Everyone loves cheese. And because I’m French, I especially love cheese. Ah, le fromage!
I wanted to write a post paying homage to the art of the cheese board. A cheese board is so much more than just cutting up some bricked cheddar and mozzarella, putting out some crackers, and setting it on the table. I mean, that’s just cheese and crackers, plain and simple.
Most people know that, and that’s why creating a cheese board can be an intimidating venture.
Cheese boards should be carefully planned – from flavours to positioning. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit of a cheese board snob here, but you know that you hum and haw when arranging one. This is part of the process. We all want our cheese boards to look like the dozens we’ve seen on Pinterest.
I will start off by saying that I strongly recommend avoiding chalkboard painted surfaces for your food. I know it looks pretty and rustic, what with the chalkboard writing in front of each item to identify it. It’s just…it’s not healthy. Lead, people. LEAD. So, unless you have your food sitting on top of something protective, or unless you have a death wish, avoid the chalkboards.
Wooden planks are ideal, but large, plain cutting boards can work, too.
All right. First things first.
Choosing your cheese
When it comes to choosing your cheese, you want balance in every which way. Different flavours from mild to strong; different textures; varying colours; an assortment of shapes.
The best place to start is a reputable cheese counter, or the “fancy cheese” section of your local grocery store. The best part about a cheese counter is that the cheesemongers typically have no qualms with letting you try a small piece of what you’re interested in. They can also be a great help in pairing flavours and getting you started with your cheeseboard strategy.
The sort of arrangement I like to follow when it comes to cheese boards is this: Something ‘old’, something ‘new’, something ‘smoked’, something ‘goo’. Actually, there are a lot of people who follow more of a Something old, something new, something goat, something blue arrangement but…I haven’t been able to bring myself to put blue cheese on any of my boards. Forgive me, but I’ve tried so many types of blue cheese and I prefer the mildest types (aka. the fake creamy stuff that you dip your Buffalo chicken wings in!)
How un-cheese-snobby of me, I know!
Anyway. Follow whatever arrangement you’d like, I’ll just exemplify mine.
Aged cheeses are easily recognized for their texture, odour, and taste. With age, cheese tends to become harder and more crumbly. The flavours are strong and salty, so a little goes a long way.
Some good aged cheeses to consider are Cheddar (close to six months and up to seven years), Asiago (depending on the type, some Asiago is aged to three months, and others, all the way up to 18 months +), Romano (5 to 12 months), Parmesan (10 to 24 months +), Swiss (3 to 4 months), Gruyere (7 weeks to 3 months), and if you’re into blue, Roquefort (2 to 4.5 months) is decent, and even I can swing that one.
The whole ‘goo’ aspect of my cheese board arrangements typically come from Brie or Camembert, which get softer the longer they stand at room temperature. Though, any soft and velvety cheese will do the trick. I just like having this texture available – not to mention that Brie and Camembert pair very well with fancy jellies, honey, figs, and other delectable cheese board add-ons
Sweet and salty accompaniments are a must – from crackers and mini-toasts to artisan breads; nuts, olives, meats, and jams! Choose accompaniments that best suit the cheeses you’ve chosen.
Smoked cheeses are very similar to aged cheeses when it comes to pairing. They go great with salty add-ons and breads/crackers that have mild flavours, allowing the smokiness to stand out