How to create an epic cheese board?

Winter makes it mandatory to indulge in a cheese night. Here’s a crash course on how to get it right


Purva Grover

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Published: Tue 21 Dec 2021, 10:10 PM

There’s a cheese board and then there’s an epic cheese board, the difference between the two being how one puts it together — from the kind of board you select to the flavours you select, from the accompaniments you add alongside the cheese to the occasion the board has been put together for. We got the cheese experts in the city to hold our hand as we put together this guide for this festive season.

Stick to the rule: One cheese, one knife.

“A metallic board might change the flavour of the cheese, so it is best to use a natural material for your board like wood, wicker, or a slate,” advises Roxanne Auriel, restaurant manager, Couqley French Bistro & Bar, Dubai. Her other dos are: leaving the cheese at room temperature 30 minutes before degustation in order to maximise the aromas and also being mindful of the quantity served.

“If the platter is eaten as a dessert or starter, 60 to 80 grams per person would be enough. If it is a full meal, plan on having 200 to 250 grams per person,” she says. Also, she suggests you make note of the allergies your guests might have and place the cheese on the board that is ‘big enough’ so it does not fall on the table while being cut. “A platter must contain at least three varieties: hard, creamy and strong-flavoured cheese. A Comté, a Brie and a Roquefort would perfectly work. You can also play with the milk type: goat, sheep or cow,” adds Auriel. For the accompaniments, give black cherry jam, onion confits, olive tapenade, chutney or even a chilli jelly a try. “Chocolate is also very good with various cheeses. And gingerbread with blue cheese spread or goat cheese is an unforgettable experience!” For decoration, feel free to be creative; add some flowers, tree leaves, chaff, pinecones, etc.

Consider shapes: square, rounds, triangle, sliced

“The three main components would be cheese, meats and accompaniments, with the fourth being a small element of surprise, which could be fresh fruits, breadsticks, etc.,” says Chef Mohamed Chabchoul, executive chef, Grand Millennium, Business Bay. Chabchoul suggests you include at least four different cheeses on the board from different categories: firm, soft, and semi-soft. “And start with your favourites. Like, I love Comte and Mimolette as both have a sharp taste, so to balance that, I add a round of mild cheese, like Bucheron and Camembert. And when I’m feeling fancy, I dress up the Camembert with nuts and maple syrup.” Other musts he says should be three-four options of Italian cured meats. The three big don’ts as per him are: presenting un-sliced cheese, taking cheese from fridge to table, and starting with a strong cheese. He sums up the five elements that complete a board as cheese (you have limitless options here), sweet (honey, fig jam, and/or chutney), savoury (olives, nuts, almonds, walnuts, gherkins), meat (a variety of cured meats) and bread (and crackers).

The first element of a cheese board is the board itself

“You can use a wooden cutting board, a serving tray, marble slab, or even a ceramic platter. Any of these surfaces are a great choice to display your cheese,” says Amr Rahman, founder, Sausage Fabrique, Dubai. The second element is the selection of cured meats. Rahman recommends 40g per person. “From a salty salami, bresaola or even an Italian sausage, a touch of delicate meats can add depth to your cheese selection.” The don’ts include avoiding overpowering flavours (such as truffle, wet herbs). “For a truly satisfying experience include fresh or dried fruit, nuts, chocolates, and fresh herbs to the board. Do include a range of dips and spreads (ranging from sweet honey to eggplant jam) in bowls that will visually break up the cheese board,” adds Rahman. He advises to select the cheeses based on textures, say a mix of brie, white cheddar, and cranberry chipotle cheddar cheese. “It is important to add some crackers and bread to carry and layer the cheese flavours,” he suggests.

All you need: Friends and family to share the board with

“A good platter to use as a board should be either marble or wooden, and it should be big enough to make a nice cheese display. Plus, always tag the cheeses with names and possibly with origin details,” says Chef Cosimo Danese, executive chef, Grand Millennium Dubai, Barsha Heights. Danese advises not to pair good cheeses with cold cuts. He adds how overcrowding the board with unnecessary garnish is a terrible idea. “Cheese needs space in between to be cut, and only good grapes and jam are enough to go with it.” And what’s another big, big NO? “No processed cheese, please!” Also, if in season, he suggests you add some figs to the board.

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