When I wrote my post on easy entertaining at the beginning of this month, I had so many questions about how to assemble to cheese plate that I thought it would be a good idea to do a whole post on how I put one together. If you did read that post, you know that the cheese plate is my signature dish. It is my go-to to through together if I am having guests over for last minute drinks. I mean, who does not love a plate with meats, cheese, fruit and nuts. Basically it is my idea of a dream meal.
The first step to a great cheese board is to use a really gorgeous wooden or marble cutting board. I always keep my eyes out for boards that would work for cheese boards when I am Marshalls, HomeGoods, or TJ Maxx. They always have great boards for cheap. Keep this board in the pantry and make sure you use it only for the purpose of serving a cheese board. This way you are sure that it stays free of knicks and scratches. You can also do a half wood/half marble cutting board too. If you are using a marble cutting board you are able to put the board in the refrigerator and it will help keep the cheese a little colder, longer.
When I start assembling the cheese board, the first thing I think about is the colors of the board and how all the cheeses and items on the board will look together. You want a combination of milder cheeses with more pungent cheeses. You typically want 3-5 cheeses on your board; always an odd number of cheeses. My favorite cheese is brie, so you will always see one of those on my boards. I also love using a blue cheese, goat cheese, something with a little spice to it, and I typically will include one type of cheese, like cheddar, that I know everyone will eat.
Once I have my cheeses laid out, I start filling in the spaces with all the other items I will have on the board. I always include one or two different cured meat options. My two favorites are prosciutto and a salami, but any kind of dried sausage or smoked meat will work well. I love putting dried fruits on my boards and I use a combination of salty and sweet nuts. My favorites are marcona almonds and honey roasted pecans. I then add dried fruits like apricots and figs to my plate. I love the color and texture they bring to the overall look of the plate.
The final piece I like to include on my board is bunches of grapes. I always use red grape, never green. I then finish off the board with fresh herbs and viola you are done! I like to put out a combination of gourmet crackers. Some of my favorites are rosemary fruit and nut crackers, water crackers, and a good multi-grain that everyone will love. The awesome part about cheese plates is that they are great to make ahead of time and pull out before the party starts. I always pull my cheese board out an hour before the party begins to let the cheese come to room temperature.
I am a huge fan of stress-free entertaining. That is part of the reason why I love the cheese board. It is simple, makes a big impact, and allows me to be the hostess I want to be and provide food for my guests without running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Always remember, your friends are there to visit with you not watch you slave away in the kitchen.