By: Courtney Dabney
Summer entertaining is beginning, which means lots of graduation, birthday and pool parties and great food. If you are hosting a party this summer, you will want to make sure you know how to build the ultimate cheese platter. Every party has to have one, right? If you’ve never created your own cheese platter, there are a few rules you need to know, in order to make it an instant hit and the prettiest food on the table.
The first rule of creating a cheese platter is to make sure there is variety of textures, colors and flavors. I would suggest serving around 3-5 different cheeses, 3-5 different fruits, a few different breads/crackers and a couple jams. There needs to be something for everyone, especially the less experienced “cheese tasters.”
The second rule is that the cheeses need to be labeled for your guests so no one is (un) pleasantly surprised. A simple toothpick with a sign attached will work great.
A good cheese platter includes a variety of cheeses, including ones with a little bite to them. These can be scary since these cheeses tend to be kind of stinky. Even though they might smell like old socks, I can guarantee someone at your party will want a more “mature” cheese to savor. So don’t shy away from these types of cheeses. Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Cambozola and Stilton are all blue cheeses with a very distinct flavor that are sure to give your cheese platter some character.
The soft cheeses will probably be your most popular cheese because they tend to be mild and people can spread them easily. Plus, everyone loves creamy, melt-in-your-mouth cheese. I would suggest serving the soft cheeses in their entire form, and letting people use a knife to cut and spread. Brie (very mild and creamy!), Camembert, Boursin or Rondele are all crowd pleasers. Chevre/Goat cheese is also a great option to have just in case your guests are allergic to cow’s milk. Goat cheese isn’t for everyone (the flavor is pretty strong) so definitely avoid buying a whole wheel of it.
Don’t forget about the hard cheeses. They add some texture to your platter. Semi-hard cheeses should be cut into wedges or cubes and hard cheeses should be pre-cut into pieces for your guests. Gruyere (distinct flavor, but not overwhelming), Parmesan, Gouda (hard rind and sweet, creamy interior), Aged Cheddar and Havarti are good options.
A cheese platter wouldn’t be complete without some fresh fruit. Any seasonal fruit would pair nicely. I usually serve seedless grapes (both green and purple), crisp apple slices (they pair really great with the soft cheeses), pears and figs. Other good fruit and cheese pairings include aged cheddar with pink lady apples and pears with Gouda cheese.
Make room on your platter for dried fruit too. Dried cherries, apricots, and cranberries will pair well and also add some bite and “chewy” texture to your platter.
Jams are a delicious addition. Cherry jams pair nicely with soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert. Plum jams pair well with blue cheeses like Gorgonzola or Stilton. You could also try fig, apricot or apple jams too.
Include a small variety of breads/crackers including water crackers (large, hard round crackers), French bread, or any other baguette-type bread (both hard and soft).
Have I drilled into you by now that variety is important? Try including meats like Capacolla Salame, Proscuitto, Bresaola (aged, salt-cured thin beef, pairs well with parmesan) or Mortadella (thinly sliced bologna sausage with a nutty flavor). Have some thinly sliced meats and thicker ones available.
Do you feel overwhelmed? I hope not. Just know you don’t have to be an expert at pairing everything perfectly (although after reading this you are well on your way!) just make sure to include cheeses and fruits for the picky person at your party and the one with the adventurous palate. The key to an ultimate cheese platter is having fun and mixing different things together.
If you don’t feel like tackling this yourself, we do small boutique catering and have some delicious platters for your next party.
By: Courtney Dabney