My husband’s favorite couple days of the year are right around the corner. I’m sure followed closely by our anniversary and my birthday, right? The Masters starts Thursday, and we will be watching closely from home – I for one will be rooting for a certain young Texan. The weather in Houston is about as good as it gets ALL year long. Sorry to YELL, but if you don’t live here you may not get it. Houston is wonderful, the people are so nice, and the weather is mostly humid and disgusting. We don’t waste our crisp, Spring days. Cheese board to the rescue.
There’s nothing easier for entertaining a crowd than a big, beautiful charcuterie and cheese board. A massive spread, with all the sweet and savory nibbles and condiments to accompany it, can sustain cocktailing sports fans (or an off topic book club) for hours. Throw in some pimento cheese for Southern flair, and now we’re really talking. Dust off your green jacket and grab a board.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Start by choosing a mix of cheeses from different milks (cow, sheep and goat). And be sure to vary the textures, some should be creamy and runny, others firm and grainy. And even if you’re not a fan of veiny bleu cheese, there’s nothing like a wedge of creamy gorgonzola dolce and a glistening square of honey comb to get your appetite stirring (which are delicious eaten together, by the way).
Choose three to five cheeses for a large board. Once you start to have an arsenal of favorites, there’s no need to mix it up. Just stick with your tried-and-true cheeses and change up the condiments and extras. I also like to “mess up” the cheeses a little, so people aren’t afraid to jump in. Hard cheeses, like gouda and manchego, can be pre-sliced with a sharp knife and fanned out on the board to make them more manageable.
Humboldt Fog goat cheese
Laura Chenel chevre
St. Andre triple cream cow’s milk Brie
Mimolette, an aged raw cow’s milk cheese
If you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s, most of the cheeses are packaged under their brand. Here’s a good mix:
1,000 Day Gouda
Toscano (any of these varieties are good, especially the rosemary)
The Homemade Touch
Even if you choose to serve just a couple different cheeses — say a Manchego and a soft chèvre — you can add a homemade touch by making rosemary- and garlic-scented olive oil and drizzling it over your goat cheese, click here for the recipe. For warm, marinated olives, rinse off the brine your olives are packaged in and heat them on low heat in good quality olive oil with red pepper flakes or Aleppo chili, lemon rind and a bay leaf (look for a cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil that’s a rich green color).
• 3 to 5 cheeses (three is absolutely fine, unless you have a big crowd)
• Charcuterie (prosciutto, hard salami or French ham torn in to thin, uneven pieces)
• Crackers, bread sticks and flat bread (Sardinian flat bread, sliced baguette, seeded crackers, as well as rice crackers or endive spears for gluten-free friends)
• Dried or fresh fruit (blackberries, pomegranate seeds, fresh figs, dried cherries, dried apricots or dried wild blueberries)
• Nuts (toasted pecans, pistachios or Marcona almonds)
• Condiments (fig jam, quince paste, and mustards for meats, if serving)
• Cornichons and olives
• Dark chocolate broken up in bite-size chunks
Try it out and let me know how it goes — and if you have a favorite cheese to recommend, please comment below. Sometimes around here we dub these big boards of bread and cheese “dinner” and call it a day.