Preparing, composing and serving a cheese platter.
To enjoy your cheeses at their best, remove them from the fridge at least one hour before you serve them, so that they can get to room temperature, when the flavours become more enhanced.
The cheese platter
To serve your cheeses, choose a platter in a natural material, such as glass, wicker, wood or ceramic. Avoid metal which alters the taste of the cheeses.
The composition of the platter
The golden rule: the cheeses should be eaten in a certain order depending in their flavours. It is therefore indispensable to arrange them in a circle, clockwise, going from the freshest or the mildest to the most mature or strongest. Space the cheeses out so they are easier to cut. Don’t let the cheeses touch each other.
A platter for a grand dinner should ideally be made up of a soft cheese (Brie, Camembert, Coulommiers…), a pressed cheese (Cantal, Comté, Cheddar…) a blue cheese (Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Bleu des Causses…) and a goats cheese (Crottin de Chavignol, Banon, Pouligny-saint-Pierre…).
A winning formula is to start by the goat’s and ewe’s cheeses, then to follow with the cow’s milk cheeses, whilst respecting the order of the flavours. Another way is to unite the cheeses according to origin and cheese family, or present a seasonal platter.
The composition of a platter can be an extraordinary taste sensation. Therefore it calls for certain savoir-faire and a good knowledge of the products. This is why we recommend that you talk to your cheese monger who will advise you on the best platter.
Before posing the cheeses on the platter, take them out of their packaging, and keep only the leaves or herbs which cover them. Place the Gruyeres, Comté and other cooked cheeses close to the edge because they are harder to cut. On the other hand the blue cheeses are best placed in the centre because they are crumbly. The small cheeses should be put together in a corner.
If you wish, use the ticket that came with the cheese with the name and origin of the cheese, to display to the guests which cheeses are which and where they came from. Provide a specific knife for each cheese, so that the flavours do not mix.
Also think about taking the cheeses out of the fridge at least one hour before serving so that their flavours can develop at room temperature. Add vine leaves, or fruits (redcurrants, grapes, nuts) to add colour and make the platter appetising and pleasing on the eye.
To succeed in creating a good cheese platter, play around with the colours and shapes of the cheeses. Balance the flavours in choosing cheeses from different cheese families, and then people always find something to their tastes. Keep in mind the seasons and explain the flavours of each cheese to your guests.
Contrary to tradition, the current tendency is to propose a cheese platter composed of all blue cheeses, or all goats’ cheeses, or all soft cheeses. In this case, select the best cheeses from your cheese monger choose cheeses with different degrees of maturity so appreciate the differences.
The knife is obviously essential for cutting the cheese, but a fork is also useful for serving. Ideally, it is best to cut cheese with a knife that has been dipped in hot water and then dried. Use a different knife for each family of cheese, so that the flavours do not mix. If the platter contains a very strong cheese, make sure that it has its own knife.
Always cut the cheese in a way so that you get some of the interior and some of the rind, in order to get the full flavour of the cheese.
When should cheese be served?
This question can seem superfluous. Some people say that the cheese should be served at the same time as the salad (this is the current tradition in Italy). But in fact this is not a good idea because the vinaigrette affects the flavour of the cheeses. In England and Belgium, the cheese is served after the dessert. In France, the cheese is served between the salad and the dessert. IN effect, the cheeses neutralises the astringency of the vinegar or the lemon, and prepares the palate for the sweetness of the dessert.