Growing up with a Parisian-born Mom, a cheese plate was a standard part of most of our meals, and even more so for the holidays. I tend to put out cheese plates myself too, but never give much thought to what should be on it. I pick a few cheeses that I know I and our guests like and let it be at that. Some Cambazola, a triple-creme Brie, Gouda for The Husband, a log of goat cheese that I roll in fresh herbs and one more, usually a Port Salut or Jack to round out the platter.
Recently though, I’ve been paying more attention to what should and shouldn’t go on a true cheese plate.
– First, your cheese platter should be a variety of flavors, textures and even countries and milks (i.e., sheep, cow and goat).
– Make sure you have something for everyone. Although we tend to lean towards the stronger (stinky!) cheeses ourselves, not everyone does. Be sure to include milder cheeses (like Brie) for those that aren’t quite as brave.
– Don’t pre-cut your cheese.
– Put a flag in each cheese to identify it, or a little paper sign or label near it. Don’t leave guests guessing. The book Real Simple: Celebrations takes a fun approach to labeling cheeses by sticking paper name tags to toothpicks and labeling them, “Hello My Name Is … Mountain Gorgonzola, and I’m earthy, sharp and soft.”
– When getting your cheese platter ready, let the cheeses sit at room temperature for a little while (30-45 minutes or so) to soften them up a bit. Brie tastes so much better that way rather then straight from the fridge.
– Keep your platter to 3-5 different cheeses. You don’t want to overwhelm anyone, and this is the perfect amount to let everyone appreciate the different selections.
– Include an assortment of other things to munch along with the cheese … things like assorted crackers and crispy breads, flavorful nuts, fresh and dried fruits, spreads and olives are all good examples. Quite a little feast can be had from a perfect cheese platter.
And lastly, there’s a not-so-new book that is going to have a spot on my Wish List, Max McCalman’s The Cheese Plate. Who knew there was a whole book devoted to the subject? Not I. Actually, there’s many, but he’s quite the authority lately on the subject.
I haven’t planned my Christmas Eve menu yet, but tonight I did manage to pick up all the cheeses for our Cheese Platter. Hey, it’s another thing off my list!
A year ago today… Lady takes the prize.