Let's be honest; the turkey you planned to serve by 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving will probably not be done until the sun sets. To keep hungry guests from dipping into the side dishes or from imbibing too many mimosas predinner, you must make the ultimate cheese plate. Here's what you need to remember when buying and serving the cheese and its accompaniments.
- Pick a variety: When going to a cheesemonger, explain how many people you are serving, so he can help you with portioning. Ask for a variety of cheeses (cow, goat, and sheep) with different textures. Soft, crumbly goat cheese; oozy brie; semisoft manchego (sheep's milk); aged dutch gouda; and hard parmesan reggiano are mild, crowd-winning options. Consider buying at least one pungent and strong cheese, too, like a blue cheese, for serious cheese-lovers.
- Choose accompaniments: Consult the cheesemonger for recommended cheese pairings. Toasted walnuts, honey, figs, fruit preserves, and even caramel (as we recently learned!) go well with cheese. Don't forget to consider cheese-wine pairings, as well.
- Find a thin cracker: Save the yeasty breads for the main Thanksgiving dinner. You don't want to fill up on bread, after all. Instead, serve the cheese plate with thin crackers like Carr's, Raincoast Crisps, or 34 Degrees Crispbreads.
- Let the cheese come to room temperature: The complex flavors of cheese taste best when they are served at room temperature. Several hours before guests arrive, take the cheeses out of the fridge, and let them rest on the countertop until they're no longer cool to the touch.
- Spread on a cheeseboard: Use a large wooden cutting board or a stone slab to lay out the cheese from mildest to strongest. Between each cheese, place fruits, nuts, and crackers to create dividers. Make sure each cheese has its own knife so that no one double-dips into separate cheeses!