This post is all about how to easily create an impressive cheese board for entertaining, along with an easy recipe for Meyer Lemon Marmalade.
If you like to entertain, there are a few things you should know how to do, and how to do them well. For instance, you should know how to mix a really great cocktail, know how to set the mood with the perfect playlist and you absolutely, hands down need to know how to create an over-the-top, show-stopping cheese board. And this Meyer Lemon Marmalade? Definitely a must.
Cheese is the star here, so do everyone a favor and don't skimp. You should always have a selection of a few different cheeses that vary in texture, age and flavor. A good number to start with is 3, but depending on your number of guests and any other food you're serving, you can opt for six, seven, eight or even more different kinds.
When selecting your cheeses, consider their age, texture, type of milk, country of origin and overall flavor profile. Be sure to choose cheeses that are all fairly different so that they contrast from one another. Think about having at least one hard, aged cheese like parmesan or aged gouda, and at least one soft, creamy cheese like brie or goat cheese. You also want to have something mild like Manchego or creamy havarti in addition to something more bold and full flavored like a blue.
When it comes to presenting your cheese, you can leave soft spreadable cheeses whole with a cheese knife, and opt to slice, cube or crumble the others. Because many cheeses look similar in appearance, it's helpful to cut each one into a different shape in order to distinguish them on the platter.
Without accompaniments, a cheese board is simply just a plate of cheese and I think the Meyer lemon Marmalade I made for this board is perfect! Think about the individual cheeses you're serving, and come up with some select pairings for each. Whole grain, spicy and sweet mustards are great for cutting through the buttery richness of mild cheeses, while different honeys and fruit preserves are fantastic foils for tangy, full flavored cheeses. You can always keep it easy by purchasing good quality accompaniments at the store, but I like to go the extra mile and make at least one thing from scratch.
For this board, I used freshly harvested Meyer lemons from my tree to create a sweet and tangy Meyer lemon marmalade. I infused it with a bit of cardamom to bring out the fragrant, floral notes of the lemons, a genius pairing I discovered last year when I made this tart. I loved this Meyer lemon Marmalade with all three cheeses, but I found it worked best with the tangy, creamy Danish blue.
In addition, a cheese plate should always have some fresh and/or dried fruit and a few handfuls of nuts. Not only do these provide great flavor and textural contrast to the cheeses, they really make the platter look great. I used some thinly sliced green apple and dried cranberries this time, but grapes, pears, persimmons, dried apricots, figs, cherries and dates are all great choices, too. You can opt for a spiced or candied nut mix, or keep them plain like the whole almonds and pistachios I used. Just be sure to toast them a bit first to bring out all their beautiful, nutty flavor.
Sure the Meyer lemon marmalade is enough, but to me, there's no such thing as too much "stuff" on a cheese board. The more little nibbles there are to pick at, the better. It keeps it visually appealing, and makes sure everyone has something they like - even those who (gasp!) don't eat cheese. I always like to include some good quality olives or some sort of raw, marinated or pickled vegetables, like the pickled golden beets I used here. Cured meats are great for adding more substance to the platter, especially if you don't plan on serving a ton of other food.
It's important to always offer something starchy to act as a vehicle for the cheese. I put out a selection of different crackers and breads, with at least one gluten free option if applicable to the crowd. I used some whole wheat crackers, gluten free rice crackers, a cranberry raisin bread and rustic Italian bread.
Don't forget to put out a small pair of tongs, cheese knives, little spoons, a stack of cocktail napkins, some toothpicks, and a little bowl for stashing used toothpicks and olive pits.
Plating and Styling:
When it comes to selecting the surface for where you'll create your display, make sure it's flat, neutral in color and don't be afraid to think outside of the box. A simple black or white platter is nice, but try to choose one that doesn't have raised or tapered edges. I love the look of a mason jar, which is what I used to hold the Meyer lemon marmalade. I find cheese boards are easiest to arrange and look best on a surface that's totally flat. Wooden cutting boards, pieces of slate, marble slabs, even picture frames and mirrors are all fun and interesting ways to set the stage for your artful display. Just be sure the surface is food safe and hasn't been treated with any toxic paints or chemicals. Here, I used a few smaller, organically shaped wooden boards on top of a white washed palette to create an inviting, rustic look.
When arranging your cheese board, it's nice to include some greenery and garnishes to make it come alive. You can never go wrong with fresh herbs; they always look good and smell amazing. Other options to consider are leaves from citrus plants, grape vines or fig trees. Pop into your local florist and ask if they have anything available to sell you on the cheap - just be sure to confirm they're food safe and haven't been treated or sprayed with anything toxic.
Whenever I plan a spread, I always choose a theme or find a source of inspiration to help make my decision making a little easier. My inspiration for this particular board was the golden hues and high fashion of award season, as evidenced by the gorgeous gold hue of that Meyer lemon marmalade! If you know me, you probably know I'm far from a movie buff. I mean, I kind of fell asleep during Star Wars... In 3D... at IMAX. (Chill, you guys, I was tired!) I love watching award shows solely for the fashion. I can't get enough of the red carpet, and I plan on hosting an Oscar party just to see what everyone's wearing. And for the cheese... And the wine, obviously.
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