Building the perfect cheese board is easier than it seems. Essentially it’s about choosing 3 or 5 (odd numbers always look better than even) cheeses, adding some seasonal fruit, nuts, and a chutney or fruit spread if it seems appropriate, adding some bread or crackers and the all important knife for your guests to go at it all.
But even if that seems overwhelming I’ve broken it all down below. You can also head over to my IG to see a time lapse in action.)
Like anything I approach in the kitchen I tend to think about in terms of putting together an outfit. I blame it on my two stints to fashion school and years working (rather miserably) in the industry. But fashion is a funny thing and even when you leave it, it never leaves you. Case in point, I’m currently working my fave biannual job at New York fashion week–what I like to call having my little toe still in the industry. Here’s a fave show I worked on this season in case you need a fashion hit just about now.
But getting down to business. Think of building a cheese board like building at outfit. You’ve got all the same elements: a foundation, the main players, and accessories. Put it together with your fave items from your wardrobe you have a go-to outfit. Put that all together with a cutting board, cheese, fresh fruit and cheese knives you got a cheese board.
In the case of a cheese board it starts with what you will be serving it on. I’m always a fan of using a wooden cutting board, mostly because it’s what I’ve grown up seeing my dad use and prefer the aesthetic. But really if you want to think most efficiently about it all too, I live in New York city and having some cutting boards that can double up at serving platters makes for less stuff I need to figure out where to store.
Choose a cutting board you like and that serves the purpose of the cheese board you’re going to build. Note here the similarity to foundation garments of an outfit. If you’re wearing a Bardot style off-the-shoulder top that would not be the time for your Lulu Lemon sports bra. Go grab your strapless bra. Things have their time and place in the kitchen just like in your wardrobe.
The main players
Well it’s pretty obvious I’m talking about cheese in this scenario. But again, this is where that fave jeans and t-shirt combo or little black dress comes in.
When dealing with cheese you want a diverse selection. Think of using a mix of cows, goats and sheep milk cheeses. Have at least one soft cheese so there are different textures your guests can experience. Have fun with adding in a blue or a cheese that is the most “exotic” or stand-out on the board. But then you want to balance it with more familiar or subdued flavors in the others. It’s like the tried and true balancing act of volume in an outfit. It’s hard to do baggy pants and a big top (unless you’re 6′ and leggy for days.)
Once you have your cheeses then it’s all about starting to build the board in the most visually appealing way. I like to use color at the center of the board and place the cheese around it. And top tip: always turn the wedge of cheese outward to your guests. It’s a heck of a lot more inviting and easy to access with a knife than the back rind of something.
Just like an outfit that needs the statement necklace or bag, a cheese board needs a little extra something. And that’s where the two categories of accessories come in too: the ornamental and the practical. On an outfit that would be the jewelry v. the shoes or a bag. On a cheese board that’s the difference between seasonal fruit, nuts or a chutney and the cheese knives.
Just as you accessorize an outfit, use these supporting characters to help the cheese look its best. After placing the cheese around the colorful center, fill in any gaps (while leaving nice breathing room–again, you don’t pile on your entire jewelry box when getting ready) with the olives, nuts, or fruit you chose to go with it all.
Cheese boards can be dressed seasonally too. In the summer take advantage of fresh figs, plums, peaches and berries. In the colder months go for apples, pears, quince, and chutneys. It’s a sandal v. Ugg situation.
Then it’s all about making sure your guests can tuck in. Make sure there are a few knives on the board, preferably designated for the different types. A knife for the soft cheese and a separate one for the harder ones. This reduces any gooey transfer onto the hard cheeses and mixing of the flavors.
Capturing the shot
Bonus info here for my photo nerds. As you can see from the time lapse over on IG I built a table to sit right under a north facing window. It’s where I shoot everything I do in order to get the best natural light.
I then use the manual settings on my Canon Rebel t3i (just with the kit lens–I’m basic–in more ways than one) with the white balance set to Shade, ISO 400 and f stop 1/60 for the bright look.
And then it’s all about holding my breath and taking the shot (at some point I may get one of those fancy tripod arms…but where’s the fun in that?)
Any more questions? I can talk about this for days on end and will end up boring the crap out of you. Pop a comment below to keep the convo going! And be sure to upload your cheese board photo to the Cuttingboard.com #cuttingthecheese2017 contest until September 30th, 2017