By this point, your inbox is likely flooded with invites to various outdoor end-of-summer soirees. You can’t possibly attend (or be expected to cook) for them all, so, with our summertime mentality still very much intact, we’re rallying behind an easy-to-assemble, always well-received option: the cheese board. And thanks to The Kitchy Kitchen blogger Claire Thomas, who has cooked for the likes of Lea Michele, Rachel Zoe, and Bryce Dallas Howard, and her just-released cookbook The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously (Emily Bestler Books, $26), we now know how to assemble the perfect one. “Cheese boards are the ultimate in party host cheats,” Thomas tells InStyle. “All it requires is some fridge space and a curatorial eye, and you’ll have a platter that any guest would be happy to snack on.” Scroll down for instructions straight from the chef herself.
How to Cheese Board
Be sure to ask a lot of questions and taste everything when you’re buying at the local cheese shop. Once you know what cheeses you like, you can start building a board. Every board should have some of these components:
Cheese. I usually do 3 to 5 cheeses in different textures and flavors. Plan on 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per person. Make sure to label each cheese. Guests can then decide which cheese they’d like to try and even jot down the name if they want to buy it for themselves. Keep stronger cheeses on their own plate, or not too near the mild cheeses, so they don’t turn off less adventurous guests. Pull the cheese out of the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes before serving, depending on the temperature outside. You want the cheese to be just below room temperature. If it starts to look slick or greasy, it has been out too long.
Fresh fruit. Apples, pears, figs, grapes, and persimmons are fantastic with cheese. Anything with a honeyed flavor is usually a safe bet.
Something briny. Cornichons, pickled vegetables, whole-grain mustard, and olives are a great counterpoint to rich cheese.
Preserves. If your favorite fruit is out of season, preserves are also delicious, especially spread on some bread. Membrillo (quince paste), fig jam, and apple jelly are good starting points.
Meat. Cured meat and cheese are natural partners. Try to buy your meat and cheese together, so you can choose meat that won’t overpower the cheese. Prosciutto’s delicate flavor goes with almost anything, and bresaola’s mustiness is perfect with an earthy goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Spicy salami like chorizo or soppresata is full of flavor, so serve with cheeses that compliment them.
Bread. Serve the cheese board with some kind of bread or cracker. Especially if you’re serving gooey or soft cheese—you’ll need something to spread it on.
Nuts. Toasted nuts add a delicious texture and warmth to a cheese board. Try a soft cheese with walnuts and honey next time you’re snacking on a cheese board and you won’t regret it.
Knives. Have a knife for each cheese. You don’t necessarily have to have special cheese knives, but make sure to put the right kind of knife next to each cheese. For instance, a hard cheese will need a sharp knife, but a soft cheese can be cut with a butter knife.