Take your cheese plate to the next level
Clover is excited to share this guest blog post by Rachel Lightfoot Melby, of Catchfoot + Run
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.
- Clover Organic Sharp Cheddar (sliced)
- Clover Organic Medium Cheddar (cubed)
- Clover Organic Monterey (sliced, right)
- Thistle Meats Bresaola (around olives)
- Thistle Meats Duck Mulberry Paté
Fruits and nuts:
- Thomcord grapes
- Dried Dates
- Gala Apples
- Mediterranean Olive Assortment
- Crisp Fig Crackers
- Seed mustard
- Fig leaves
- 1Prep 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.
- 2Layout 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.
- 3Next, 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’.)
- 4Once 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.
- 5Enjoy! 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!