In the Kitchen

The Art of Making the Perfect Cheese Board

Now that we’ve reached the time of year for cocktail parties, potlucks, and all manner of festive soirées, Chef Elana Karp, our head of culinary, is relying on one thing—cheese boards. Whether she’s setting out a pre-dinner board to satisfy hungry family members, or packing up a gift for a holiday host, Elana always has a plan for assembling the perfect mix. She graciously agreed to share some of her cheese pairing tips to help bolster our seasonal spreads, below…

When it comes to assembling an irresistible cheese board, you always want a balance of textures, flavors, and milk types. It goes something like this: pick out a gooey, stinky, ‘centerpiece’ cheese, then find medium soft and hard aged cheeses to balance it out. Pair them all with a variety of crunchy crackers, dried fruit, or roasted nuts to create some contrast and cleanse the palate between each bite. Below are some of my favorite picks, but feel free to swap in different cheeses that fit the profile! Here’s what’s needed for the cheese board…

Cheeses

Log of aged goat cheese—Must have rind on it! It’s edible, with a nice chewiness, and keeps the cheese from drying out.

Humboldt Fog—An aged goat cheese with a thin line of ash through its center (which also just makes for a pretty presentation) for a subtle, creamy tanginess.

Aged Gruyére—This harder, slightly salty, yellow cheese tends to be a favorite, even among kids, and really pairs with just about anything.

Aged Gouda—As Dutch Gouda ages, it picks up nuttier, more “caramel” flavors that are a nice counterpart to sweeter, creamier cheeses.

Brillat-Savarin or Époisses de Bourgogne—Either of these luscious, spreadable cow’s milk cheeses would be an excellent pick for a crowd. But go for the Brillat-Savarin if you’re in deep foodie company (it’s named for a famous epicure, after all!).

Accompaniments

1 cup dried apricots—Their concentrated sweetness and chewy texture create a nice contrast for gooey, earthier cheeses.

1 bunch green grapes—Pop these in the refrigerator before serving to add a cool, juicy, slightly tart burst.

1 cup raw almonds—A classic crunch. Avoid roasted and salted nuts that might overwhelm the delicate flavors of the cheese.

2 Gala apples—This variety is tart-sweet, and super juicy. Slice them up just before serving, so the flesh doesn’t oxidize too much and turn brown.

Fig jam—You can find a jar of this stuff at just about any grocer or specialty cheese store. It’s best spread on crackers or baguette, with soft, creamy cheeses.

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