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The Good Curd: Holiday Cheese Platters

Illustration by  Cate Andrews.

Illustration by Cate Andrews.

Welcome to The Good Curd, where each month we’ll uncover and expound upon the myriad delights of cheese. Julia Ricciardi and Brett Bankson explore cultured cream in all its glory—creamy Brillat-Savarin, salty Pecorino, funky Maroilles, crumbly paneer, freshly made Burrata, or three years-aged Gouda. The forms and characteristics of cheese are as varied and intricate as the cuisines that utilize it and the folks who make it. (Did you know that women play a key role in cheese history in the U.S.A?) This series will explore women who make the stuff, as well as reviews, pairing suggestions, and tips for selecting the best cheese for any occasion.

Photo by Julia Ricciardi

Photo by Julia Ricciardi

Warm cider. Peppermint. Sage, rosemary, and parsley. Onions sweating in a big stockpot on my grandmother’s stove. Tom and Jerry cocktails. Everyone can name an aroma that captures the holiday experienceand for most of us, cheese doesn’t top the list. But this holiday season, we invite you to spread the good curd. Whether you’re celebrating Chanukah, the winter solstice, Christmas, or Eat All the Delicious Things Day (like me!), we’ve compiled a few cheese platter options to help you round out your menu. Cheeses listed are just suggestionsit's always a good idea to talk with your cheesemonger about what's really ripe at the moment, and what special cheeses they might have in stock this time of year. 

Boozy Bash

Maybe you are excited about the holidays because they offer a good excuse to drink enough to ignore the state of your bank account, or to forget that seven hour layover. Mike, the assistant cheese master at my local shop, suggests an alcohol-inspired spreadperfect for subduing family drama or for an informal cocktail party with friends.

Kerrygold whiskey cheddar punchy flavor, firm texture
Merlot BellaVitano nutty flavor with mild fruit notes
Drunken Goat a little bit of grassy tang from the goat milk, smooth
Your favorite washed-rind cheese

An open liquor cabinet, standard cocktail garnishes (olives are great with nearly all kinds of cheese), pickles of all varieties (including pickled cherries and asparagus), cured meats, a big loaf of crusty bread

Cookies and Cream

Cheese is just as welcome as part of the dessert table as it is on the appetizer traysometimes more so. We highly recommend refraining from that third helping of mashed potatoes so you can enjoy these combinations with your final course.

We’ve sampled each of these cheeses with a wide range of holiday desserts and they were pretty unbelievable in nearly all combinations. Cheddar is great with apple. Blue cheeses are delectable with honey and pear. Tangy goat cheeses are a great foil to cloyingly sweet treats. Alpine-style cheeses like Challerhocker or Gruyere tend to have a nutty flavor that goes nicely with spiced cookies. But really, just trust usif you're adventurous with your choices, you’ll be rewarded.

Your favorite extra sharp cheddar
Buche de Tradition aged goat milk cheese with a dense, tacky texture
Challerhocker firm, undertones of mace or nutmeg
Fresh chèvre pillowy, tart
Fourme d’Ambert semi-firm blue cheese

Cookies; apple, pear, pumpkin, and/or cherry pie; dessert wines; spicy hot cocoa; dates or figs; honey; persimmon

Old School

If you’re planning to start your turkey brine three days in advance, or to peel enough potatoes to make 600 latkes, you might want to opt for a more understated cheese platter. The cheeses below are crowd-pleasers that can easily be set out for appetizers or on a buffet table for a couple hours.

Collier's Welsh Cheddar a classic, English cheddar
Fromager d'Affinois creamy and mild, this is always a crowd-pleaser
Humboldt Fog widely available, with a fluffy texture, almost like eating snowballs
Cotswold bold and flavorful
Grand Margaux - brie-like, soft and creamy (pictured at the top of the post)

A unique spread or garnish, and of course, crackers or great bread

Happy eating!