I’ll be honest, I’m not a great cook. But, I still manage to wow my guests at dinner parties and potlucks, though because I make a killer cheese plate! Today, I’m sharing a few tips and tricks for creating a platter that looks as good as it tastes. I’ll be using Clover Sonoma’s new organic cheeses and a variety of cured meats from Petaluma-neighbors, Thistle Meats.
Before we begin, a disclaimer: there is no wrong way to make a cheese board! In fact, if you feel intimidated by any part of the process, you’re thinking too hard. Creating a board is a little bit like finger-painting! Roll up your sleeves and get ready to embrace something uniquely yours.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
A board. I prefer ones that have a lip around the edge because it makes transportation much more manageable. My two favorites are from Target: Round and Rectangular.
Ramekins or small dishes. These are essential for containing wet ingredients like olives, cornichons, and honey. I love this 4-pack of handle-less measuring cups which are perfect and offer a variety of sizes.
2-3 different kinds of cheese. Today I’ll be using three medium-hard cheeses from Clover which I cut three-ways to make them look more diverse! You can use any cheese you like – one soft, one medium, and one hard cheese – offers a nice variety, but it is truly up to you.
Cured meats. Select a variety of thinly sliced organic meats or a lovely paté you enjoy. Soppressata and Bresaola are my favorites to work with, but Salami works great too and is a safe bet among a less adventurous crowd. Today I’m using a selection from, Thistle Meats.
Seasonal fruits and nuts. You’ll want a few sweet things to pair with your meats and cheeses. For Fall, I love apples, persimmons, and figs. Nuts are optional but give a really nice crunch to the perfect bite of cheese and fruit. Walnuts and pistachios (in the shell) always look beautiful.
Garnish. I like to use foliage from around my garden that mimics some of the fruits on the platter— olive twig, fig leaf, or rosemary make excellent finishing touches.
Cheese utensils. If using soft cheese, you’ll need a cheese or butter knife. To avoid tools, you can cut your cheeses into bite-size pieces as I’ve done, but you may consider offering toothpicks on the side.
1 : Prep your cheeses. Here, I’ve found three ways to present Clover’s Sharp Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Medium Cheddar cheese blocks: Cubed, Triangle slices (flat), Triangle slices (staggered). Pro Tip: Know your texture/moisture level. The sharp cheddar is a bit more firm and easy to make slices with, while the medium cheddar is perfect for cubing.
2 : Layout your focal points: the cheese and ramekins will fit on your board. If you position these first, it is easier to then build around them. I find that odd numbers of focal points look best. So, if you have two kinds of cheese, use one dish. If you have three types of cheese as I do, add two dishes.
3 : Next, fill in the areas between your cheese with meats and sliced fruits. Pro Tips: Fan your fruit to show off as much color as possible. Consider organic, rounded layouts vs. laying everything in a straight row. Add volume and texture to each slice of meat by folding it twice and standing it up in a neat row. It’s okay to move things around at this point or swap out ‘focal points’ once you can see how things are taking shape. (Ex: Here I've swapped in Thistle Farms’ show-stopping Duck mulberry paté as a bright ‘focal point’.)
4 : Once you have your structural ingredients laid out, it’s time to fill in the remaining areas of your board with additional fruits, nuts, and garnishes. Pro Tips: If you don’t contain the cornichons, caperberries or olives in a dish, pat them dry with a paper towel and be mindful of not resting them near crackers. I typically don’t put crackers on the board, as they can get soggy and take up a lot of space. If you don’t have room, or if they don’t cooperate, it’s perfectly acceptable to rest them in another bowl nearby.
5 : Enjoy! Hopefully this walk-through has inspired you to try your hand at a festive cheese board this season. Tag @clover.sonoma in your photos; we’d love to showcase your style!