Everyone should know how to make a great cheese board. I love cheese, I always have and I always will. It is my guilty pleasure. To this day, I will order it over dessert in a heartbeat. What can I say: we are who we are. My oder son is the same. Even without trying, I have passed down my love of cheese.
Cheese boards are an entertaining go-to; they are, however, an art form. Cheese boards involve thought and require balance in taste and texture. They also need to be made inviting and appealing, or no one will touch them! Flavor, texture, color, taste, and shape all matter.
Cheese Board Elements
Cheese (obviously!): There are so many wonderful options out there with so many interesting local producers making more small batch specialty cheeses. So trying to come up with a specific list of cheeses is not very helpful. What is important is variety. Try finding a combination of aged, firm, soft, crumbly and creamy cheeses. And very important: if you are serving a hard cheese, cut some of it in advance to make it easier and more appealing to guests. Also important when selecting cheeses is offering a variety of types of milk as well: cow, sheep and goat all have different textures and flavors.
Charcuterie: Cured meats, a rustic country pate or smooth goose liver mouse with accompaniments (e.g. cornichons) is another easy way to incorporate texture and options to your guests.
Crackers and Breads: There is lots of room in this area to be creative. There are hundreds of different types of crackers out there to choose from. Baguette, artisanal breads, crisps, flat breads, bread sticks and chips, flavored or natural give the board more contrast and dimension. In my experience, a lot of people do not want to fill up on bread and so I try to make sure there are a couple of thin, bite-size options.
Accompaniments: Sweet fruits, fresh or dried, roasted nuts, seeds, flavored snack mix, cured olives, picked vegetables, flavored jams, spreads and honey all can help accent the flavor profile of the cheese and enhance interesting flavors.
Simple Cheese Board Tips:
- Cheese should be served at room temperature–remove cheese from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before serving.
- Account for roughly 2-3 ounces of cheese and charcuterie per guest.
- Smaller pieces or slices are best, make it easy for guests to grab something while chatting; “big” is overwhelming and won’t get eaten.
- Typically, it is best to use a separate serving knife for each cheese, so flavors don’t mix. Also important is selecting the correct type of cheese knife for the cheese: hard cheeses require a stronger knife while creamy cheeses do best with a spreader.
- More is best when designing your cheese board. A full, bountiful board is more inviting and appealing to guests.
- Always offer a small appetizer plate to guests. If you make a beautiful bountiful board, plates will encourage your guests to really dig into it.
- Generally speaking, cheese is considered safe to be kept unrefrigerated safely for some time, but harder/firmer cheeses such as Gouda and Parmesan are considered more safe. Soft, creamy cheeses such as brie and many goat cheeses should be discarded afterward and not re-refrigerated for future use.