“Life is great. Cheese Makes it better.” -Avery Aames
Cheese is awesome. Keep reading to learn how to plate it up like the pros.
A well executed cheese board or plate is all about balance. If you take a proportional approach towards flavours, textures and colours, you will set yourself up for success. This post breaks down the basics of what goes into an appealing cheese board or plate that really works in every facet. You’ll find balance the same way when creating an expensive cheese course in a 8 course dinner as you would when reaching in your fridge at home to make a late night snack for you and some friends. The anatomy of a cheese board has been broken down into 6 components; the plate, the cheese, the crunch, the sweet, the sour and the fresh.
This can be a beautiful polished wooden board, a ceramic platter or a common dinner plate. The vessel is going to affect the overall appearance of your dish, display, or snack. Chose something size-appropriate for the amount of food being served. If you’re not sure, opt for something on the small side that will give your dish an abundant appearance rather than looking scant. Generally, it’s better to tuck your food together in closely, rather than try to spread everything out across a larger surface.
France alone produces 246 varieties of cheese. Buy what you like, but don’t be afraid to branch out. If you find a reputable cheese monger, they will be all too happy to help you along in your cheese journey. Cheese people are passionate people. Offer a variety of cheeses if you’re putting on a spread, but be comfortable highlighting one cheese if you are preparing a course style dish. If you’re choosing a few, be diverse. Soft, firm, mild, sharp, aged, young and/or blue are all things to consider. Hard cheeses have been aged longer and given off much of their moisture. In doing so, they have usually developed complexity and tang. Soft cheeses are young, they are full of moisture, mild in flavour and pair well with sharp or sour flavours. Rich cheeses are creamy and soft. They are usually surrounded in a ‘washed rind’ of friendly white mould that adds flavour and texture which adds to their profile.
Crackers are the obvious choice, there are all kinds. Flat breads like Lavash, Oat Cakes or Grissini all make excellent additions to a cheese spread. It’s ok to think outside the box, try rolling soft cheeses into seasoned seeds, nuts or puffed cereals. Crusting a slice of chèvre in toasted black sesame seeds creates a fantastic complimentary texture.
Jams, dried fruit, preserves, syrups or reductions are all sweet garnishes that work well with the rich qualities of many cheeses. Try ‘brûléeing’ fruits with sugar and a blowtorch. Bananas, pears and stone fruits all brûlée really well. Making your own beer nuts with pistachios or cashews is much easier than you may think, and will certainly impress. If you haven’t tried our recipe for Beetroot Caviar maybe now is the time. It works really well as an eye catching sweet component to any dish.
Pickles often make an appearance on many cheese plates, and for good reason. They really complement cheese. Most fridge pickles will only take a few days to permeate. Always use something fresh. Again, no reason to stick to the ordinary and pickle cucumbers. Try snow peas, mushrooms, okra or apples. Make sure to take saltiness, sweetness, sourness and additional flavours into account before making your pickle brine. A basic brine of white sugar, kosher salt, mustard seeds and white vinegar will preserve your new pickles in a couple days depending on their thickness. Just play with the ratio of vinegar, sugar, salt and flavour until you get something you like. Here’s a great recipe from thektchn.com.
Fruit and cheese are great friends and with good reason. This isn’t to say you can’t add freshness in other directions. Baby arugula or some fresh soft herbs(think chive batons, oregano leaves and chervil or tarragon sprigs) dressed with a little Extra virgin olive oil and some sea salt can really elevate a young soft cheese(like ricotta or fresh mozzarella). A few little red pomegranate seeds can add an interesting fresh element. If you’re not sure, you can always throw a few clusters grapes in the mix and you’ll be doing the right thing.
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