Christmas Cheese Course for Beginners?
I have been asked to bring the cheese for Christmas Eve dinner. I have a small family of six and this will be one of several courses. I am adventerous and willing to eat anything once, but not everyone feels the same way I do about stinky cheese:).
Can anyone suggest an ideal cheese selection and approximately how much to bring for six? If I get to the cheese shop without a plan, I'll end up buying some of everything...
Thanks so much!
I go with the "something old, something new, something XXXX, something blue" school.
Old: a hard, aged cheese. An aged gouda (Parrano, Old Amsterdam are some "beginner" ones, Borenkaase or Saekanter are some more "advanced" ones) are good; Manchego, cave-aged Gruyere, a really sharp Cheddar or even a good Parmesan (a revelation for people who've only eaten it grated over pasta).
New: any soft cheese -- I prefer camembert to Brie, and St Andre was another good suggestion. If you want to go more high end, there are some really luscious triple creams, and the mixed-milk cheeses from northern Italy (Langhe robiola, La Tur) are rich and delicious.
Blue -- there are some more accessible blues -- ask your cheese store for a mild, creamy one, a couple of my current favorites are Roaring 40s and Bayley Hazen.
XXX -- the wild card cheese! Here you can either go with a flavored cheese (smoked, something with herbs or fruit, etc.) or a goat or sheep cheese. Humbolt Fog is a great goat cheese that's very popular and accessible.
For six people I'd get between a quarter and a third of pound of each one -- maybe a little more of the softer cheeses, because people tend to cutter bigger pieces. A pound and a half total should be plenty for a course among many other courses.
re: Ruth Lafler
Most recos here are lacking at least one stinky cheese. My plate tonight includes a Bayerischer limburger and a Berthaut Epoisses, with garlic and sesame flatbread. I have a 5- year yellow Wisconsin cheddar (I can't find the 5 year white Grafton, which is extraordinary) with wheat crackers, a Stilton with walnuts and an 85 porto, and a Humbolt Fog wedge with a Layer Cake Shiraz. I'll include a truffle mousse and a duck liver pate and some fresh pear.
This may be too late, but...
I just started reading Cheese Essentials by Laura Werlin. It's very interesting and includes a section on the cheese course, including a few suggestions for combinations of cheese, appropriate bread/cracker, and accompaniments that enhance those particular cheeses.
If you're interested but can't get to the library or bookstore, I could post some.
I always put together a cheese plate for my family at holiday events. My general rule is something blue, something Spanish, something British (for my grandma!), something creamy (brie, camembert, etc.), and something cheddar. I might add something else depending on the number of people coming, but that formula always seems to go over quite well with my family!
I have also been in the situation to put together a cheese plate for non-adventurous eaters. Seriously, they thought a cheese plate consisted of the pre-cut cubes of waxy cheddar and monterrey jack. Here is what they liked (and I enjoyed):
Double Gloucester with Chives
If you want to make it super easy -- but not neccessarily less expensive -- a classic cheese course to top off a great Christmas dinner is a lovely aged Stilton, some walnuts (to be shelled at table, or preshelled halves), and a glass of your favorite port. If the budget allows, it's nice to offer both tawny and ruby port with the Stilton. Ripe crisp pears or apples go well too.
If you're not familiar with Stilton (and forgive me if you are), it's a mild classic blue cheese. Some claim it is the greatest blue in the world, outranking France's Roquefort. A really good Stilton is not "smelly." I find that more "first timers" like Stilton than brie, for example. But give it a taste at your local cheese shop and see what you think. Maybe take along a walnut in your pocket?
There is something magic about the family still gathered around the table, talking and laughing, cracking walnuts with their hands, eating Stilton and sipping port. It's a memory builder!
Here are some that I like, all of which can be found at Trader Joe's and probably Whole Foods...
Aged Gouda, TJ's has one called "Old Amsterdam", which is rich and delish.
Huntsman, is Stilton and Double Glouster layered together. Visually nice, and the Glouster tempers the Stilon, which is strong. Love it!
Manchego, is a nice, nutty cheese that nearly all should love.
Cambozola, is like Brie, crossed with blue cheese. Not too strong, compared to many blues. Soft and spreadable.
Apricot or Cranberry Stilon, is a nice addition. Fruit is added. There is NO blue cheese flavor in my opinion. Tastes like fruit and ricotta that has firmed up and set.
A nice aged cheddar, about 5 years, white or yellow. TJs had a nice white cheddar from New Zealand, I think. Probably not 5 years old, but it's nice.
Emanthaler is a nice, sharp Swiss cheese. Very nice.
That's a start! I do loves me some cheese.