Preparing Cheese Plates

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The path to cheese appreciation lies on the palate and on the table. Sampling a single cheese can be illuminating, but tasting two or three in a convivial social setting can be both educational and indulgent, whether you create an informal cheese board or a more refined presentation called a cheese plate.

The cheese plate is a stylish way of providing each guest with their own personal array of cheeses to savor as they sit at a table. It can consist of anywhere from one to three or four well-chosen cheeses arranged in small portions on large, individual plates set out on the table along with a regular place setting (table knife, fork, spoon and a cloth napkin). Basic accompaniments such as a good, crusty bread (served warmed in a cloth-covered basket) and a compatible beverage, usually wine, are also arranged on the table. The cheeses should be chosen to represent a balanced spectrum of cheese types and textures, and cut into a portion size that reflects how the cheese plate fits into the scheme of your entertaining or dining plans. (for appetizers 1 oz. chunks or slivers of each cheese, for a hearty, filling portion 2 or 2 1/2 oz. each should do).

Arrange the cheese portions equidistant on the plate close to the outer rim. Then, in between them, arrange the accompaniments - whole or sliced fresh fruit, dried or fresh berries, paper-thin slices of cured meat, a thin slice of fruit paste, some glistening olives, or a scattering of toasted nuts.

Jenkins makes the following suggestions:

An Italian Plate:

Cheeses

  • Fresh Mozzarella or an imported Mozzarella di bufala
  • Aged Pecorino Toscano
  • Parmigiano Reggiano

Accompaniments

  • Assorted olives, thick-cut slices of Italian sopressata; roasted sweet red peppers; anchovies; thick slices of Tuscan-style bread.

An American Plate:

Cheeses

  • Green Peppercorn Goat Cheese from Coach Farms
  • Sally Jackson's Sheep Cheese
  • Franklin Peluso's Teleme

Accompaniments

  • Slices of fresh melon
  • Dried cherries
  • Toasted hazelnuts
  • Raisin-pumpernickel bread

You can order the American cheeses directly by contacting these artisans:

Miles, Lillian, and Susan Cahn
Coach Farms
Mill Hill Road
Pine Plains, NY 12567
518-398-5326

Sally and Roger Jackson
Sally Jackson's Cheeses
Star Route, Box 106
Oroville, WA 98844
509-485-3722

Franklin Peluso
Peluso's Cheese
429 H St
Los Banos, CA 93635
209-826-3744

From Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins, Workman Publishing Company, 1996.

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