Cheese Plate 101: Building the Perfect Platter (PHOTOS)
A well-composed cheese plate is guaranteed to be a show-stopping hit at any party you're hosting this holiday season. With its practical setupthe appetizer requires no oven time and little more than a large board and a few basic knivesthe only challenge is choosing your cheeses. For some stinky, delicious guidance, we turned to Jason Sobocinski, owner and founder of New Haven's award-winning Caseus Fromagerie Bistro.
By Kathryn O'Malley
Shop: Buy 1 to 2 ounces per person per cheese, and limit yourself to 3 to 5 cheeses total—just enough to keep things interesting, but not so many that the options become overwhelming.
Curate: Try to include one of all three milk types (cow, sheep, goat), and look for an exciting mix of geographic regions, flavors, textures, and colors.
Plan: Cheese tastes best at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge at least an hour before serving.
Prepare: Make sure your serving board is large enough to comfortably hold everything. Arrange the cheeses—and encourage guests to sample them—in order of mildest to strongest, moving from left to right or clockwise in a circle (with the mildest placed at the "12 o'clock" mark).
Pair: Fill in the gaps with simple starches that won't compete with the flavor of the cheeses—think plain crackers, crostini, or slices of crusty baguette.
Garnish: Enhance your spread with something sweet (like fresh or dried fruit, honey, or jam) and something savory (like chutney, olives, cured meats, or Marcona almonds). You can place these directly on the board, in small bowls, or both.
Serve: Set out a separate knife for each cheese. Paring knives work well for anything on the firm side, and though it may not look fancy, this knife cuts clean, beautiful lines from even the softest and gooiest of cheeses.
Store: Loosely wrap any leftover cheese in its own piece of wax, parchment, or cheese paper (avoid saran wrap, which prevents cheese from breathing and can give it a plastic-y taste). Store in the vegetable drawer of your fridge where the cheese will benefit from the humidity.
Kathryn O'Malley is the creator of Dramatic Pancake, a food blog devoted to the people and stories behind great recipes.