Without a doubt, the best part of a holiday gathering (or any party, for that matter) is the cheese board. It’s got fruit, spreads, herbs, crackers, nuts, olives, charcuterie, and of course, every cheese you can imagine — what’s not to love? A thoughtfully curated cheese board isn’t just tasty food, it’s the foundation for which your whole soiree will be judged. No need to worry, we’ve put together an easy guide that’ll help you impress all of your guests. Keep reading to secure your title of hostess with the mostest.
The most important part of any cheese board is, well, the cheese. To be safe, choose four to five varieties for a good-sized board. During the holidays, it might be tempting to go for something that’s pumpkin spiced or flaked with dried apple, but a good rule of thumb is to stick with the classics. Maybe pick one unique seasonal cheese that you can’t live without and go with tradition for the rest. Try to pick at least one from each of the following categories.
Aged: These cheeses are typically aged for more than six months and have a strong, sharp, or nutty flavor. Try a Gruyere, Parmesan, or Gouda.
Blue: You know the one. A pungent smell, swirled with blue mold, with a delicious salty bite. Stilton and Roquefort are popular, with gorgonzola and Danish blue being fine choices as well.
Firm: Think, hard flavorful cheeses that always seem to be your favorite. Manchego and asiago are two of the standouts.
Soft: They’re spreadable, buttery, and utterly addicting (cow pun intended). This includes everything from goat cheese and ricotta to Brie and fresh mozzarella.
To add interest and texture to your board, try presenting each of your cheeses in a different manner. Crumble the blue, slice the manchego, leave the Brie whole, and cube your cheddar to make things accessible and beautiful. Now, arrange them on different parts of your board and proceed to fill in the gaps with the rest of your bites.
TIP: Take your cheeses out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you serve so they’re nice and soft and flavors can bloom.
Fruits, Spreads, Nuts, and Honey
The fruits that you choose for your board should be fresh and seasonal in nature. For the fall and winter, go for figs, apples, persimmons, grapes, pears, pomegranate, and even winter squash like pumpkin and butternut. Don’t bother with extra plates or bowls for these, as a rustic presentation is always most attractive on a cheese board.
You always need a little sweet to go with your salty cheese. Fig jam is a great choice for fall and winter, as are apple butter and pumpkin butter. Orange preserves are a great option as well, but avoid overly processed jellies.
Fill a couple of small ramekins with various nuts like raw Marcona almonds, spiced pecans, or salted cashews. A variety of raw and flavored nuts means that there will be something for everyone.
Raw honeycomb is a stunning and delicious addition to any cheeseboard. If that’s not an option, pour whatever honey (clover, lavender, and chili are all solid varieties) you like into a dish and serve it with a wooden honey dipper.
Charcuterie, Bread, Crackers, and Olives
Load up your board with mortadella, salami, and prosciutto. If you want it to be vegetarian, of course, leave them off, but if not, go ham. Keep in mind that this is a cheese board, not a charcuterie tray, so be careful not to let the meat overshadow the cheese.
The carbs of the plate are a very important part of the cheese board’s aesthetic. You’ll want crunchy breadsticks for height, slices of toasted baguette, and various shapes and sizes of crackers. Try to incorporate at least one gluten-free option like rice or nut crackers. Chewy crisps with dried fruit in them are great for spreading with brie or ricotta.
Olives are one of those cheese board items that everyone tends to flock to. Castelvetrano olives are a mild and buttery crowd-pleaser, and kalamatas are the salty cousin that everyone knows. Peruse the olive bar at your local grocery store if you don’t want to commit, and get a few that look good to you. Just make sure that you get pitted or you put out a small dish for guests to put their pits. Alternatively, If you don’t want olives, you can opt for other salty treats like marinated veggies, capers, or baby pickles.
Now, all you have to do is garnish with a few stems of rosemary, pine, or thyme and pop a few bottles of wine, and your cheese board is ready for presenting — and eating.
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