Cheeseboards aren’t just for the festive season. You can enjoy them when you have solar installers working on your roof just as much as you can when you’re waiting for Santa’s reindeer to land on it. With that said, a truly festive cheeseboard can be a very special experience. Here are some tips on how to put one together.
Start With Your Board(s)
The rule of thumb is to allow about one pound (half a kilo) of cheese per five people. You’ll need space for this plus everything you want to go along with it. Generally, you get maximum visual impact if you can get everything on one board. Sometimes, however, that just isn’t practical. The next-best alternative is usually to try to keep everything clustered together on the table.
Choose Your Cheeses
You don’t have to stick to French cheese, but there are so many to choose from, you certainly could. For small gatherings, three to five cheeses are usually enough to create choice without becoming overwhelming. If you can have a larger gathering and/or you’re specifically having a “wine and cheese” party, then you could go for more.
The secret to success is creating a diverse selection. Your starting point is one soft cheese, one hard cheese, and one crumbly cheese. Likewise, you want one mild cheese, one medium-strength cheese, and one strong cheese. If you’re going for more than three cheeses, then add in a salty cheese and sweet cheese. It’s nice to have a variety of colors and for bonus points create a variety of shapes.
After that, it’s really down to your preference. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking to mainstream favorites like brie and camembert. If that’s what you like then enjoy it. Alternatively, if you really know your cheeses (or want to learn about them), then head “off the beaten track”.
For example, include a cheese made from milk from an animal other than a cow. France has some great goats’ cheeses. Boucheron is probably the most famous one, at least internationally. There are also some amazing cheeses made from sheep’s milk. Roquefort is by far the most famous but there are many others.
Remember, the internet is full of resources where you can learn about cheeses of all kinds, including, of course, the French cheese. You can also get tips on how to serve them, for example, what kind of wine suits them best.
Arrange Your Cheeses on Your Board
The cheeses are the stars of your show so it’s only right that they get top billing. You can cut them into slices but in general, that’s just extra work with no payoff. In fact, you may be even doing your guests a disservice. They may prefer to cut their slices to their preferred thickness. What you can potentially do is cut your cheeses into attractive shapes.
Choose Your Bread(s) and Biscuits
Your bread and biscuits are going to take up quite a bit of space so put them on next. If you’re pushed for space, consider just putting a few slices/biscuits on the cheeseboard itself. Then put the rest somewhere convenient. In general, you want to stick to bread(s) and biscuits with a mild flavor. For example, use a regular baguette rather than brioche.
Fill in the Savouries
Your main choices here are usually meats, nuts, and olives. Olives are usually best served in bowls to minimize mess. Meats are usually best on the platter. Nuts can be served either way, depending on your preference. You can also add vegetables. Keep in mind, however, that a lot of the vegetables you eat raw are actually quite sweet. They may, therefore, be best included with the sweet section.
Add Some Wweet Options
You can add pretty much any kind of fruit to a cheeseboard. With that said, think about the practicalities. For example, are people really going to want to lift a whole apple or pear? If they don’t, you can cut them into slices. You will, however, need to dip them in lemon juice to stop them from browning (or just accept the browning). You can also add sweet-tasting vegetables.
Finish with Condiments and Garnishes
This is purely optional but it is a very nice touch. If your platter is already full, then just popping on a sprig of rosemary can be all it needs to make it look “put together”. If you have a bit more space, then feel free to fill it up with whatever condiments and garnishes you fancy.