Side note: Writing posts about cheese plates can make you very hungry for cheese plates.
Today I’m going to share with you a simple guide to creating a perfect cheese plate at home. I love a good cheese plate because a.) it’s always a crowd pleaser b.) it literally takes minutes to setup c.) it always looks impressive.
A cheese plate is one of my go-tos when I have company coming over. There is something for everyone, and it’s so quick with minimal prep time. You provide just enough variety, as well, that people can mix and match trying this cheese with that spread, or that cheese with this fruit. One of the best parts of a cheese plate is everyone trying different combos. So let’s take a look at the anatomy of the perfect cheese plate.
The Platter: You need something to serve it on, and I wouldn’t over think this. Even a sheet of butcher paper can look chic with a smattering of cheese plate goodies on top.
The Cheese: It’s all about offering a variety of flavors ranging from mild to sharp/funky. Additionally, you’ll want variety in texture, with something softer, something semi-soft, and something harder. I have a local cheese shop I buy from that helps take some of the guesswork out of it as they help me choose good pairings.
Something buttery: Brie, Butterkase, Triple-Crème, Camembert
Something hard: Parmesan, Asiago, Gruyere, Gran Canaria
Something nutty: Gruyere, Raclette, Manchego, Baby Swiss
Something with bite: Blue (Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton), Cheeses with Blue Veining, Feta, Halloumi
The Crunch (or vehicle for the cheeses): Typically I stick to simple flatbread crackers or a french bread. You want something somewhat bland so you can taste the cheeses. Sometimes I like to throw in a flavored cracker or something with seeds, but will usually only do this ALONG with a bland cracker, so there are options.
The Meat: Cured meats pair brilliantly with cheeses. Prosciutto is usually one of the meats of choice because, well, it’s damn delicious, but also just a little bit indulgent – which is perfect for a plate. But other good cured meats would be a nice salami or pepperoni.
Something Sweet: Sweet pairs brilliantly with some of the “funky” cheeses like blues. Fresh fruit always makes a platter look beautiful and something like a chutney makes pairing easy (and fun!)
Something Salty: I don’t always see this as a “must” on cheese platters, but for me it is. Salty kinda helps to clear the palette and can cut through some more bold flavors. Marinated olives are always a good idea, and pickled vegetables work great, too.
Nuts: A handful of nuts gives cheese platters that sort of “thrown together” look, and everyone loves picking on them.
Other: I always think you should have one little “extra” item to make it your own. Whether it’s a spread from your favorite deli, your grandma’s homemade marmalade, or veggies from your garden. It puts your own signature on the platter.
Here’s a recent plate I made, so let’s break it down.
1. The platter. I use a simple wooden chopping board.
2-4: The cheeses: Here I have soft, buttery Camebert (2), a smokey, aged Gruyere (3), and a mild and nutty European farm cheese. The Camebert fulfills the buttery but also has a little bite. The Gruyere is hard and flavorful, and the farm cheese is nutty but mild.
5. The meat: I went for some champagne salami, keeping it simple.
6. The crunch: Basic flatbread crackers let all the other flavors shine.
7 & 9: The sweet: Cranberry chutney and fresh concord grapes.
10. The salty: Marinated olive medley.
11: Nuts: A handful of almonds.
8. Something extra: This was an artichoke spread I picked up a little boutique grocery store earlier that day.
So there you have it, some basic guidelines for creating the perfect cheese plate! So go forth, and snack!
What’s your favorite kind of cheese?