27 July 2008
How To: Composed Cheese Plate
When you're having company, one of the easiest appetizers (or desserts, if you're French) is simply a few well-chosen cheeses. But as easy as that is, I love to do composed cheese plates, ie, pairing cheese with condiments and nuts and such. It's fun to brainstorm ideas for different pairings, and you can easily serve just one plate and still impress your guests. For my last party I chose two pairings: blue cheese with red wine reduction and candied pecans, and goat cheese with warm lemon, olives, and marcona almonds. Red wine reduction may sound fancy but in fact it's a good thing to make when you've got half a bottle of red wine leftover that's not going to be consumed. Oh wait, that doesn't happen to you? Well, it's easy to make with a cheap bottle of red wine too. The nice thing is that the reduction keeps well in the fridge, and can be used for other savory applications.
Also, cheese plates aren't just for the same old boring apples and grapes pairings- stone fruits, marinated prunes, melons, guava paste, chutneys, chestnut pastes, infused oils and wholegrain mustards are all fun to play around with. I've listed some of my pairing ideas below, what are your favorite cheese plate ideas?
A few more cheese plate ideas:
Feta with Honey and Sesame
Mexican Cojita with Chili Oil and Lime
Port Salut with Pears and Walnuts
Goat Cheese with Tapenade and Roasted Red Peppers
Digestive Biscuits Topped with Fig Jam and Shavings of Pecorino Romano
Mozzarella with Black Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, and Basil, served with Semolina Crackers
Blue Cheese with Red Wine Reduction and Candied Pecans
Combine 1 bottle red wine and 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer until reduced by half. At this point, taste for sweet/tart balance, the amount of sugar you use will depend greatly on the wine. You don't want it to be too sweet, but the sugar will smooth out some of the harsh/tart edges of the wine as it reduces. Continue to simmer until the wine has reached a thicker syrupy consistency, usually I find it's reduced by 3/4. Store in the fridge.
Place 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon water, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar melts and bubbles. Add 1/3 cup pecans, tossing to coat, and spread pecans on parchment or foil. Allow to cool.
Arrange blue cheese (I used Bleu d'Auvergne) on serving plate. Drizzle red wine and sprinkle pecans on top.
Goat Cheese with Green Olives, Lemon, and Marcona Almonds
Arrange on a plate:
chevre (or similar goat cheese)
Heat in a small saucepan and pour over cheese:
a splash of olive oil
1/4 cup chopped pitted green olives
zest of 1 lemon
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, optional
Serve with marcona almonds.