, shopping and arranging. First, how many people will you be serving? Is it a gift that has to be wrapped or a tray that will be served at your next event? Once you have that nailed down, you are on to selecting the cheese.
2-6 Selections of cheeses (try adding at least one soft and one hard cheese. Brie or Camembert are reasonably priced and great tasting soft cheeses. A sharp cheddar, smoked gouda or block of Parmesan can be great hard cheese choices. I also like to add a goat cheese option and if I’m having vegan guests, a vegan choice. Miyoko’s Creamery makes its presence known on my cheese boards on a regular basis. Even meat eaters like their cheese.
If you are like me, a blue cheese drizzled with honey is the perfect bite! A soft maytag blue cheese, a creamy cambozola or a classic stilton all work at rounding out your cheese board. For all things “cheese” and to purchase some unique types online, visit Murray’s Cheese Shop, a New York Landmark.
So far, so good. You have the foundation of your cheese board. Now, we need to “accessorize” the board with lots of delicious accompaniments. The options really are endless, but here are some guidelines for a basic platter. You can increase or decrease the items based on the number of people you’ll be serving and, of course, your budget.
Dried meat or cold cuts. (Salami, prosciutto and pepperoni are good choices)
2-3 types of crackers (water crackers, wafer crackers, flavored biscuits and a baguette are all good choices)
1 small jar of honey, fig preserves, tart cherry preserves or quince paste is a great addition.
Dried fruit like apricots or cherries go great with cheese and provide something extra to nibble on.
Fresh berries, grapes, clementines and figs
Nuts: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios are great choices. Candied nuts are also a nice touch.
Pate is another great match with a variety of cheeses. Whether it is a duck, mushroom, chicken or liver pate, they all work.
If you’ve made some homemade crackers or bread go ahead and add them to the tray. Have fun when shopping for the items and pick what is within your budget and something you know the receiver will love.
Once you’ve selected the cheese and the accompaniments, it is time to select the serving “vessel”.
Your assortment can be displayed on everything from a plate to a beautiful hardwood cheese board. Let your imagination run wild but here are some tried and true options:
. Serving platters
. Cheese boards
. Slabs of slate
. Slabs of Himalyan Salt
. Wooden trays
Now, let’s build your cheeseboard for guests or as a gift.
The great thing about a cheese plate, tray or platter, is that it can be built to serve anywhere from 1 to 20 people. Deciding on your “vessel” for displaying the selection is probably the most fun. Should it be a basket, a cheese board, a glass platter or a slab of slate? The possibilities are endless. For my last few gifts, I’ve chosen a cheese tray. I wanted to bring a housewarming gift to my niece and give a neighbor a welcome home treat. The wood serving tray would look great to serve the cheese but could then be used to serve cocktails or snacks to guests at a later date. You can get the tray pictured in the photo here: Amazon.com Simply line the tray with a paper doily, parchment paper or new cloth napkin, fill with your assortment of goodies and then wrap the whole thing up in colorful, transparent wrap and a bow. I keep different colors on hand for wrapping lots of my baked goods during the year.
If I’m just presenting this to my guests while I’m entertaining, I like the cheese to come to room temperature first, then I “accessorize” it and present without the wrapping and bow. This is a simple, make ahead appetizer that everyone loves. Put it on the bar where people are helping themselves to drinks or in the living room where people are gathered. Wherever there is a cheeseboard, you’ll find a crowd so keep that in mind when it comes to placement. You don’t want the cheeseboard blocking your access to the kitchen! Have fun with this and add your own special touches.