Creating the Perfect Cheese Board

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The number one staple in the Hangry District kitchen during dinner parties or a casual get-together is a cheese board. I typically always have some cheeses in the fridge and plenty of accoutrements to go with it. Here are the necessary components you need for a great cheese board:

Three cheeses

  • Get some cheeses with varying textures and flavors. I like to go with one soft cheese like a brie or camembert; a hard, salty cheese like gruyere or manchego; and a wild card - either a smoky gouda, a truffle variety or something new and interesting that I try at the cheese counter. But if you want three go-tos they would be: camembert, manchego, and an aged yellow cheddar.

Something Sour

  • To me, the BEST addition to a cheeseboard is a pile of cornichons. Not just any cornichon, THESE. I get nothing for this link, I just think you should know that they are the best. I love the tang and crunch of these jarred gems, and the pickled pearl onions are a treat that should surely be saved for the chef.

  • Other great sour/briny additions are olives, giardiniera, pickled peppers, dilly beans, or any fun pickled item you find at the farmer’s market and hoard in your fridge. I’m currently obsessed with the masala chai golden beets from No. 1 Sons.

Something Crunchy

  • Nuts, crackers, crostini, grissini (those really thin breadsticks), whatever you got!

Something Sweet

  • One tip I’ll always take with me from Alice Bergen Phillips, aka the Cheesemonster, is the power of some dried fruit on a cheese board. I used to always include dried cranberries, but I have been converted to more unique options such as dried kiwi, dried sour cherries, and dried mango. I do typically try and look for versions with no added sugar, but whatevs!

  • My new favorite addition to my boards are chocolate covered nibbles. Dark chocolate covered almonds, mini chocolate pretzels, luscious bing cherries, etc. A classic m&m is also a perfectly fine choice.

  • I also like to put some sort of fresh fruit or veggie on the board, whether it’s clementines (peeled and pulled into segments), grapes, persimmons, freshly picked cherry tomatoes, or whatever you have - I love to pop something fresh into my mouth during cheese time snack attacks.

Something Sticky

  • Besides cornichons, one other item I am always collecting on my travels is pepper jelly. There are endless combinations, and I love how the spicy sweet condiment pairs well with almost every cheese. I recently became the proud owner of a pineapple habanero pepper jelly from Troy, NY and a spicy fig spread from Stowe, VT and I cannot wait to break those puppies out for the masses.

  • Honey is also a go-to on my boards. A little honey goes a long way, so just put out a small jar (already opened with a serving spoon to encourage people to dig in), and start spreading!

  • Not as “sticky,” but some other ideas are mustards, apple butter, and any jams you have in your fridge.

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Bonus Items!!

  • MEAT! Cheese boards do not have to be charcuterie boards. But if you want to add some salty cured pork products (or others), I suggest saucisson sec, prosciutto, and soppresatta. They are the best cured meats to pair with cheese and I will defend that statement for at least two more months. I like to roll them up individually to make them stretch a little longer.

Equipment

  • Grab a set of small cheese knives from TJ Maxx to have on hand for an every day cheese board occasion. For fancier affairs, grab a set like this for maximum cheese slicing.

  • Small nut bowls like these are my go-to.

  • Toothpicks for olives, etc. and always put out a little bowl for pits!

  • And of course - A CHEESE BOARD. One of my oldest friends, Wayne Stump of Stump Standards, makes insanely beautiful, American made, cutting boards that I use for cheese only. You can find them here.

Remember, a little goes a long way. A board with three cheeses, some crackers, pickled things, fruit, nuts and condiments will easily feed a crowd of ten with leftovers. Less is more! Fill up your board with the things you have on hand and watch your friends and family devour. For maximum noshing, pre slice the cheeses and meats - you’ll have no leftovers.

What are your favorite cheese board creations!?

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Michelle ScholtesComment