The American Easter celebration is right around the corner… literally, it is only a couple days away! If you are anything at all like myself, you know that you need to contribute something to your family’s Easter dinner. But if you work in retail (or any other job that gets excessively busy during a holiday) you want that contribution to be delicious but as simplified as possible. My solution to this conundrum is to bring, of course, a spring-themed cheese plate: a perfect appetizer that I can put together quickly but am also confident my family will love! There are some perks to being the cheese plate maker in the family, my contribution is different every year, at every holiday. It’s not the same old green bean casserole each and every time (although I do love the green bean casserole so please don’t be offended, Mom)!
When I do a cheese plate for my family, which includes small children and a few picky eaters, I try to do a mixture of all different types of milks and textures. I have a grandma and sister who love all things cheese related, but then I also have the sister who is a bit more picky, plus the relatives who will not touch a goat cheese no matter what! I do not have a very large crowd for this particular holiday gathering, so I am keeping the cheese plate a bit smaller than normal and adding in some accompaniments like candied pecans and Medjool dates. I also would normally do a mixture of milks, but I’m sticking strictly to cow’s milk for this plate, as only one other person in my family eats goat’s or sheep’s milk cheeses (we are working on that right now, but I don’t want to shock them on a holiday with anything too strange for their developing palettes).
I have discussed in prior posts that you can use a basic cheese on your cheese plate for those picky eaters and kids. In this instance, I am recommending Castello Reserve Aged Havarti. This is a nice option because it’s a basic cheese to some extent, but it’s not just another cheddar. I have seen both kids and adults pick this up after tasting it, so it’s a general crowd-pleaser that may lead people to try other new things. This cheese is aged 9 months, made from cow’s milk, and it is incredibly buttery, but at the same time you also experience a perfect balance of salty, sweetness with a full-bodied tanginess. It is not bitter at all, but rather perfectly sharp.
I love to put a good French bloomy rind on my Easter cheese plate as well. Right now I am adoring Brillat-Savarin, which is aged no longer than 3 weeks. This is a triple-cream cheese made from cow’s milk with a creamy, smooth texture. It is a decadent choice for any cheese plate. Brillat-Savarin is milky, you will get a taste of salt and butter, but with the slightest note of lemon on the finish. Place some Medjool dates around this cheese on your cheese plate to help balance out the saltiness of this cheese.
I’m going out on a limb with my picky eaters, but a blue cheese is definitely going on my Easter cheese plate. My choice this time around is Roth Käse Buttermilk Blue which is from Wisconsin and won the World Championship Cheese Contest best of class award for Blue Cheese in 2014. This is a raw milk blue cheese will crumble a bit, but because they use high-quality raw milk, the taste and texture are creamy. You’ll definitely know that you are eating a blue cheese, but the blue does not overwhelm the flavor of the base cheese. It is a tangy, bold blue, yet it holds back a little so that you are not overwhelmed by the pungent flavor that the blue veining imparts. Put some candied pecans (I love the ones from Treat Bake Shop in Wisconsin) around this cheese on your cheese plate for a perfect pairing. The sweetness of the candied pecans will compliment the salty, pungent flavors of the blue.
Treat Bake Shop
As for the accompaniments for this cheese plate, I am going to do some fresh fruit like strawberries and grapes. I add Medjool dates to go with the Brillat-Savarin, and I’ll scatter some candied pecans around the Buttermilk Blue. For these cheeses in particular, a small basket with artisan bread and water crackers will do the trick. Since i’s spring and we have blue cheese on the plate, I’ll also put out a little pot of local honey for anyone who wants to use it (I personally think it goes best with blue cheese).
I like to keep my Easter choices simple because in our family we focus more on dinner than appetizers, but you can always add in some sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses to the plate if you need a bit more for the size of your crowd. Purple Haze is a personal favorite of mine for a goat’s milk cheese selection this time of year, since the wild fennel pollen and lavender just scream spring (for a more in-depth exploration of this cheese please see a previous blog entitled: Lazy, Hazy Sunday Cheese). A great sheep’s milk option is Idiazabal which will bring in a bit more of an aged, slightly smoky flavor.
But no matter what choices you make for your Easter cheese plate, it’ll be an exciting adventure for everyone who gets to taste it! After all, it’s not just another green bean casserole on the table!
Photo Credit: Featured image courtesy of New Evolution Designs