Ugly Christmas sweater party, white elephant exchange, Hanakkah dinners and winter solstice gatherings all call for festive food and none more coveted in my opinion than the cheese tray. I simply adore good cheese in all forms, but when a cheese platter is done right, I don't even think about seeking out other appetizers, I've found the cheese! Instead of preparing a 1970's cheese ball, or cheese fondue, I invite you to get your creative juices flowing and create a cheese plate. With a couple tips and techniques, your cheese platter can look like an edible sculpture. Cheese Tray Making Tips
- Choose a variety of cheeses made from a variety of milks: cow milk, goat milk and sheep's milk.
- Think color. You don't want all your cheeses to be cream or white colored. There are a variety of gorgeous blue cheeses, bright cheddars, wine-soaked rinds and yellow goudas.
- Allow cheeses to come to room temperature before serving, approximately 25 minutes. Soft cheeses need to be served soft. When cheese is cold, like most food, the true flavors are hidden. Only once cheese has acclimated to temperature, can you truly taste all the delicate nuances.
- With anything salty, it's always nice to pair it with something sweet. Add seasonal fruit, jam or mostarda to balance out the flavors as well as bring out the subtleties from the cheese. Many people add honey or even a lovely honeycomb for a show stopping presentation.
- Provide dried as well as fresh fruit. A lovely prune can often match a cheese better than a plum.
- Think wine. If you are building a winter cheese plate, you may be pairing it with deeper reds. That may lend you to more blue style cheeses, or other aged or richer styles like Camembert. If you were building a summer cheese plate, younger cheeses and lighter cheeses will likely pair better with white wines. Like goat cheese, gouda and truffle-infused cheeses.
- Provide a variety of "vehicles" for the cheese, like soft bread, crackers and pita chips. Nothings more sad than a gorgeous gooey brie with nothing to smear it on.
- Provide appropriate cheese knives. There are hard cheese knives and soft cheese knives. Hard knives can help people easily slice through a hard cheese like Pecorino or Manchego cheese. Soft knives help guide gooey slices of soft cheese from plate to bread.
- Provide proper cheese labeling. If not for your cow milk- intolerant guests, do it for education and as a conversation piece.
- For a tasty and colorful twist to stark white goat cheese, you can mince a variety of fresh herbs and roll your goat cheese roll through it. Great to do it with spices, nuts or simple black pepper.
- Lastly presentation. There are so many lovely cheese trays, slate boards and granite slabs out there to show off your cheeses. For something quick and easy, you can use any large plate and use fresh spinach, basil or another leafy herb to give a little more oomph to an everyday plate. Or is you live near an Asian market, you can buy fresh or frozen banana leaves for a striking green contrast.
Use these tips next time you are building a cheese tray for your own party or need a quick and tasty potluck dish to bring. Above photo by: Gorgeoux