I’m a sucker for a good cheese plate, despite the fact that I don’t love cheese. Over the years (and thanks to Pinterest), I’ve picked up a few tips and pointers that are extremely helpful. There are a million ways to arrange a cheese plate – I tend to like it when they’re more organic looking, and sort of overflowing with different things. Here’s the best advice I’ve gotten.
- Don’t buy more cheese than you need. I used to always buy way more cheese than was necessary and, because I’m not a big fan of cheese, would end up with too many leftovers. The general rule for cheese platters is 1-1.5 ounces per cheese per person. But think about what the group you’re entertaining – if it’s a group of people for just wine and cheese, you’ll probably want more. If it’s a cheese plate you’re serving at the beginning of a dinner party, you may want less.
- Mix up the cheeses you buy. If you’re buying more than one, give your guests some options. I almost always buy three or four different kinds of cheese to serve. The options are endless. You can buy one soft cheese, one hard cheese, and one blue cheese or one cow’s milk, one goat’s milk, and one sheep’s milk. If you aren’t sure what to buy, talk to the cheesemonger at the store. They know what they’re talking about. And, don’t assume that you just have to set massive blocks of cheese down on a board. I like to leave at least one cheese whole, and then serve the others in slices, cubes, or crumbles. Mix up the presentation a bit.
- Consider pairings. No, I’m not talking about wine (although that’s never a bad idea). When you’re filling up the rest of your cheese plate, think about what extras will go with each cheese. For example, I love to put together manchego (or a similar option) with marcona almonds and chorizo. It reminds me of a trip I took to Spain in college and those flavors naturally go together. It’s my opinion that you can put almost anything on a cheese plate, but popular additions include fruit, nuts, cured meats, jams, honey, or syrups, and chocolates or other sweets.
- Don’t overdo it on the crackers. As someone who doesn’t eat cheese, I focus on the rest of the elements on a cheese plate. For this reason, I spent far too long overestimating the importance of crackers. Yes, you need to have enough crackers for the amount of cheese you’re serving, but don’t let them take over the board. Not everyone eats a cracker with each bite of cheese. Worst case scenario, you have to replenish the crackers when they run out. That will not be the end of the world, I assure you.
- You don’t have to serve it on a plate. I have a massive wood cutting board that I use exclusively as a cheese board when I have groups of people over. There are other options for cheese plates other than platters (although there is certainly nothing wrong with using one). Think about what would be interesting and hold an appropriate amount of food for the size of your group. Split it into multiple smaller plates or put down a sheet of butcher paper for a massive group.
- Let it be a little bit messy. This goes back to what I said at the beginning – I tend to favor arrangements that are a little less rigid, a little more organic. Don’t just lay out slices of cured meats, fold them up or drape them into little piles to make it more interesting. Start with the cheeses, then the biggest items, then fill it in from there. Group items that will go well together and don’t be afraid to blur the lines a bit. If you have anything with pits, remember to set out a dish for them. Make sure you have a knife out for each item, throw in some cocktail napkins, and you’re ready to go.