How To Build A Cheese Platter – Dana Shortt Gourmet

How To Build A Cheese Platter

Cheese Please!

Christmas is just around the corner.  I know from my own experience in the specialty food business that people are always looking for easy appetizer ideas to serve a crowd.  Cheese platters are a fantastic option, as they do not require cooking and can be assembled in minutes.

Here are some tips on how to create a beautiful, balanced cheese platter:

  • Use a selection of different cheeses (a minimum of 3) – the best platters will include at least one hard, sharp cheese (such as cheddar), a soft, creamy cheese (such as brie) and a pungent cheese (such as blue).
  • Try to choose cheeses from different animals.  For instance, try a sheep’s milk cheese like Spanish Manchego (a hard and sharp cheese) or French Roquefort (a semi-hard blue cheese); a cow’s milk cheese like St. Andre (a soft and creamy triple-cream brie) or Swiss Gruyere (slightly sweet and salty hard yellow cheese) and a goat’s milk cheese like Greek Halloumi (an amazing grilling cheese that tastes similar to mozzarella, though saltier) or Canadian Chevre like Woolwich Dairy (try one of their spreadable, herb or fruit crusted chevrai logs).
  • If possible, opt for different coloured cheeses to ensure the most attractive presentation.
  • Serve your cheeses with fresh or dried fruits, roasted or candied nuts, fresh bread and crackers.
  • Adorn the platters with fresh lime leaves or banana leaves (tuck underneath cheeses) for a stunning presentation.  Your best bet is to look for these at your local Asian supermarket.
  • Use a wooden cutting or charcuterie board if you want a rustic look and feel.  For a modern, elegant approach, plain white ceramic platters are best.
  • Garnish the platter with beautiful fresh fruit like champagne grapes, figs, strawberries, kumquats, prickly pears and/or Chinese gooseberries.  Specialty fruits can be found more readily during the holidays (although large “supercentre” grocery stores tend to carry exotic and tropical fruits all year).
  • Hard cheeses like cheddar and manchego can share a knife but soft cheeses like brie and chevre should have their own knives so that their flavours do not intermingle.
  • For the best flavour, always serve cheese at room temperature (assemble cheese platters about 1 hour ahead of time).  Keep in mind that hard cheeses take longer to come to room temperature than soft cheeses.
  • Plan on serving about 1 oz. per person of each cheese for an appetizer-sized portion. You may need to serve a little bit more per person if you are serving a plated cheese course.
  • Along with fruit and interesting crackers and flatbreads, I like to serve cheese with toasted or candied nuts.  “Sweedish nuts” are perfect on a cheese platter, and make a delicious hostess gift.  Visit www.danashortt.com/recipes/swedish-nuts/ for the recipe.