We are going to take a pause on our cheddar adventure this week, but we will return to the tasty subject next week! I want to write about one of the most common questions we are asked at the counter: how should I serve the cheese I bought? As the weather improves (cross your fingers) and we start having picnics, barbeques, and other fun outdoor gatherings, I want you to feel READY to dish out that cheese like a pro.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter how prettily you slice and dice and build your cheese platter, people will just be thankful you’re giving them cheese. Your friends will be happy you’re willing to share the tasty bounty with them! However, there are ways to entice your guests into inhaling the cheeses you’ve selected. Unless you want to keep the cheese all to yourself, which I support as well, obviously.
My first piece of advice is probably the most effective – cut up the cheese for your guests. People get nervous to dive into a large chunk of hard cheese themselves because they might think you’re saving it for something or they don’t know how or they’re just lazy. For firm cheeses, if I don’t want to eat the rind, I cut it off of two of the three sides of the cheese. Then, on a cutting board, I cut about half the piece of cheese into slices using a chefs knife for ease. The uncut piece and all the slices then go onto the cheeseboard. In the picture, you can see what I mean with the cheeses at 1 o’clock, 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock. This is a very casual board I made for a family dinner one night, but you can place the slices more neatly back into the original shape of the piece of cheese if you’d like. I didn’t bother because we were hungry and I hadn’t had cheese in like 5 days since I was on vacation and so I needed it ASAP!
Soft cheeses are a different story because usually if you cut then up ahead of time, they’ll just fall apart and ooze everywhere. Instead, I like to cut one chunk out of the soft cheese mostly to show that I want my guests to eat the rind, not just dig out the middle. I place the cheese knife I want them to use for the soft cheese next to it (the red handled knife in this picture).
On the subject of knives, each cheese should have its own knife next to it so your guests know this knife is just for this cheese. As you can see in the picture, I hadn’t gotten around to getting all the knives, and truthfully, I have rarely seen the one knife to one cheese thing actually stick with my guests. By the end of the night, they are inevitably jumbled together, and there’s a smoosh of Summer Snow on the Isle of Mull Cheddar, and the Comté Symphonie has been anointed with a touch of blue cheese. But I just call that a successfully enjoyed cheeseboard.
Cheeseboards also can be very monochromatic since cheese usually ranges from white to slightly more yellow white. Salami, prosciutto, olives, brightly colored jam, cornichons, fruit, and mustard can add color to the plate. Just make sure things go with other things. Components of the cheeseboard should have at least one other pairing, if not more. Luckily, most cheeses play well with any of the color adders I listed above.
1. Don’t worry about your cheeseboard too much because everyone will be happy they get to eat your cheese.
2. Cut up the cheeses. This ensures maximum snackage from your guests.
3. Put out knives for each cheese to minimize cheeses getting all over each other, but also know this might not work. But still try.
4. Add some color, but make sure these other components taste good with the cheese.
And from here, get creative! Make things look like flowers! Chunk up the cheese and build a little cheese wall! Fan out those triangles! Or don’t and just cut everything up into a big pile. Whoever you’re sharing cheese with will still love it because it’s cheese!
For the love of cheese and cheeseboards,
P.S. If all of this seems like too much hassle, we’re also happy to make a cheese platter for you! Just give us a call couple days (or more) before you need it, we’ll ask you a few questions, and voilà! Done!