If you're looking to impress your friends or friends-to-be, what looks more sophisticated than a fancy cheese plate?
Not only are cheese plates a delicious snack, but they are beautifully Instagram-worthy pieces of art. Here’s the basics on how to pick and put together a gorgeous cheese plate that will make your friends think you are much cooler and put together than you actually are.
1. Choose your cheese
Picking which cheeses to use isn’t mad science. In fact, it’s not that hard at all. Typically, cheese plates include three or more cheeses from four categories.
Aged cheeses, such as aged cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, Gruyere, or Pecorino Romano, are hard cheeses that are relatively salty. Firm cheeses like Manchego, a less-aged cheddar, or Gouda are typically less hard than the aged cheeses but still solid.
Your soft cheeses are usually a spreadable cheese and examples of these include Brie, goat cheese, or Mozzarella. Finally, there are blue cheeses, which contain a healthy mold that gives them their color and strong flavor.
When shopping at your local grocery store, the trick to saving is to go the person working near the cheese department for the odds and ends of the wheel. When cutting a cheese wheel, sometimes the store will be left with pieces that are oddly shaped or too small to sell normally, so they are sold at lower or discounted price.
2. Buy your bread
You're going to need something to spread the cheese on. This could be a starchy bread or cracker, depending what you like.
If you really want to cut costs, you may find some marked down breads in the bakery department of your local grocery store, but you can usually find a loaf of French bread that is relatively inexpensive.
Whichever you pick, make sure you pick a bread or cracker that isn’t super fancy—you don’t want to overpower your cheese. The bread is only a canvas for your art, which is the cheese.
3. Select Some Salami
Another important part of your cheese plate is your meat, which you can call charcuterie to be fancy. Some popular choices for cheese plates are salami, prosciutto, chorizo, or serrano ham.
Sometimes individual rolls of salami can get pretty expensive, so I usually tend towards the pre-sliced kind, but some people swear by cutting your own to get the best deal.
4. Gather the Special Additions
Last but not least, don’t forget the fruits and vegetables. If you want to go for a sweeter plate, try picking up some fruits, like berries, grapes, apples, or even some citrus. Berries are a better option when they’re in season, but can get pretty pricy off-season, however, it’s not a total sin to use the frozen kinds as well.
You can also serve a jam on the side, like raspberry or orange marmalade. Even honey goes well with some cheeses. For a savory topping, try pepper jams.
For a more savory plate, go no farther than your grocery store’s olive bar, which is often right next to the cheese department. Here, you can pick up a variety of olives and other marinated vegetables.
5. Putting it all Together
To make a savory plate, use Swiss, Gouda, Pecorino Romano, and goat cheese to start. Grab some roasted red peppers (which pairs well with goat cheese) and assorted olives from the olive bar. I paired it with salami and French bread rounds, toasted, to spread. And it was all under $20.
For a sweeter plate, which could be served for an appetizer or dessert, you can choose to use Brie (an aged Cheddar) and/or a blue cheese. These complement nicely with grapes, green apple, and prosciutto. Finally, serve raspberry jam and french bread rounds to spread the brie with. I made this plate for just under $25.