There are very few foods which are better than cheese and wine, especially when you are celebrating the season of parties and friendly get-togethers. I also know how impressive a good cheese board can be. For some reason, many people find them really complicated to put together. I know I felt that way once. At one point I didn’t even know what cheeses I should put on the board or even what board I should use. I really overthought this whole process. Then I stopped overthinking it and realized I had access to a pretty good source on cheese and deli boards, my mom. She used to work as a manager for a high-end grocery store in the deli and cheese department. She spent years recommending cheeses and meats and putting together beautiful cheese boards for some fancy people. So I asked her for some tips and advice on putting one together.
Follow these tips and I swear your guests are going to think you put in all this effort for them when really it took you 10 minutes top to get it ready. Minimal effort, maximum wow factor.
What tray/board should you use?
It depends on how big you want it or what you have on hand. It can be as simple as a cutting board, like the one I used or a long slate one for a party of many cheese lovers. Or you can even use an old baking sheet. You’re going to end up piling a bunch of delicious stuff on it, so it’s going to be fab either way.
Which Cheeses and how many?
You’re going to want at least four cheeses. One soft, semi-soft, hard, and soft crumbly. You can have more than four for variety’s sake, but you want to cover those four categories. Also, if you have no idea what a cheese tastes like, head over to the cheese counter at your grocery store and ask if you can try some of the cheeses. Most places will let you do that, you just have to ask.
Aged Smoked Cheddar (Hard)
Blue Cheese (funky soft crumbly)
Should you include meats?
YES! I love adding deli meats to cheese boards for that salty flavour. I find it pairs nicely with the cheeses and bread. You could also add some pre-sliced dry sausage, like a wine flavoured dry sausage, yummy. Adding charcuterie gives your board a bit of colour too. Plus it will please many meatatarian guests.
Add fresh fruits, dried fruits
To balance the salty taste of the meats and the varies flavours of the cheese, add some sweetness to your board. I love adding grapes, sliced apples and dried apricots. If you’re putting together a Christmas-y board try adding some halved figs. I promise you it’ll brighten up your board and give it a level of sophistication that’ll wow your trendier guests.
Granny Smith Apples
Grapes, green or red
Add nuts, cracker, & bread for crunch
With all the softness going around, you’re going to need something to crunch on. The thing that makes cheeseboards amazing, besides cheese, is the vastness of flavours and textures. Your guests will want to be able to put cheese on a vessel of yumminess. You’ll find many guests will make themselves tiny open-faced sandwiches using the crackers, cheese and anything else on the board. I do it all the time, so good! Such a wonderful way to experience all the flavours at once. Private party in my mouth…okay that sounded dirtier than it was supposed to, but you get my drift. (also do people still say get my drift? or am I just old?)
Anyways, I recommend using a variety of salty crunch items, like roasted nuts, different crackers, and sliced baguette. When it comes to the baguette, I recommend cutting it into 1/4 inch slices, putting them on a baking sheet, brush on some olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on it. Then put them in the oven at 400 degrees F for 10 to 15 mins. Your guests will love you, trust me on that.
Roasted herbed almonds
variety of crackers
french baguette sliced and baked with olive oil (see above)
Don’t forget your veggies!
Adding veggies is also a great way to add crunch, saltiness, and colour to your board. I personally love the dill pickles and green olives, Chris, on the other hand, hates the green olives, actually any olives. More than anything else, I find you either love olives or you hate them. I love them, so I don’t really understand the hate but who am I to judge. So put them in a small bowl and let your guests decide. Other than that, you can add other veggies like carrots or celery but those are better suited for a veggie plate rather than cheese board. In my mom’s opinion, at least. So maybe stick to just pickles and the olives on the board.
Green Olives stuffed with peppers
Mustards, honey, chutneys, jams, you can pretty much add anything here. Jars of honey and jams pair nicely with soft cheeses like Brie, while spreads like mustards pair well with a sharp cheddar or a slice of sausage. You can really get creative here. You’ll find that different spreads will bring out a number of different qualities of your cheeses.
Fill up your board
The time that usually brings out the wow factor in these boards is how full they are. Every spot on the board is pretty much covered in yumminess. So once you’ve laid out your cheeses, meats, crackers, bread, nuts, fruits on your board, keep adding. I love using the dried apricots and chestnuts for fill in empty spaces, oh and the grapes, It just added depth and colour to your board. You’ll also want to add garnish, like rosemary. No one will eat it but it’ll look pretty impressive.
Add your cutting utensils
pre-slicing your cheese will make it easy for your guest to grab a slice but I find it time-consuming and it takes away from the beauty of a cheese board, at least in my opinion. I love letting my guests cut the cheese themselves. They get to pick how much of the cheese they want or don’t want and it also means less prep time for me. Plus I get to use all the cool cheese utensils I received as wedding gifts, I think my friends all know how much we love cheese in our house.
So there you have it. Some easy tips to follow as your prepare your amazing cheese boards this weekend. Go show off your skills to all your friends and let me know how it goes! Post your cheese board photos on Instagram and hashtag with #withlovefrombex
Happy Partying, friends!