A beautiful cheeseboard is a host’s best weapon. It takes practically no time to prepare, everyone loves it, and you look sophisticated and urbane, all by just opening a few packages. However, this is not to say that putting together a cheeseboard should be a thoughtless task; on the contrary, curating a cheeseboard requires an understanding of balance and the confidence to rely on your taste buds. Fancy cheese can be intimidating, but once you understand what elements you need for an outstanding cheeseboard, everything quickly falls into place.
The equation goes like this: pick 3 to 5 cheeses that cover the flavor spectrum (I have a gooey sweet cheese, an earthy bloomy rind cheese, a delicious nibbler, and a pepper blue), pair with 3 to 5 cured meats (try not to overwhelm the cheese with super spicy, big flavored salami. If you’re including a soppresata, pepperoni, or chorizo, make sure to blend in some mild options too), add an element of fruit sweetness (jams, honey, dried fruit, or fresh fruit are great), add an element of briny (Olives, whole grain mustard and Farmer’s Garden by Vlasic pickles are excellent choices), and finish with something to spread everything on, like a savory cracker or sourdough bread.
Here are the bits and pieces I used to put together this dreamy cheeseboard:
- Seasonal soft rind cheese: Imagine a brie, but a bit earthy and less gooey. This cheese from Cow Girl Creamery is milky, sweet, and has a teeny bit of a mushroom thing going on.
- Buttery and bright, Jasper Hill Cellars Moses Sleeper is Vermont’s answer to Brie. Try it with a bit of honey, a slice of a Farmer’s Garden pickle, and freshly cracked pepper for a delicious bite.
- Point Reyes Original Blue cheese is sweet, milky, and with a subtle punch of “white pepper” blue cheese flavor. This is a great “starter blue” for the uninitiated.
- The Cow Girl Creamery Wagon wheel is a smooth, tasty table cheese that will satisfy the pickiest of palettes.
- Speck: A smoked prosciutto.
- Coppa: This cured meet is deep and rich, but not overpowering.
- Calabrese: A spicy sausage that gets its kick from cayenne and paprika
- Apricots are finally in season and have the perfect low key sweetness for a cheeseboard.
- Muscat grapes, or any grapes, really, are a classic cheesboard addition for a reason. Their blend of acid and sweetness is a nice balance with most rich cheeses.
- Farmer’s Garden by Vlasic pickle chips, any variety would work, but I love the Bread and Butter Chips or sliced Kosher Dill Spears on a cheeseboard. Their subtle sweetness is delicious when layered on a cracker with a piece of cheese and some smoked prosciutto. .
- Castel Vetrano olives are one of the milder olives you can find. I love their fresh green flavor and how it doesn’t compete with the cheese.
- Whole grain mustard is one of my favorite things, and the spicy nuttiness is fantastic when paired with cheese.
- Rosemary Sea Salt crackers are the perfect simple addition to this cheese board. Crackers are sometime a better choice than sourdough bread, since your guests won’t fill up too fast.
Chef’s Note: to really make your cheeseboard shine, let it sit out in the kitchen for at least 20 minutes before serving. This will let the cheese loosen up and the chill come off some of the refrigerated items. If the cheese or meat starts to “sweat” or look oily, just pop the board back in the fridge.
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