The Cheese Board
The holiday season can be a whirlwind. Maybe you are hosting family or friends for a holiday meal. Maybe it is a cocktail party. Heck, maybe it is a play date for one of your kids and the kids parent is hanging around. It's always a lovely gesture to put a cheese board out. Not only are cheese boards a fool proof appetizer, they're a conversation starter. The board has variety, and you can go as big or as small as you'd like. Seriously, think about it. You pick out the cheese (likely the hardest part, and hello conversation, "what IS that cheese?" "where did you get that?!"), you serve with accoutrements (see below), maybe some charcuterie items, and crackers and/or french bread. You literally have to unwrap, open items, slice, and assemble.
A good cheese board in my opinion has a minimum of three cheeses. A soft and creamy, such as a brie, a cheese of the blue variety, and a hard cheese, such as gouda or cheddar.
Here are some of my cheese favorites
- Sant Angel (creamy)
- Fromage D'affinois (creamy)
- Bonne Bouche by Vermont Creamery (creamy)
- Gorganzola Dolce (blue, mild and creamy)
- Maytag (Blue, semi-hard, strong)
- Stilton (Blue, semi-soft, a stronger blue)
- Truffled Gouda (typically semi-hard, made with black truffles, simply perfection, in my opinion!)
- Smoked Cheddar by Grafton Village (hard, smoke flavor)
- Piave (hard, sweeter, goes great with honey)
The above cheeses may or may not be available near you. However... bries, blues, and cheddars probably are. As with any type of food, it's all a matter of opinion and taste. So I urge you to go to your nearest cheese shop and try things out. Where I live, there are two unbelievable cheese shops near by. It's an experience to go to them for sure, and truthfully one of my happy places.
Cheese, check. Next up the other "stuff." Some cheeses pair better with mustards and some better with jams. In the case of the example above, with a brie, a cheddar and a blue (anyone else feel like a joke is coming on? A brie, a blue, and a cheddar walk into a bar...), a particular wonderful jam you should try is Dalmatia Fig Spread. It is sweet but not too sweet and pairs nicely with brie, blue, and cheddar. Another idea for a mustard would be a grainy mustard, such as a french whole grain mustard. This will pair nicely with stronger, harder cheeses such as a smoked cheddar. Honey is a great choice for piave or buratta (which we haven't discussed but believe me, it's wonderful!).
So we have some basic spreads and jams selected. Now the fruits and nuts. A go-to for me is Marcona almonds. They are salty enough and have a great crunch to offset the cheese. Also, caramelized pecans, which I'll post a recipe for. Shelled pistachios are another great selection.
Fruits can be fresh or dried. For larger, longer parties, I like to use dried fruits such as dried cranberries, or sour cherries. For that afternoon play date, fresh fruit is a fantastic option. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes...which leads me to...
You'll want that to go with your cheese board. That is, if you like that type of thing.
As promised, here is the carmelized pecan recipe!
- 1, 8 ounce bag of Pecans
- 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1/2 tsp sea or pink Himalayan salt
- Optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for a holiday vibe, or without any spices at all
Heat a medium sized pan over medium heat on the stove.
Add the brown sugar and butter and let the combination meld together. This should only take about a minute if your pan is hot. Next, add the pecans and let it all come together by stirring to coat the pecans with the brown sugar and butter glaze.
Let cool on either wax or parchment paper. When cool, break apart into pieces and enjoy on your cheese board, salads, or just as a snack!
If you want some real amazing cheese board inspiration, check out one of my favorites: https://www.instagram.com/ladyandlarder/