Holiday cheese boards: The best 10 tips for a great basic cheese spread
Serving cheese at a holiday event or get together need not be humdrum. In fact, if pulled together properly, cheese can be the star of your party or buffet. Just be sure to vary your varieties and choose quality cheeses.
We like to begin preparing our cheeseboard by recommending Boar’s Head pre-cut chunk cheeses, simply because you know you can trust this reliable brand. Boar’s Head's high quality cheeses can be found in your local grocery stores’ better cheese section, most often nearby the produce and/or the deli counter. There you will be able to pick up an array of varieties, as well as complimentary gourmet pre-sliced meats and dry salami logs to nestle alongside your cheese and accompaniments.
If perusing the cheese section is too confusing or overwhelming, in a pinch, you can always choose to get your cheese from behind your deli counter. Just ask the counter helper to hand-cut blocks of their best quality Boar's Head varieties.
Top 10 Basic Cheese board Tips
What kinds of cheeses do you need? For the perfect basic assortment choose a blue, any kind of goat, a sharp or picante cheddar or Provolone, a creamy Brie, a hard variety such as Manchego or Parmesan as well as a spreadable variety such as a cheese ball.
Can I serve just one cheese? Often one really great cheese is enough because it's so satisfying that it becomes a conversation piece. However, when cheese is the centerpiece of your party, you'll need at least three and probably five or six cheeses. Most of the time, though, serving three cheeses is a good amount. That way you won't overwhelm people with too many choices.
How much do you need? You should have a total cheese amount of 1/4 lb. per person for a holiday meal. If you're serving the cheese as a hors d'oeuvre, plan on 1 to 2 ounces of each cheese per person.
What condiments go with cheese? There are so many options to choose from these days, so look for flavors that appeal to you such as pepper jelly, or mango chutney. You can also include interesting flavored mustards.
What kinds of meats go well with cheese? Look for subtly salty varieties such as prosciutto, buttery Mortadella flecked with pistachio or salami. You can also vary the way you present the meat by serving some thinly sliced and others in chunks.
What are some other options that go along with a holiday cheeseboard?
- Fruits: Figs, champagne or globe grapes, dates or other dried fruits work well.
- Nuts: Walnuts, pecans, cashews and pistachio
- Brined items: Olives, stuffed and with or without pits
- Crackers and bread: Serve thin slices of baguette or crackers in a separate basket or bowl
- Create a drizzle and a sizzle: Try this- Bake your brie in a 250' oven, drizzled with honey for 10 minutes right before serving
- Fruit pastes and chutney: Pear, quince and pepperjelly pastes are especially delicious served with cheese and crackers
- What temperature should the cheese be? Serve cheese at room temperature. Be sure to take your cheese out of the refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
Do you need different knives for all the cheeses? No. But having at least one cheese slicer and one or two smaller cheese knives would be perfect. You can also pick them up right in your grocery store.
What’s a good vessel to serve cheese? Anything that's large enough so that the cheese isn’t crowded and will be easy to cut. Have too much cheese for one board? Try assembling 2 or three boards and place in different areas of your room.
Are there any other quick appetizers that go well with a holiday cheeseboard?
- Hot, bubbly clam dip
- Shrimp cocktail
- Pigs in the blanket
Bonus recipe: Hot, Bubbly Clam Dip
Serves 6-8 when part of a cocktail party alongside other items
Can be doubled
- 2- 6 oz. can of minced clams (Snow's, wild caught from USA, no MSG); 1 can drained of liquid, one can not
- 4 tbs sweet butter, melted
- 1 small onion, finely minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, best quality you can afford, grated
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, cracked pepper, and a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers, crushed fine
- Preheat oven to 375'
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients
- Place mixture in crock or clam shells placed directly on top of lined sheet pan and bake until hot, bubbly and browned on top, about 30 minutes
- Serve with more buttery, Ritz Crackers and of course cheese
Freezing tip: You can prepare this dish ahead of time and freeze before cooking, either in a crock or clam shell. To bake, preheat oven to 375' and heat directly from freezer, for about 45-60 minutes
Clam shells tip: Pick up empty clam shells at your local fish monger. To clean, treat them as you would a plate or silverware. They can also be reused.