DIY Easy Entertaining: Cheese Plate
LOS ANGELES, CA,– Entertaining- it can feel so daunting: the planning, the shopping, the cooking. No wonder we don’t say to our friends on a Wednesday night, “Stop by for a glass of wine.” But entertaining doesn’t have to be a big production. Just getting in the habit of keeping a few simple things on hand means that you are well on your way to hosting whenever the mood strikes. Really.
Of course, you’ll want to provide a little something for your guests to nibble on. How about a cheese plate? The great thing about cheese is that it keeps well in the fridge, multitasks as an easy snack food, and is a real crowd pleaser. No reason not to have some in stock at all times.
Wait! You don’t have any cheese at home. No need to worry. It can all be pulled off with one quick stop at the grocery store and a little rummaging in the kitchen- 30 minutes tops. Here are your marching orders:
At the grocery store
1. CHEESE: Select 3 to 4 different cheeses. Create contrast by selecting different styles of cheese.
- A semi-hard cheese: Cheddar, Swiss, Gruyere, Manchego
- A soft-ripened cheese: Brie, Camembert, Saint Andre
- A fresh cheese: Chevre (fresh goat cheese), Mozzarella (in liquid), Ricotta
- A blue cheese: Maytag Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort
A few other cheese considerations:
- Figure one ounce of each cheese per person.
- Have at least one cheese everyone is familiar with like Cheddar.
- Have at least one cheese that is a little challenging like a blue.
2. CRACKERS: Select 2 to 3 different crackers and/or breads.
- A plain cracker like a water cracker
- A non-seeded baguette or other French bread
- A cracker or bread with dried fruits or nuts
3. FRUIT, NUTS AND FRUIT SPREAD: Select one of each to create a finished cheese plate and take it from good to great.
- Grab a piece or two of seasonal fresh fruit.
- Pick-up some nuts if you don’t have any at home.
- Get quince paste if you want to go fancy or use any honey, marmalade or chutney you might have at home.
First: Get the cheeses ready
Unwrap the cheese and let it come to room temperature (figure at least an hour from the time it leaves the grocer’s refrigerator case.)
Second: Get your accessories ready
Find a decent sized cutting board or platter.
Line your board with parchment paper, doilies, or “cheese leaves.”
Get out a different knife for each cheese. You don’t want to muddy the flavor using only one knife.
- A butter knife for fresh cheeses
- Table knives for soft-ripened and blue cheeses
- A steak knife for semi-hard cheeses
Third: Put everything together
Place each cheese on the board with plenty of room for slicing and spreading.
Arrange you cheese condiments artfully on and around the board.
It’s a good idea to provide examples of what cheeses, crackers and condiments would work well together. No guest wants to be the first to desecrate a beautifully laid cheese board. Help them out; take the first whacks. It’ll give you a chance to sample the goods and make any needed adjustments.
Now pour yourself a glass of wine, and let the party begin!
Contributed by: Elizabeth Payne