There’s no reason a cheese plate should be populated with cubes of marble cheddar and mini red-waxed Babybel. With a whole cosmos of cheeses to explore, this is a perfect opportunity to experiment.
Traditionally, cheese platters include a variety of cheeses diverse in flavor and texture, from soft to firm, mild to pungent, depending of course on your taste. But with such a vast selection available, which types of cheese do you choose, and how many? The art of building cheese trays is based on presenting a variety of tastes and textures – aim for no less than three cheeses and no more than seven or eight varietals. Try for at least one goat or sheep’s milk cheese, which are unique and can be tolerated by some who can’t tolerate cow’s milk. How much? Estimate about 60 grams of cheese per guest, so long as you’ll be serving other nibbles.
Fortunately it’s easy to arrange cheese in an appealing way. Use a tray, clean wooden cutting board, or pick up a framed mirror, a trick often used by caterers for serving cheeses and hors d’ouevres. Set it out at room temperature, in larger wedges rather than presliced pieces, which will dry out more quickly. Serve bloomy cheeses with the rind left on. Arrange your big pieces of cheese on the board or platter, and all you need is to fill in the gaps. Don’t worry about a perfect arrangement – whatever you do, it looks rustic.
An assortment of crackers, dense breads (such as Irish soda bread or nut quick breads), dark rye, seed bread, olive loaves and baguettes are great accompaniments, as are dried fruits (cranberries, apricots, dates and figs), small bunches of grapes and small pots of preserves and chutneys.
When it comes to cheese platters, anything goes – and because they require little preparation, you’re left with more time to enjoy your party.