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Cheese Plate How-To

The Martha Stewart Show, November 2009

When planning your next dinner party, try delicious cheeses for an irresistible appetizer. Liz Thorpe, vice president of New York City's acclaimed Murray's Cheese, has some valuable tips for preparing the ultimate cheese plate.

Begin by selecting three to five cheeses, in a portion size of approximately an ounce per person per cheese. Try for a range of milks; ideally, cow, goat, and sheep should be represented. Then, look at the style of the cheese -- is there something runny, stinky, firm, and nutty included?

Be sure to pre-cut the cheese for your guests to avoid awkward fumbling. Cheese should be served room temperature. If you like, slice the cheese while cold, and then set it out an hour before you plan on serving. And remember to keep the accompaniments simple -- a few seasonal fruits will work perfectly. Try stone fruits in summer and apples and pears in fall and winter.

If you have leftovers, store them in parchment paper or wax paper with plastic wrap. Keep in mind that they should be eaten within a week as most cheeses do not store well in the home.

Recommended Cheeses
Blue Ledge Crottina
A mild goat milk cheese in the style of Brie, Blue Ledge Crottina is buttery and rich. Learn More

Consider Bardwell Dorset
Pungent and meaty with bacon-esque undertones, Dorset is a semisoft cows' milk cheese that gets washed in salt brine to develop its gorgeous orange exterior. Learn More

Willow Hill Autumn Oak
As one of fewer than 20 sheep cheesemakers in the entire country, Willow Hill Farm makes this firm cheese seasonally. It has a dense, fatty texture and an approachable, mellow flavor. Be careful not to overwhelm this cheese with strong pairings -- Liz recommends slices of crisp pear or honeycrisp apples. Learn More

Thistle Hill Tarentaise
Like the great Alpine cheeses of France and Switzerland, Tarentaise is an organic cows' milk cheese aged for many months, with a recipe based on a cheese called Abondance. Expect a firm texture and lingering tropical fruit flavors. Liz recommends pairing with dried cherries or something equally tart. Learn More

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue
The intense flavor of blue cheese is excellent for ending a cheese plate. Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen has a smooth, fudgy texture and edible rind. The traditional pairing here is a sweet wine, such as Port or Sauternes. A drizzle of honey can also play the part. Learn More

For more information, check out "The Cheese Chronicles," by Liz Thorpe.

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