2 ounces cheeseper person if used for a per-meal situation
3.5 ounces cheeseper person if being used as an integral part to a cocktail party
3.5 ounces fruitper person at the party
2 1/2 piece toast/crustini/cracker per person
accoutrementsdon’t worry too much about it. Things like quince paste, cornichons, mustards, preserves, nuts, etc., have a long shelf life, so what you don’t use, you can stow away for a different day
No party is complete without an artisanal cheese board. Luckily for home cooks, and thanks to the popularity of media outlets such as Food Network, the Internet, et al, there are now doubtless numerous stores within a stone’s throw of your home from which to choose when deciding on cheese. Thus, your task has become much easier than when compared to the days of yore.
I always recommend that people visit gourmet markets and specialty stores in their area. Regardless of what you may have heard about this store or that, it is always worth a trip, since you never know when you are going to find that ‘golden nugget’. The knowledge of store owners and employees becomes evident as you travel from store to store, and then you can decide for yourself which one is for you.
When you have decided to put together a cheese board, don’t stop at the cheese. Make sure that when you start putting everything together, that you think about:
- Quince paste (Membrillo), which needs to find its way onto your cheese board
- Fine mustards and fruit spreads available at most stores.
- Peppadew Peppers
- Cornichons if they suit you
- Fine artisanal cured meats
- Dried nuts and fruit
- Fresh fruit, fresh fruit, and more fresh fruit.
Fresh figs, when available, are stellar on the board. Quartering, halving, or serving them whole works equally as effectively in complimenting your cheese. Grapes, apples and pears are classics as they offer a bit of sweet to contrast the often sour or tangy flavor of many cheeses.
So you have a board, some fresh fruit, a couple of mustards and fruit preserves or spreads, but the question remains: What kind of cheeses?
With so many selections to choose from, don’t just think of the cheeses to which I refer as the ‘Joe Sixpack’ cheeses; Cheddars, basic Bries and diced Cold Velveeta.
Disregarding the last word of the last sentence, if you see yourself as a theme person, maybe throw together the three great Bleus; Stilton, True Gorgonzola, and Roquefort.
If you want to think outside the box, mix your bleus up with a Roaring 40s from Australia, or a soft and easily accessible Saga Bleu (although that can be a little ‘Sixpack’ as well).
If you despise Bleus, consider the many cheeses in the store case as you taste your way through the selection. This is a great part of many markets, in that they let you try before you buy, which helps you to get a good idea of whether something will work for you.
Finishing off a cheese board with Drunken Goat, Manchego, a true Reggiano or Aged Gouda (Rembrandt being my favorite) can make for a magical event.
Make sure that you let the temperature rise enough to allow the cheeses’ essence to come to life. Like beer and wine, the colder the cheese, the less you will smell and taste.
While this tirade is a bit rambling, it is intended as such to hopefully get you excited about thinking of cheese boards as more than just diced Cheddar, Swiss and Provolone. Think outside the box and get excited about your selections and their complimentary and contrasting accoutrements.
- To assemble a cheeseboard, always start with the platter. Staves from wine barrels are an excellent, albeit pricey platform. Marble and sealed slate also work well.
- Thoroughly wash your fruit. If you like, you can remove all stems from grapes for your guests’ ease
- When dealing with apples and other fruits that may oxidize, dip them in an acidulated bath of 5 parts water, 1 part lemon juice and then drain
- Assemble the platter to your heart’s desire. Cheeseboards are a wonderful tool by which to practice your creativity and presentation skills
- Top with candied almonds, dried fruit or anything you may desire