Effortless Entertaining: Crafting A Delicious Cheese Board

With all of the cooking and labor-intensive preparations of hosting Thanksgiving, you may be on the hunt for a simple, delicious, and elegant way to simplify the appetizers served while everyone waits for the turkey to be ready. When I am hosting a dinner and know that much of my attention and efforts will be devoted to cooking the meal itself, I know I can’t go wrong with a beautiful, crowd-pleasing (unless you’re lactose intolerant!) cheese board, which you can absolutely execute at the last minute. Crafting a cheese board from scratch can be a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. As with everything else, all it takes is a little preparation and planning. The key to a great cheese board is variety and balance in order to please all of your guest palates. Let’s dig in, shall we?

 

  1. Check your Guest List:When creating a cheese board, it helps to know how many guests you are expecting, so that you know how much to buy. A good rule of thumb if you plan to serve your cheese board as an appetizer is to buy about 3/8 of pound of cheese per person. So roughly, you would need about 3 pounds of cheese to serve 8 people, 6 pounds of cheese to serve 16 people and so on.

 

  1. Selecting your Cheese: A good cheese board requires variety and a balance of flavors in order to be a true crowd pleaser. A good rule of thumb is to include one cheese from each of the four types of cheeses: A soft cheese, a firm cheese, an aged cheese, and a blue cheese. My go-to selection is comprised of Port Salut, a mild, soft cheese; Parmigiano Reggiano, a firm, familiar Italian cheese; Sharp Cheddar or Smoked Gouda, two delicious types of aged cheese; and for the blue cheese, I usually prefer Roquefort. If your group of guests is comprised of serious foodies, then by all means, feel free to be adventurous with your selections. I find that if most of the cheeses are generally familiar to most of the guests, the probability of everyone enjoying them is much higher.

 

  1. Add Texture:Cheese is certainly delicious on its own, but it is even better on a good cracker. Add a few different types of crackers to your board so that guests can pick their favorite. I usually opt for classic Carr’s Table Water Crackers, Raincoast Crisps studded with dried fruit, and Rosemary Panzanella Crackers, all of which pair really nicely with cheese. If you’re serving a big crowd or are working with a particularly large platter, feel free to add some nuts for added crunch. Marcona almonds, candied pecans, and shelled pistachios make for a fabulous addition.

 

  1. Layer in Color:Fruit and cheese complement each other quite nicely and no good cheese board is complete without the addition of some fruit. Grapes are always a good bet and will fill in a large platter nicely. Dried apricots are available year round, while other seasonal fruits such as figs, cherries, and pears can also be a wonderful addition depending on the time of year. If you want to take more of a charcuterie platter approach, you can certainly add things like prosciutto, salami, and for those who have slightly less adventurous palates, cured ham works as well.

 

  1. Don’t Forget the Condiments: Cheese is generally versatile and pairs well with various types of condiments. Plain local honey or jalapeno honey, spicy mustard, and fig jam or fruit chutney are all winning choices.

 

  1. Empower your Guests: Take the guesswork out of the process, so that your guests can enjoy the fruits of your labor. Ensure that you have a cheese knife for each piece of cheese. Label the cheeses so that guests know what their options are and be sure to spread things out evenly across the platter, so that everyone isn’t angling for the same spot the entire time. As you are arranging everything, split your platter or board into quadrants and ensure that every quadrant has a cheese, cracker, fruit, nut, and condiment.

For more Effortless Entertaining ideas, pick up a copy of my new book, Dream Design Live.

{Photography by Max Burkhalter}

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  1. Beautiful cheeseboard. While the internEt is full of cheeseboards, appetizers, charcUterie….i would appreciate suggestions on how to serve. Do i offer small plates? Just Cocktail napkins? The way you offer your food suggests a form of decorum.

    1. That’s a great question, Carolyn! I usually put out small appetizer plates and cocktail napkins since I tend to include jams and spreads on my cheeseboards which would be too messy with just a napkin. Happy Thanksgiving!