Cheese boards are a great start to a meal (sometimes even a meal on their own) and a great conversation piece at a gathering. It’s kind of the pregame for food and allows people to socialize while tasting some new cheeses and possibly try some new wines. I actually put this one together the other day when I caught myself staring at a pack of dried figs and thinking, “Now, what could I do with those?” I was actually checking out some dried Greek figs on a string that were packaged neatly. After thinking about how I would prepare them and what I’d serve them with, I actually decided to go with some dried Mission figs. I knew I wanted to stuff and bake them and I knew the Greek figs were known to be very “seed forward” if that makes sense. The mission fig is what most people are used to snacking on out of hand and the dried version is actually pretty reminiscent of Fig Newtons. So Mission figs it was..and is.
Number 1. I love cheese. One of my local grocers here actually has a humongous cheese case and fills some of the baskets with leftover cuts of cheese that are below 5 bucks. That’s kinda perfect for this board because you can really go a little variety crazy on your cheese selections. A few basics to keep in mind with creating any cheese board is:
Try and keep your different offerings of cheese between 3 and 5 varieties. I chose 3 selections because it’s a smaller platter for 2-3 people and I wanted to keep it simple.
*Offer a variety of cheeses such as hard and soft as well as one’s that are made with different types of milk, like goat, sheep, or cow’s milk.
*Add a fresh fruit component as a palette cleanser between foods as well as mix it up with some dried fruit.
*Stick to cheeses that are not layered with flavor like a simple Parm or Brie and stay away from the flavored ones such as an herb or garlic cheese.
*Offer something salty or acidic such as olives or cornichons.
*If you want to have a bit more variety you can add some cured meat(s) which pairs wonderfully with the cheese.
*Offer either a bread or cracker selection, keeping it simple with the flavors as to not overpower the cheese flavor.
*Add a handful of nuts for crunch as well as for pairing with the cheese and fresh fruit.
*Estimate about a pound of cheese for every 5 guests. I bought about 3/4 lb. cheese for this board.
*Try cheeses from a particular region of the world…maybe even your own home town!
Go ahead and pre-cut the cheese into serving sizes before service and refrigerate until about an hour before you serve the cheese to allow it to get to room temp again. This will actually help the true flavors of the cheese shine through and reveal little nuances that would’ve gone undetected with the colder cheese.
These are the cheeses I chose:
Naked Goat: 6 month aged goat cheese from Spain. It has an oiliness but is at the same time buttery. It is a firm cheese with grassy notes. This is great served with a crispy white wine.
Fromage D Affinois: A double cream cheese reminiscent of brie that is completely addictive. It’s from cow’s milk and has an edible white rind. It is earthy and buttery and goes great with walnuts or grapes (hint, hint). This was my soft cheese of choice and it’s important to let this one rest at room temp so that it softens nicely and is perfectly spreadable on whatever bread or cracker vessel you choose. This cheese pairs well with a sparkling wine like champagne, a cider, or wheat beer.
Blue Valdeon: This was my fig stuffing cheese and I chose to use the rest of the wedge on my board. It’s pretty pungent but deliciously so. It is deeply veined but is balanced in saltiness and spice. This is actually a mixture of cow and goat’s milk. This would pair well with a Porter or Stout beer or even a Reisling wine.
It’s funny that most of these cheeses have a recommendation of white wines. I just picked up my favorite Pinot Noir and it didn’t let me down, per usual…especially with the blue cheese.
This platter has a handful of grapes as well as some sliced fresh cantaloupe. I scattered walnuts around the platter. My “piece de resistance” was the stuffed figs. They were so delicate and delicious but had a pungent bite from the bleu. The recipe is here below:
- 10-12 Black Mission Figs, Dried
- 1/8 lb. Blue Cheese
- Olive Oil, 1 Tablespoon
- Balsamic Vinegar (A good one), 1 Tablespoon
- Step 1 Preheat oven to 350°. Remove hard stem end from fig. Split figs in half lengthwise. Make a little indentation with your finger and place a pinkie nails worth of cheese in the center. Top with other half of fig, pressing together slightly to seal, and set to side. In a small bowl toss figs with a glug of oil. Place on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and drizzle with fine Balsamic Vinegar. Bake for 5 minutes and set to side to cool.
Slice your cheeses into thin 2 to 3 bite pieces. Arrange cheese in varying directions. Add dried fruit and nuts. Set crackers or bread on platter and top with fresh fruits. I made my crackers from scratch using a super simple recipe you’ll find here.
If you love cheese the way I do you’re really gonna love putting these boards together for friends….or maybe just you and someone special. It’s really a great excuse to try some new flavors in cheeses and in wines and what a new and exciting world to have open up before you-the world of CHEESE! What kind of accompaniments do you like to have with your favorite cheese(s)? Maybe you prefer something with a little more salinity. Olives from Spain or maybe Prosciutto from Italy. Tell me!