The perfect way to entertain in style this winter is a stunning cheese board.
They are super impressive and they are super easy… as long as you stick to a few rules about making and creating the perfect cheese board. The thing with creating a large board to feed a crowd is that it’s mostly full of amazing cheeses condiments and accompaniments that you don’t have to make. This is the perfect hostess night, an impressive centre piece with very little effort on your part. It doesn’t get much better than that.
A cheese board wants you to take several things into consideration when picking your cheeses. There needs to be a good balance of flavour and textures when picking cheese. Shape and colour also play a role in the construction of a good board, but they’re not as important as the first two. It really is all about the strength/mildness and hardness/softness of cheeses. A good variety of both will make your cheese board the talk of the party.
So here’s what you need to know to create the perfect stress free entertaining cheese board.
How much cheese to serve?
Well, how much cheese to serve each guest depends on when you’ll be serving them. If you plan on serving a cheese board after dinner then somewhere around 100g-125g (3 1/2-4 oz.) should do it. But, if this board is going to form the centre piece of a cocktail party then somewhere around the 150g-200g (5-5 1/2 oz) mark is more appropriate. Is there ever really too much cheese, though?!
How many cheeses to serve?
Okay, this is where all the real fun starts. There are a few things to consider here. Do you want to make this a themed cheese board with all cheeses from France, or do you want everything to be from a small batch producer or from a certain region? Maybe you want to try to serve only cheeses from the US or from a certain state. The choice here is really endless. Themes can be a lot of fun, but personally I don’t really create themes very often. I just like to try lots of different cheeses. There are a few schools of thought about how many different cheeses to serve with some people saying that you shouldn’t go with any more than 3-4 cheeses or maybe 5. I always start with 5 and sometimes stretch to 6, as I like to have a really good selection. Another reason for this is that I wouldn’t want to limit my choice to 3 and one of my guests only likes one of the cheeses on the board. When you have 6 cheeses it leaves a lot of options for your guests.
What kinds of cheese to serve?
This is always the best part of a cheese board. Picking the actual cheese you’ll be having. You can go to a specialty cheese shop and try all kinds of different ones. Please ask for samples! Most places will offer, but even if they don’t, they do expect you to sample the cheeses. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cheese shop near you. At the end of this post, you’ll be able to create your own with confidence. This is where we want to be thinking about texture and balance of flavour, colour and shape of all the cheeses that you’ll be eating.
There are 4 cheese groups to choose from: fresh, soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard.
Fresh cheeses: Moist, creamy and mild. Burrata, mozzarella and chèvre.
Soft Cheeses: Bloomy edible rind, mild flavour. Brie, camembert. The longer aged these cheeses are, the runnier they will be.
Semi soft cheeses: Mellow, pliable, earthy. Morbier, fontina, Pyrenees Brebis.
Hard cheeses: Dry, savoury, caramelly. Parmigiano-Reggiano, gouda, cheddar.
Blue cheeses: Dense, pungent. Roquefort, Stilton.
What to choose for accompaniments?
No matter what the nursery rhyme tells you, the cheese never stands alone! All that cheese needs some back up to take the board to the next level. So, we need some accompaniments to bring it all together. Think of add-ons with contrasting textures and flavours. I really like having sweet chutneys and jams and some fruit. The cheese platter in these photos was designed as a stand alone platter that was the centre of the cocktail party, so I also added some Spanish tapas meats. They weren’t spiced so they were pretty neutral in flavour and were perfect with all the cheeses. Fresh nuts are a very continental way to go. And let’s not forget the all important crackers. They are the corner stone of bringing the cheese together. I choose a cracker that has some dried fruit and nut and a seeded cracker. Accompaniments to try: Honey, fig jam, fresh almonds and fresh figs.
How to serve the cheese?
Cheese is always served at room temperature. So about an hour to 30 minutes before you’re going to be serving your cheese, take it out of the fridge, and unwrap it all. Lay it our on the board, in a clockwise fashion starting with the mildest cheese at the bottom and progressing to stronger cheeses as you go, with the strongest cheese at the very end. Make sure that none of the cheeses are touching each other. Then cover the cheese with a damp cloth to keep everything moist and fresh until your guests arrive.
Allow 150g-200g cheese per person.
Choose between 3-6 different cheeses.
Select two different types of crackers.
Fresh fruit and nuts for accompaniment. Avoid citrus fruits.
Select some condiments. Fig chutney, onion relish and raw honey are perfect choices.