cheese board

(March 8, 2019) You have just found out that company is coming and you are totally unprepared.

What can you put together at the last minute that will make a delightful impression?

As your mind tries to remain calm, consider a cheese board. It makes a lovely, edible centerpiece for casual or formal affairs alike.

Building a cheese board can be intimidating because of the amount of options to choose from. But the good news is, there are no set rules and personal preference plays a key role.

Following are a few suggestions so you will have the confidence to create your own.

Stylish marble or wood boards are standard plating for this appetizer. Heirloom platters are another way to showcase this dish. Fresh flowers and fresh herbs add elegance and should be a consideration.

When planning a cheese board, start with a cheese that tickles your fancy. Then, opt for two more types of cheeses; odd numbers are more visually appealing and for that reason I generally offer three different types.

Experiment with different flavors and textures, as well as different types of cheeses.

Parmesan, Asiago, Beaufort, cheddar, Brie, Camembert, and goat cheese are great cheeses to start with. No matter what cheeses you decide to go with, allow them to come to room temperature before serving.

Sometimes the smallest details can make the biggest difference.

During the fall, consider topping your brie with fig jam; sweet and savory is a great combination. In addition, rolling goat cheese in a combination of fresh herbs and black sesame seeds makes a beautiful presentation.

I always include some type of pate or cured meats. This simple addition gives your taste buds relief from the richness of the cheeses. It also adds depth to the flavor profile.

I find the cheese/meat ratio of 3:2 is ideal for this dish. The cheeses are the star and the meats are the supporting cast.

You might be tempted to serve fancy, bold-flavored crackers or breads on your cheese board.

Keep in mind, the cheese is the featured ingredient. Select mild-tasting bread and crackers that do not overshadow the ingredients on the board.

I cannot emphasize how important contrast is. Flowers, fresh herbs, seasonal fruits, nuts, olives, whole-grain mustard and jams are just a few ingredients that not only add a bold pop of color but accent the cheeses.

The expression, “less is more,” is not the case here. Do not be afraid to fill your cheese board.

When you are plating, remember to think in terms of height, color and texture. You are not only a cook but also an artist. Meticulously place each item so it is a gorgeous work of art.

Be sure to provide knives, spoons, small tongs, toothpicks and other tools to allow your guests to serve themselves.

Runny foods such as honey, jams, or mustard should be placed in ramekins or small bowls. You can even label the cheeses and meats for your guest; this is optional.

Generally speaking, gourmet cheeses do not last long, so if you have leftovers, you will want to store them properly. When it comes to cheese, this is easier said than done.

Cheese releases moisture as it sits, and if this moisture evaporates too quickly, the cheese can dry out. If the moisture remains trapped, you will likely end up with mold.

Specialty cheese wraps allows the cheese to breathe and regulates the humidity. You can purchase these bags at Amazon starting at $9.95. But, a combination of waxed or parchment paper and aluminum foil does the trick.

Start by tightly wrapping the cheese in the wax or parchment paper, this will help reduce the moisture. Then, follow with a loose wrapping of foil, which will trap just enough moisture to prevent the cheese from drying out.

If you need to store the cheeses for a longer period of time, you can freeze the cheese with very good results. Wrap each piece of cheese tightly in plastic wrap and place them in either a Ziploc bag or tin foil.

Following is a list of the ingredients on the cheese board, starting at the upper left-hand corner: Petits toasts (crackers), Ingle Hoffer Original Stone Ground Mustard, Alexian Pheasant and Rosemary Pate with pork and duck, fresh mint, Tour Eiffel Caramel Color Glazed Pork Pate with black peppercorn, olives, cornichons, fresh strawberries, fresh mint, green seedless grapes, blackberries, fresh red currants, La Bottega di Bugliosi Gorgonzola, cheddar cheese, goat cheese rolled in black sesame seeds and Herbs de Province, and steamed asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham.

The next time you have to come up with a dish on the fly, consider a festive cheese board. It is fun to create and more importantly, who doesn’t love cheese!

Secret Ingredient – Speed. “Fix your eyes on perfection and you make almost everything speed toward it.”

– William Ellery Channing

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