Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to Make a Cheese Plate

I've got holidays on my mind, since my birthday is coming up, closely followed by 4th of July weekend! Plus, this is the season of grad parties and barbecues. When you need a quick dish to pass, look no further than cheese! One of the best (and easiest) hors d'oeuvres to serve is a cheese plate. You don't have to cook anything, and depending on what types of cheeses you choose, there is virtually no preparation other than taking them out of the plastic wrap. But making one can be daunting. That fancy cheese section at Wegman's has so many options...where do you start?? Here are some rules I always follow:

Step 1: The Cheese
The cheese is obviously the star of the show. But keep some other things in mind. Will you be having wine? If so, consider what cheeses will pair well with what type of wine you're having. A simple internet search will help you out. One of my favorite combinations is a spicy red, like rioja or shiraz, paired with tart goat cheese and stilton.

It's always good to include different types of flavors and textures. For example, if you have a fresh, soft chevre, find a harder aged cheese to go with it. Also consider including cheeses from different animals: goats, sheep and cows all produce different types of cheese.

Step 2: The Carb

Usually people like their cheese smeared on some bread or sliced with a cracker. Having some sliced baguette and little crackers is a good idea. But if you only want to buy one or the other, that's ok too.

Step 3: Aesthetics

Cheese and bread is delicious, but on a plate together they look sort of monochromatic. It's always good to add a pop of color. A sprig of rosemary or another herb makes a great garnish. Even better, sliced salami and fresh fruit add color and flavor.

But what's most important is taste. Don't get caught up worrying about whether your cheeses will complement each other or if they're stinky enough to impress your guests. Just choose cheese that you enjoy eating, and that usually means other people will too!

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