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The Perfect Cheeseboard Series: Selecting the Cheeses

18 January 2011

“How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?” asked Charles de Gaulle, French general and president.

It’s true: the French are nuts about their cheese. They’ve elevated the humble cheese almost to the state of national religion. The “cheese course” in a French meal is a source of pride for the hostess and sometimes a way of subtly showing off.

And because I’m part French and mad about cheese, I’m going to blog on the art of creating the perfect cheeseboard (and creative ways to use the leftovers). Here are the four essential steps: (1) Selecting the cheeses, (2) Choosing the breads, (3) Picking the accompaniments, and (4) Presenting the whole.

Clockwise from lower left: Blue, Brie, Boursin, Cheddar

1. Selecting the Cheeses.

Picking cheeses for a cheese board is not unlike arranging a bouquet of flowers. You should decide your theme or strategy before you start. Typically, you’ll want to display several cheeses in a variety of different colors, textures, tastes, and smells: a soft cheese such as Brie or goat, a firm cheese like an aged cheddar or smoked cheddar, a spreadable cheese like Boursin, and a nice old veiny cheese like a Roquefort. But you could also try:

  • a single theme cheese, like a blue, from different parts of the world
  • fewer types of a more expensive cheese or more varieties of cheaper cheeses
  • cheeses from different animals like cow cheese, goat cheese, sheep cheese and (if you’re up for an adventure) yak cheese
  • highlighting interesting local varieties

Selecting cheeses takes art and skill. Tempt your guests’ taste buds. Avoid boring.

Additional thoughts on selecting cheeses:

  • Typically a pound of cheese will feed about 5 people
  • Cheeses you would never see on a cheeseboard: parmesan, mozzarella, American, Colby, pepperjack. These cheeses are used more for cooking and office parties
  • Don’t worry about keeping the cheese cool. It’s best at room temperature
  • Unwrap the cheese before displaying it on the board

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One Comments to “The Perfect Cheeseboard Series: Selecting the Cheeses”

  1. This looks familiar. Were you in our house this week?

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