Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Make a Fruit and Cheese Plate

This is my new favorite appetizer plate to whip together when I don't have the time to cook. Say, an impromptu happy hour starts at you home and you need something to munch (stat) while you drink. OR, if you are cooking dinner and need something to put out for guests as you make final preparations, the fruit and cheese plate is perfect. It was Ina Garten who I saw do this on TV and I said to myself, that woman is a genius. Who said that everything you serve has to be homemade from scratch? Focus on one main thing and fill in with gorgeous produce and cheese. When you're designing a cheese plate, remember that you're looking to create a balance of flavors and textures.

Keeping texture in mind, I selected spicy candied pecans that I purchased in bulk at HEB. Local and in season is going to be key here when selecting your ingredients. I'm using local Texas Hill Country honey, but only a smidgen. The bosc pear is going to bring plenty of natural sweetness and spice to this plate. Bosc are an elegant variety, with distinctive characteristics that set them apart from other pears. I like their crunchy yet tender flesh and their sweet-spiced flavor. A common misconception is that Bosc pears need to be peeled or cooked before being eaten, and that’s simply not true. Those who have not tried a Bosc would most likely be surprised... and pleased that the brown skin hides a delicious, spicy and slightly firmer flesh. Check usapears.com for recipes and more facts about all types of pears.

This plate was serving a small group, but if you have several people you are creating the fruit and cheese platter for, you should consider adding a few more cheeses. Vary by type, adding a cow's milk and a goat's milk, and vary by texture, something hard like manchego and/or something soft like brie.
 
The star of the show is hands down this Humboldt Fog cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre. It is at the top of my favorites list at the moment. I looooooove goat milk cheeses, and this has a thin stip down the middle, reminiscent of a mild blue. Anyone who has tried it I'm sure will second my high opinion of this cheese.



Humboldt Fog is an elegant, soft, surface ripened cheese. The texture is creamy and luscious with a subtle tangy flavor. Each handcrafted wheel features a ribbon of edible vegetable ash along its center and a coating of ash under its exterior to give it a distinctive, cake-like appearance. An American Original! I love the soft gooey part near the rind.

For this simple yet elegant snack (or dessert) serve with honeycomb, pears, and a crisp white wine. This is absolutely sublime atop a delicious salad of spinach, apple, mandarin oranges, walnuts, cranberries, and red bell pepper. Drizzle with raspberry-balsamic vinaigrette! Humboldt Fog pairs nicely with wild mushrooms and other earthy flavors as well.

I added freshly cracked black pepper on top the honey, just a touch!


The final plate is well balanced between sweet, spicy and tangy, with both crunchy and soft textures. If fresh quality fruits are not available, add some quality dried fruits or maybe a fig jam.


Below are a few classic pairings of wine and cheese, and the fruits that complement them. The information is sorted by cheese categories; not all of them, heavens, there are too many to list. This list will get you started though.
 
Soft, Fresh Cheeses are uncooked, unripened cheeses, mild and creamy with a slight tang; spreadable.
Types are: Cream Cheese, Mascarpone, Neufchatel
Drink: Champagne
Eat: Apples, Grapes, Pears, Mangos, Melons

Soft, Ripened Cheeses and mild with smooth and creamy-to-oozy textures and thin skins.
Types are: Brie, Camembert
Drink: Beaujolais, Cabernet Sauvignon, Champagne, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Port, Sherry
Eat: Plums, Berries, Apples

Semi-Soft Cheeses are mild, buttery taste and smooth texture; easily sliced.
Type: Fontina
Drink: Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio
Eat: Apples, Pears

Semi-Hard Cheeses are rich, nutty, often mild flavors with textures from smooth to holey to flaky.
Types are Cheddar, Edam, Gouda
Drink: Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling
Eat: Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Pears

There is a VERY long list here in an easy to read spreadsheet if you want more guidance on pairings. FYI, if you are in Austin and love cheese, you absolutely must go check out Antonelie’s Cheese Shop. It’s fantabulous.


Party on party people!

2 comments:

  1. I want some of that Humbolt Fog cheese please!! I've had a few other Cypress Grove cheese, LOVED them! Awesome tips on fruit & cheese plate assembly. Makes me want to have a wine tasting party!

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  2. That looks unbelievably delicious! Great Post! Thanks SO much for your sweet comment on my blog and I hope you get to come back and visit again soon!

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