The Anatomy of a Cheese Board

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Cheese is one of my favorite indulgent foods and I usually have a selection in my fridge on any given day (insert guilty as charged look here). We are cheese lovers, what can I say! With lots of gatherings happening this time of year I love to throw together an easy cheese board. They look great, are easy to make and everyone can find something on them to snack on.

There’s nothing better than receiving a text that says “wine and cheese night, right?”

There’s a small issue though, and that’s when the cheese board isn’t quite up to scratch. Sorry guys, but Kraft Singles have no place on a cheese board. After being exposed to one too many sub par cheese boards, I decided to break down the anatomy of the perfect cheese board so we can nail it each and every time. Just remember you can always add your own spin to this and it will be just fabulous! I am using our favorite cheeses here, but you seriously couldn’t go wrong with any cheese variety you find on the isles of Trader Joes. Ok lets get started!

The cheese is your building block to an epic cheese platter every time. The cheese acts as your skeleton and should be selected with the utmost precision to ensure the rest of your board follows suit. Your board should include a soft cheese, a sharp cheese, a dark cheese, and a blue. I had a Blue Stilton, a creamy Toscano soaked in Syrah as my dark, a supreme brie as my soft and a sharp cheddar as my hard on hand so that is what I used on this particular board. I always arrange these on my board first. I usually leave my softer cheeses whole for people to cut themselves and the harder cheese I break up or slice for easy access.

It’s a no brainer that you need something to chuck your cheese on. The perfect vessel is a crusty baguette, or some crackers that don’t pack too much flavor, so the cheese can really shine! I had some Trader Joes staples in the pantry and didn’t have time to go grab bread this round, but here I used their golden rounds, savory thins (my favorite) and the raisin rosemary crisps. I usually have these in a bowl or plate served next to the cheeseboard, however if you are using a very large board you can mix your crackers and breads among the cheese.

The accompaniments add color and freshness to your board. They’re essential to cut through the flavors of sharp and rich cheeses. I went with grapes, olives, a few blueberries and some green apple slices (I tossed the green apple slices in lemon juice so they didn’t brown), but I love to use pears and raspberries and even some dried fruit as well when I have them on hand (always try to have a variety of green and black olives and stuffed and or unstuffed). No cheese board is complete without strawberries or grapes either, people, so try to always have at least those. My kid ate my basket of strawberries this morning before school, so that is my excuse. I usually place the olives in small containers or bowls on the board so the juices don’t get all over my cheeses, but its ok if you just place them right on your board. Its really personal preference.

Cured meats. You want them to be salty and melt in your mouth so that it can provide the perfect counterpoint to your cheeses and cut through the creamy richness. Opt for salami or a prosciutto to nail the perfect cheese board. I usually grab a pack of uncured salami as well as a pack of Calabrese salami, prosciutto, and capocolla and use them all. Sometimes I will even grill some sweet Italian sausage and julienne them and place them on the board for something heartier. I like to roll up my salami’s and then the prosciutto usually tears so I just take it and bunch it up next to my cheeses however it comes off. With the Capocolla I usually fold them in four and lay them on tope of each other in rows so they are easy to grab and don’t take up a ton of space on the board.

The finishing touches for me are always the nuts, some honey and a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme and even a few edible flowers. Once all of my staple items on on my board I fill the nooks and crannies with a variety of nuts. I used some raw cashes, marcona almonds with rosemary, a few raw walnuts and then added a few sprigs of rosemary, a few leaves of thyme and a few edible pansies I had from another baking project. I happen to have a great piece of honeycomb I added to the center, but I usually just have a small jar of honey by my olives. Think of it like a creative art piece, there isn’t really any rules of how you have to lay out everything on your board, just have fun with it. Layer it, and make it pretty. For holidays you can add things like small pumpkins or small fourth of July flags, just be creative and have fun with it.

Cheers to a great cheese platter my friends. For a cute shopping list print out, click here