How to create a gourmet cheese plate

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A cheese plate can be so much more than cheddar cubes with toothpicks. Here, Terrance Brennan, chef-proprietor of New York's Picholine and Artisanal Restaurants, shows you how to create a gourmet cheese plate. See instructions below for the names of all the cheeses.

How to create a gourmet cheese plate
  • Plan on providing two to three ounces of cheese for each person you are serving.
  • Select a minimum of 3 to 5 different types of cheeses. He recommends artisanal cheeses — cheeses that are handcrafted in small quantities by craftspeople and artisans. However, gourmet artisanal cheeses may be hard to find locally. If you don't have a gourmet cheese shop in your area, you can obtain cheeses online.
  • Choose unusual cheeses made from different types of milk that will intrigue and delight your guests. Cheeses made from cow's milk, goat's milk and sheep's milk are used here. Cheeses used by Terrance Brennan here were:
           Monte Enebro, Clacbitou, Azeitão, Hoch YBrig, Fougerus, Roquefort
  • Also consider adding up to two different types of salad or wash rind cheeses to your platter. Cheeses such as blue or Camembert. (Wash-rind cheeses are surface-washed in brine or alcohol to encourage the growth of bacteria. Washed-rind cheeses are potent and pungent!)
  • Allow at least 2 hours for the cheeses to come to room temperature — this is critical to fully bring out their flavors and aromas.
  • Arrange your cheeses from strongest to mildest, starting at the left of a rectangular platter, or at the 12 o'clock position of a round platter.
  • Serve with walnut bread or French baguette, figs and dates, fruit paste or chutney — especially if your are serving a hearty cheese like sharp cheddar on your cheese platter.
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Hello, I’m Terrence Brennen with howdini.com I’m the chef proprietor of Picholine and artesian restaurants here in Manhattan N.Y. And today I’m going to share with you how to compose a cheese plate. Both my restaurants are very well known for the artesional cheese plates that they serve. In fact, my restaurant Artesional has a cheese shop right inside the restaurant. So I am what you call a cheese head. And the cheese course is becoming very, very popular in restaurants today, and any restaurant worth his grain of salt has to have a cheese course.

        So what to think about when composing your cheese plate! There are basically three different types milk, sheep, cow, and goat. Goat cheese, this is a Monte Enebro from Spain; it is a very firm, pecan type of cheese. And this is a Clacbitou from the French Peonies, aged about three months in this beautiful little cylinder. And it’s a very pungent goat cheese. Next we are going to Azeitao; this is a very kind of runny cheese. I call it spoon able, where you actually cut the top off of this and spoon it out. This is a sheet-smelt cheese from Portugal. And then we have Hoch Ybrig, which is a cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland; this is a mountain cheese like Comte or Gruyere type of cheese. Then we have Frugerus, which is in the bloominryne family like the canterberes and everyone knows Brie. This is similar to Brie but not in the Brie district, but is a very creamy, same texture as Brie, and has a lovely fern as a garnish. Then we have the great cheese of Roquefort, this is a sheets milk cheese, sometimes the blue cheese’s are made with cow’s milk, salty, crumbly, love this. The classic combination is what soft turns. 

        You want to make sure that you purchase artesional cheeses. What are artesional cheeses? They are cheeses that are made by craftsmen, by small farms, made in small batches of very high quality, great milk, made with integrity, passion, and love. And you really taste the difference in these cheeses.

So now we have our categories, now we want to compose our cheese plate. So I like to do three to five cheeses on a cheese plate. So I like to include at least two different kinds of milk, and then two different styles of cheese, being a blue, or a firm, or a washryne cheese. Um, so, in composing that you want to do two the three ounces f cheese per person, and I’ve assembled five cheeses here. This is a slice of the Monte Enebro, this is the Azeitao, and this is the Frugerus, the Hoch Ybrie, and the Roquefort.

What’s really important is that we serve these cheeses at room temperature. Very, very important because it allows all these wonderful aromas and flavors to come through. If you serve it ice cold out of the box it retards al these flavors, and not good for the cheeses. Then you want to serve them left to right, or if you are on a round plate, start at twelve o’clock, clockwise, the mildest to the strongest. Because you don’t want to start with the blue cheese then try something like the Frugerus, which would the blue cheese would overpower that and you would miss all those little nuances and flavors. So, start left to right strongest to mildest, mildest to strongest, um, then an often question asked is; what do you serve with those cheeses. I’m a purist so I would just eat this a fork and knife, but many, many people enjoy it with some bread, walnut bread or a baguette. Some garnish’s here we have, fig and walnut, a fig and walnut cake, a dried fig and walnut cake that’s pressed and made from Spain. Montenebro which is these little, there kind of like a big tannic apple that you have to cook, cook down to a caramel like this and made into a fruit paste. These beautiful mutual dates from California. And then we make out own chutney here that goes great with some of the harder cheeses, and some cheddars.

         Well here it is, here’s my perfect cheese plate, I’ve covered a couple different milk’s, a couple different textures. I have soft, firm, gooey, and I always have a blue on my cheese platter. What I also love about entertaining with cheese is how easy and sophisticated it is. The hardest thing you have to remember is to pull it out of the refrigerator two hours before you want to serve it. And that’s entertaining with cheese; I’m Terrence Brenner for howdini.com.            

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meet theexpert
  • Terrance Brennan

    Terrance Brennan Celebrity Chef Terrance Brennan is the Chef-Proprietor of Picholine Restaurant and Artisanal Bistro and Wine Bar and the founder of Artisanal Premium Cheese, a wholesale and online gourmet cheese company and education center. more about this expert »

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