If you’ve been wracking your brains for something unique to serve for this year’s Media Noche, well then maybe you’d like to try fancying things up with a Cheese Board, aka Cheese Platter! I wasn’t planning to write anything else for the remainder of the year, but when I received a lovely package of cheeses from the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), I could not resist the opportunity to make this little guide.
I’m not trying to pretend to be an expert at making cheese boards by far, but as a layman who enjoys this occasional indulgence, I thought it would nice to write something like this to spread my enthusiasm. Cheese is a fabulous thing, but it is even more fabulous when paired with certain things. I’ve got some tips that will help you bring your A-game when you “curate” your first cheese board or platter!
1. Variety is key. It’s always good to have an array of cheeses on your board to suit everyone’s taste. You can choose cheeses hailing from different locations because often they offer different flavors and textures. You can combine fresh, soft-ripened, semi-soft, semi-firm, hard, washed rind, or even blue-veined cheeses for an interesting mix. Personally, my perfect cheese board would involve camembert or brie as my soft cheese, then some good old cheddar for my semi-firm cheese. (Maybe Gruyere, if I’m feeling generous lol.) I also like to add some Pepper Jack as my semi-soft cheese.
2. Make it perfect for the flatlay. Apart from visual appeal, there’s a reason why cheeses are sliced and arranged a certain way on a cheese board. Hard cheeses, for instance, are usually cut into smaller, bite-sized shapes. Meanwhile, soft cheeses are left whole for guests to cut into and spread themselves.
3. Honey, jams, and preserves add more than color, they also bring out the buttery qualities of cheese and play to its strengths. Milder jams work best with fresh cheese like feta and mozzarella, while stronger preserves pair perfectly with more robust cheese. Honey goes well with aged cheeses that have a nutty flavor profile, such as Parmesan or Gruyere.
4. Fruits are also a good idea. Just like with jam, certain kinds of fruit also pair really well with cheese. Dried apricots, figs, and mangoes are great with aged cheese. Fresh fruits like grapes, strawberries, and raspberries go well with soft fresh cheeses. Tropical fruits like fresh mangoes, pineapple, and even jackfruit, also make good partners to cheese.
5. Go nuts with nuts. Nuts are a great accompaniment especially to saltier sharp cheese because their naturally sweet flavor provides a nice contrast. Sometimes I drizzle some honey over nuts and eat with slices of cheese, but it would be much easier to just add candied nuts to the cheese board.
6. Chocolate makes everything better. To prove the adage “chocolate pairs well with everything” is its tendency to go well with certain cheeses. Dark and milk chocolates go well with aggressive cheeses like Goat Cheese. Heck, even those filled chocolate truffles are a good match to aged cheeses. Since I only like bittersweet chocolate though, it’s about the only thing I pair with any sort of cheese.
7. Add crackers and breads to the mix. Soft breads are a perfect partner to soft cheeses, while crunchier crackers complement hard cheeses better. Pairing breads with similar-textured cheese will ensure that each one does not get lost in the other.
8. Carnivores are welcome to the table. Dry-cured meats like prosciutto, pepperoni, and salami are amazing with aged cheeses. (This might also be a good time to take out the holiday ham.) Be careful though not to pair them with younger cheeses. Strong flavored meat will just outshine the milder taste of young cheese.
9. There’s magic in mustard. With its acidic and vibrant flavor profile, mustard pairs well with high-fat cheese. It also balances the richness of aged cheese and adds a bit of a kick.
10. Let’s not forget the wine. To make the experience of sharing a cheese board for media noche even fancier, pop open some wine. Although this topic is a bit complex and requires its own specific article, the general rule is to pair strong-tasting cheeses with bold-tasting wines, and vice versa. The goal is not to have one overwhelm the other. In the case of strong-smelling cheeses like Blue Cheese, a sweeter wine will help balance out the funkiness. Received a ton of Sparkling Wine over Christmas? Your best bet would be soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert.
With these ten tips in mind, I hope you find setting up your Cheese Board or Cheese Platter to be as much fun as devouring every last thing on it! Happy New Year!
Full disclosure: I received a cheese package from the California Milk Advisory Board as a Christmas present, alongside some notes on how to build my own cheese board. However I was not tasked to write this post nor have I received any compensation for doing so. All opinions I have shared above are from my personal experiences with cheese. Some tips about wine pairings were taken from WineFolly.com.
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