December 5, 2020
Cheese platters are classic party fare, but they’re also ideal when you’re entertaining on a smaller scale; you could assemble one for two or ten, and a plate, platter or board of cheese, crackers and assorted nibbles is welcomed by any age.
Start with a wood cutting board, small serving tray or even just a plate—though boards are ideal if you’re going to cut larger blocks of cheese on it. Once you have an adequately-sized serving vessel, it’s time to assemble: with a whole world of cheeses to explore, and so many varieties produced close to home, this is a perfect opportunity to experiment. Traditionally, cheese boards include a variety of cheeses diverse in flavor and texture, from soft to firm, mild to pungent, depending of course on your taste.
It’s nice to have a goat or sheep’s milk option, especially if you have friends or family who can’t tolerate cow’s milk. When shopping, Plan on about 60 grams of cheese per guest, assuming there are going to be other nibbles.
If you can, keep your cheese in larger pieces—cutting it into cubes creates more surface area, making it dry out quickly. Simply trim the rind from the sides of hard cheeses and serve bloomy cheeses with the rind left on. Make sure cheese is at room temperature, rather than refrigerator-cold, in order to experience its true flavour.
An assortment of crackers, dense breads (such as Irish soda bread or nut quick breads), dark rye, seed bread, olive loaves and baguettes are all great accompaniments, and an array of shapes and textures keeps things interesting. Snip small bunches of grapes to nestle among the cheeses, and small bowls or pots of preserves, chutney or olive tapenade provide an interesting contrast. Dried fruit and nuts also make an ideal accompaniment and a chewy or crunchy contrast to the soft cheese. Slices of firm but ripe pears or crisp-tart apples round out the platter and also add colour and acidity. Cater to the tastes of your guests—if they’re young, they may love nothing more than an assortment of cheese, grapes and pears, but arranging them in an appealing way makes it special.
When you’ve finished nibbling, wrap leftovers to store in the fridge, and plan to use that assortment of cheese bits in a pot of mac & cheese, on pizza, in an omelet or frittata, or grated over toast to set atop a bowl of soup.
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