Expert Tips for A Perfect Cheese Platter
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more purely good, satisfying, and universally loved food than cheese. In fact, while there are (in my mind, only slightly overstated) theories that any food can be made better by the addition of cheese, good cheese doesn’t need any fancy techniques or pile of flavors heaped on top of it. It’s a friend to great chefs and kitchen newbies alike – simply slice and enjoy. It’s a ready-to-go indulgence that’s perfect for sharing with a group of friends or family - so you really have no excuse not to go exploring the thousands of cheese varieties out there with a nice cheese platter. Why not plan a cheese tasting?
A few tips from the pros:
If the cheese platter is a late night snack, you can treat it like desert and go all out with the richest, most savory cheeses there are. Triple-Crème - perfect! Gorgonzola – why not?! There’s no need to worry about ruining your appetite or hindering your palate. If however, you’re planning to serve dinner after the cheese platter, it makes sense to stick with lighter, less indulgent cheeses. Think a bright, fresh appetizer “salad” of cheeses – fresh mozzarella and herbed goat cheese are both great choices.
Faced with the truly staggering variety of cheeses out there, it may help you decide and even make things a little more interesting if you start with a theme. Your theme could focus in a certain region, a certain flavor profile, a certain dairy source, or a variety in any of these areas. Selecting cheeses by theme is a great way to get to know a particular facet of cheese you’re interested in.
Even when you’re focusing in on a very specific cheese facet, variety should be the goal. Look for different levels of moisture: fresh, runny, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard. Look for something familiar and well-loved, as well as something your guests have likely never tried before.
While it’s tempting to load up on 10 or more new and exciting cheeses to sample, experts recommend sticking to 5 or less on platter. This, they say, is the best way to ensure taste-buds won’t become fatigued, losing a bit of the “wow” each cheese might have had with less competition.
How many people will be eating from this platter? Better be sure you’ll have enough to satisfy everyone. Estimate at least 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per person and buy more if you’re among real cheese lovers or wouldn’t mind leftovers.
While, especially for you first tasting, cheese should really be sampled all on its own, it is sometimes fun to try it with condiments or fresh fruit and alongside nuts or antipasto. Besides, extras add visual interest to your cheese platter and a little more flavor variety. Thin slices of bread or crackers are typically served with cheese, however, cheese experts warn not to get too carried away with fancy flavors varieties which may compete with the main event. Marinated olives or artichokes are a classic side on a cheese platter, spiced or sugared nuts are another, and depending on the cheese, condiments like honey, chutney, mustards, jams, and balsamic are all commonly used for topping.
For fullest flavor and most enjoyable texture, cheese is best served at room temperature. Take cheese out of the fridge one hour before you plan to serve it.
One for all or all for one? While a large, shared platter of cheese is what we typically think of, single serve platters for all guests are a nice way to ensure everyone gets a nice balance.
To prevent more robust cheeses from lingering on your taste buds and overpowering the more delicate varieties, start with the most mildly flavored cheese and work your way up. Experts recommend arranging your cheese platter in the order which you’d like it to be enjoyed, however my crowd would have no idea they’d been ordered. I’ll have to advise them myself to make sure they had the best experience.