When it comes to party appetizers, nothing is more traditional than a cheese board, but sometimes the classics can feel a little uninspired.
I’ve learned from watching Ina that there is a big difference between a plate of cheese and crackers and a show-stopping cheese board. The difference is not in the amount of time or effort required. It’s all in knowing what to put on the board and a few little tricks that make for a beautiful presentation.
As the holidays approached, Ina shared some of her tips with me, and I was surprised at how a few subtle changes can really elevate an every day array of cheese to one that will be the hit of the party.
First, no matter the size of your gathering, you only need three different kinds of cheese. (Just buy bigger pieces of each if you are serving more people.) Ina recommends going for one creamy Brie-like cheese, one blue or semi-soft, and one hard cheese.
She arranges the cheeses on a simple wooden board, facing outward so the different kinds are easy to see and cut. Then, she fills in the empty spaces with big piles of grapes, dried fruits, and of course, lots of crackers. She arranges the different additions in little groups spilling out among the cheese, which creates little pops of color across the board and a bountiful appearance. I love sweet and savory elements on a cheese board, so I like to include a jam, such as fig jam or caramelized onion.
A cheese board is SO easy to put together for a party because there’s absolutely no cooking involved, and if you choose a nice variety of cheeses, there will be something for everyone. You don’t need a fancy board, either. I have a wooden cutting board that I use for everything from rolling pie dough to chopping veggies, and it’s my go-to for a cheese board, too. Use whatever you have, just make sure you aren’t using a board or platter so huge you can’t create achieve that generous and bountiful look. And don’t forget the cheese knives!
I tested this Ina-approved cheese board out on my friends this weekend, and if the naked rinds on the board at the night meant anything, I’d say it was a hit. I tried to stick with cheeses that are widely available- a creamy St. Agur blue cheese, a big wedge of Brie, and a truffle Pecorino (a bit of a splurge, but seriously delicious), but this is time to choose your favorites! If you don’t like blue cheese, go for a soft goat cheese or semi-soft cheese like Gouda. If you like milder or more pungent cheeses, lean more in one of those directions, but remember that people tend to have different tastes and you want there to be a nice variety of flavors on the board.