When Mini Me was little, I used to lay in bed with her until she fell asleep. Now that she’s a little older, I’ll still sit in bed with her, but instead of reading a bedtime story, she plays games on her phone and I write blog posts on my laptop. Tonight, as I tucked myself in next to her with my computer on my lap, I stared at this blank page which only had three words – Holiday Cheese Board. A few minutes went by and Mini Me asked, “You don’t know what to write?” I explained, “Sometimes it’s hard to get started.” Which I guess is fitting, because when you don’t know where to start, a cheese board is typically a good idea. So we’ll start with this Holiday Cheese Board!
After all, we’re only a few days away from Christmas, and our Christmas dinners always start with a cheese board. I try not to go overboard with our starters on Christmas because of the massive dinner that’s ahead. Our go-to starters on Christmas Day are bacon-wrapped shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and a Holiday Cheese Board. I’ll set everything out by the tree so that everyone can graze at their leisure while unwrapping gifts and playing our annual White Elephant game. It’s fun to create different flavor combinations with the various crackers and breads, cheeses and jams. No two bites need ever be alike!
The Hard Cheeses
So let’s dive into this Holiday Cheese Board piece by piece, shall we? And the first thing I’m going for every time is the aged Gouda. I’m just a sucker for that sharp, nutty flavor and those salty crystals. Beemster’s Paradiso is my absolute favorite. If you can’t find Paradiso, anything from Beemster is a solid bet. Keeping with the sharp and firm category, we’ve got a Pecorino Romano. You may only associate Pecorino Romano with the kind you grate over pasta or pizza. But I really love slicing it into wedges in the winter time and drizzling it with honey, or taking it in the same bite as a praline pecan. As satisfying as it is grated over a big bowl of pasta is as indulgent as it is when you enjoy it by the slice.
Speaking of indulgent, a cave-aged Gruyere is a must around the holidays, and all winter long. I use this cheese so much during the colder months – it melts beautifully onto grilled sandwiches and into mac and cheese, and it’s especially lovely when served in it’s simplest form, atop a buttery cracker with a bit of whole grain mustard. The best!
The Soft Cheeses
A Holiday Cheese Board wouldn’t be complete without a creamy brie. Brie really gets a chance to shine during the holidays, as it pairs so beautifully with other seasonal flavors like cranberry and candied nuts. Depending on the brie you choose, you’ll get a mild, buttery flavor or something more earthy, mushroomy and borderline stinky, like this Moses Sleeper you see here. If you like a more complex cheese, this is the one for you.
For something more classically French, there’s Camembert. It’s that little disc of cheese you see here, topped with fresh persimmon and pomegranate arils. So smooth, creamy and luscious, it’s ideal to spread onto fresh baguette slices and a gorgeous companion for seasonal fruits. My favorite is Le Pico.
And speaking of seasonal fruits, how can we not include a cranberry-wrapped goat cheese on a Holiday Cheese Board? In fact, it may be the only time of year when it’s a good idea. It’s certainly the least fancy of all the players on the field, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in festiveness. Even your least foodie friend will enjoy it, as it’s a mild flavor with a touch of sweetness that everyone can get into.
As with any cheese board, get creative and be generous with the seasonal accoutrements. For this Holiday Cheese Board, I used persimmons, cranberries, pomegranate, blood oranges and red grapes. I also love praline pecans this time of year, so I added some to the board along with some chocolate-covered espresso beans. Have fun with various shapes and textures when it comes to crackers and breads. And get ready to celebrate! Happy Holidays!
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Aged Gouda cheese
- Cave-aged Gruyere cheese
- Camembert cheese
- Brie cheese
- Cranberry-wrapped goat cheese
- Raw honey
- Fig preserves
- Seasonal fruits: persimmon, blood orange, pomegranate
- Praline pecans, chocolate-covered espresso beans
- Assorted crackers, flatbreads and baguettes