When I grew up cheese platters consisted of 3 types of cheese: marble cheese, mild cheese and old cheese. All cut into the perfect cracker-sized rectangle and angled up and down the plastic tray in uniform rows. Remember that? I certainly do! My first job was in a deli and every holiday I cut and arranged those ever lovin’ pieces of cheese until I swore I would never touch cheese again. But here’s the thing, I have a serious love of cheese and luckily for me cheese platters have evolved. They’re like a work of art these days and they make a beautiful centerpiece on any table.
I’ve assembled quite a few this holiday season and thought I would share some of my tips with you. I can tell you that one of my favourite things about bringing a cheese platter to any function is that it takes the guess work (read STRESS) out of what your contribution might be for the next get together. No more pouring over the internet for weeks before to find the perfect dish when you can throw together a gorgeous platter that will be the ultimate sensory experience for your guests.
And guys, sharing is caring right? There’s nothing that brings a room full of people together for some great conversation more than a platter of finger foods.
Cheese Platter Basics
Some of my research and trial and error has led me to these cheese platter basics, that are a pretty good starting point. First off, aim for about 3-4 oz. of cheese per person. Seems so little doesn’t it? Especially when I can polish off a pretty good slice of brie myself in no time.
Secondly, plan on serving a textural variety from all or some of these 4 basic categories: Go for a soft cheese (think Double Cream Canadian Brie or Camembert), an aged cheese (such as a Gouda or Cheddar), a firm cheese (please try Gunn’s Hill Artisan Handeck or Romano) and a blue cheese (for those who think they like blue cheese try a semi-soft blue, for those who know they love it add an English Stilton). Try choosing cheese that has been made from different milks too.
Add some sweet and savory additions to your platter and scatter them everywhere (in an organized chaos kind of way)! Raid your fridge and cupboards! Grapes seem to be the standard and although they do pair really well with cheese, I’m a huge fan of fresh figs, strawberries, and dried fruits such as apricots. I would not, could not assemble a platter without some warm marinated olives (yes warm, see this recipe here for olives that will change your life), smoked salami or spicy pepperettes. I did read a while ago in an article from Bon Appétit, that although you should include honey, jams and jellies on your platter, you should never, never, never, pour them on top of the cheese. Leave that to your guests. And it goes without saying that you need an assortment of crackers and perhaps a sliced baguette.
Lastly, it is a crime to serve cheese directly from the fridge. Cheese needs to sit out and get cozy on that platter for about an hour before serving. Cheese is at its very best for both texture and full range of flavor when left at room temperature.
I hope I’ve given you some thought about what you might put out for your New Year’s celebrations (although incase you’ve missed it, I did just hear that NYD is really the new NYE). Or your next family gathering. Or your next dinner (because sometimes a cheese platter and a bottle of wine is all you need on a Friday night, am I right?)
Might I just step on my tiny cheesy soapbox for minute here before I go and tell you that I really hope in your cheese pursuits that you’re able to purchase some locally made cheese? I’m so lucky to be able to enjoy incredible cheeses that are made right in my own community with the dairy from the farms that surround me. Purchasing from the farmers and producers in my community isn’t something I take for granted and I’m happy to support those that nourish my family and friends.
I don’t mean to be cheesy, but happy holidays friends. You make this blogging thing whey more fun for me.