One of my favorite things to do at The Chopping Block, besides teaching cooking classes of course, is making cheese platters. I know that it may seem like a weird thing to obsess over, but for some reason whether I'm at work or not, I just love making platters. I'm pretty sure it has everything to do with not being able to decide on one thing, so I choose everything!
One of my favorite things about making platters is the wide assortment of all the possibilities that can go on them. I just love making large beautiful platters. It reminds me of my past when I would make all sorts of meat and cheese and fruit platters for buffets and private parties at the restaurants I have worked at.
The keys to making an eye catching platter are focus, movement, balance and variety.
The easiest way to create a focal point is to start in the center and build your platter around that. To make your eye move around the platter, assemble the cheese in lines or piles to create height around the focal point. Then to balance it all out, add fruit, nuts, crackers or other garnishes to round out and accompany the cheese. I like to toast hazelnuts and pistachios in the oven. When they come out of the oven I coat them in honey and toss them with dried cherries or cranberries. You could also do fresh fruit or even fruit preserves or butters! We carry this wonderful cranberry pepper jelly at The Chopping Block that tastes great with brie and crackers. That leads up to variety. When choosing what cheese to put on your platter you should consider texture. Think creamy, firm, soft, crumbly. You should also consider taste. Is the cheese strong in flavor, mild, or rich. Then, try and have an assortment of each. A tip for all of the goat cheese lovers like myself: buy plain goat cheese logs and gussy them up at home with dried spices and herbs. The picture below shows an goat cheese log with our very own Cha Cha Chipotle Lime seasoning and dried thyme!
To add even more variety to your platter, you can add charcuterie. That is just a fancy French word for cooked meats! Picture salumi, prosciutto, and other cured meats as an accompaniment to the cheeses. You can also have olives, cornichons, or other pickles as garnishes, too.
I can't help it, even my random Monday lunch has to be artfully arranged!
So, next time you want to host a party, try and create your own cheese or meat platter masterpiece for your guests to enjoy. If your food presentation skills could use some work, just call our events team, and they would be happy to set up your private cooking party for you! Don’t forget to add the cheese platter to your appetizers and maybe you will be lucky enough to get one of my favorite platters with blue cheese, manchego, goat cheese, white cheddar and brie!
For more on how to make the perfect cheese tray, watch our Owner/Chef Shelley Young's video. She's also writing a cheese making series, so if you are feeling ambitious, you can make your own cheese for your platters.
Want more how to cook videos? Check out our online video library.