Give me some crackers, charcuterie, and cheese and I'm a happy person. I may (or may not) stand at the kitchen counter just shoving chunks of cheese into my mouth as I haphazardly grab crackers out of the box. Don't judge.
However, I can class it up too, especially for guests. In fact, I do delight in making simple yet beautifully balanced cheese platters. A platter of cheese and crackers with assorted accouterments are the perfect way to get things started whether it's a holiday party or casual get-together.
It's no mistake that my love of all things cheese is matched by my love of crackers - thin, chunky, flavored, basic. I try to keep a variety in the pantry at all times. The box of Wasa Thin Sesame + Sea Salt crackers in this month's Degustabox is a delicious addition to my cracker repertoire. They have a nice sesame flavor and crunch factor.
Crackers need cheese. Yes, you can just throw a hunk of cheddar on a plate with some crackers and be done with it. However, while no doubt tasty, you can do better than that. You deserve better than that.
Here are a few simple tips for how to build a perfect cheese plate.
- As an hors d'oeuvre, plan on 1 to 2 ounces of each cheese per person.
- Serve cheese at room temperature. They will taste better. This means taking them out of the fridge about an hour ahead of time.
- Go with an odd number of cheeses. Limit yourself to 3 or 5.
- Include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheeses fall into one of four basic groups: aged, soft, firm or blue. Choose at least one from each group. Examples of cheeses from each group include: Aged: Aged Cheddar, Gouda; Soft: Camembert, Brie; Firm: Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Blue: Stilton, Gorgonzola
- Not everyone is adventurous, so serve at least one familiar cheese.
- Label each cheese. Quite frankly, it's just easier than having to repeat yourself to each guest.
- Have a separate knife for each cheese. This way there's no, you got your brie on my cheddar situations. Plus, soft cheeses spread best with say a butter knife, where a firm cheese needs something a little sharper to break off small chunks.
- Offer a variety of crackers as well as bread. Different sizes and textures can help enhance the flavors of the cheeses. The nuttiness of the Wasa Thin Sesame crackers pairs nicely with blue cheese, whereas a softer, more spreadable cheese needs something a bit sturdier like a toasted baguette slice.
- Serve the cheese with a few savory accents like roasted nuts, olives, artichoke hearts, or roasted red peppers. Chutneys and mustards are also a nice compliment. And, of course, don't forget about cured meats like prosciutto, soppressata or Iberico ham.
- Add a touch of sweet. The sweetness will complement the saltiness of the cheese and cured meats. Try a drizzle of honey, as well as assorted dried and seasonal fruits.
In case you are curious, for this post I chose Somerdale Cromwell, Bleu D'Auvergne, and Arethusa Camembert paired with apple slices, spiced almonds, thinly sliced pepperoni, roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced baguette, and Wasa Thin Sesame + Sea Salt crackers.
What are some of your favorite cheese platter combinations?
Photos by Renato Ghio