If you are planning on hosting an extravagant dinner party, a cheese board is an easy addition to a meal that makes a big impact. But you may be wondering if a cheese board is supposed to be served as an appetizer or as a dessert. Fortunately, we have done thorough research on this topic and have the answer here for you.
Because cheese is very high in calories and rich in flavor, it can ruin one's appetite if served as a starter. Traditionally, the French serve the cheese course after the main course but before dessert, whereas the British serve it after dessert. Here in the States, we have no cheese course etiquette to follow; therefore, you could reasonably serve your cheese course as an entree or even as dessert.
We encourage you to continue to read the rest of this article to understand why a cheese board is served during a certain course in the meal. We'll suggest what to serve with a cheese board, and how to transform your cheese board into either a main course or dessert. We even included a few tips on how to serve Brie cheese properly. Read on to learn more about the intricacies of a cheese board.
When to serve a cheese course?
In America, we consume cheese as an appetizer, snack, or even as a grilled sandwich. Europeans do not have the same eating habits as us, and therefore have a different perspective on cheese.
Since most French cheeses are quite rich, eating them before a meal could spoil your appetite. Instead, the cheese course is served after dinner and can aid in digestion.
If you want to stick to the French method of serving cheese, it should be offered after the main course but before dessert. You could also serve the cheese course at the end of your meal.
What comes first cheese or dessert?
In France, the food follows the wine. What this means is that wines are paired with certain foods to elevate the flavors of both. Most main courses will be served with red wine, and cheese is then served with the leftover wine. It's all washed down with a dessert course paired with sweet wine.
Meanwhile, the British serve cheese after dessert. This practice stems from ladies historically experiencing a three-course meal, culminating with dessert. They would then withdraw to the drawing-room, and the men would continue with cheese, cigars, and fortified wine. Eventually, the cheese course transformed into the final course of a four-course meal.
Since America broke away from British traditions when we declared our independence in 1776, there are no rules to follow when serving the cheese course. If you want to serve a cheese board as an appetizer, main course, or dessert, there are no cheese police to stop you.
Is a cheese board an entree?
By itself, a cheese board could not be considered a main course. Typically, most cheese boards are comprised of three to five different types of cheese and a small spattering of accompaniments, such as crackers and jams. However, if you want to make your cheese platter an entree, it is possible with the addition of several food groups.
So that the cheese board is filling, you’ll want to add ingredients that contain protein, such as salami or prosciutto. The addition of carbohydrates such as assorted crackers or baguette slices will also help your guests feel more full. Round it out with several fruits and vegetables such as grapes, apples, carrots, and sugar snap peas.
What else goes with a cheese board?
Cheese boards can typically stand alone with a nice variety of different types of cheese. However, there are plenty of other foods that will pair well with any cheese board. These include:
- Cured Meats (Calabrese, Genoa Salami, Iberico Ham, Mortadella, Pepperoni, Proscuitto, Soppressata, Summer Sausage)
- Bread & Crackers (Baguette, Ciabatta, Crispy Breadsticks, Crostini, French Sourdough, Multigrain Crackers, Water Crackers)
- Vegetables (Asparagus, Bell Peppers, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Celery, Cucumber, Green Beans, Radishes, Sweet Mini Peppers, Sugar Snap Peas)
- Fruit (Apple Slices, Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherries, Dates, Dried Apricots, Dried Cranberries, Figs, Green or Red Grapes, Oranges, Pears, Strawberries)
To round out the cheese board, think about other flavor profiles you might want to add, such as sweet, salty, or tangy. Honey, jam, or chutney can bring another sweet element to the platter.
Olives, marinated artichokes, or cornichons deliver a vinegary flavor that helps cut through the full-bodied taste of some cheeses. Surprise elements that can bring your platter to the next level include nuts such as roasted almonds or pistachios, as well as savory dips like hummus or high-quality olive oil.
Do you need to purchase a cheese board but are unsure how big it should be? Read this article to learn what size a cheese board should be.
How do you serve cheese as dessert?
If you want to serve cheese as the final note to your meal, we recommend you start by choosing the right types of cheese. Stick to milder flavored cheeses or those imbued with a fruity essence, such as a goat cheese infused with cranberries. French Brie is a classic dessert cheese, as well.
Accompanying fruits & nuts
Once you have chosen the cheeses, other accompaniments will elevate your cheese board to dessert status. Choosing fresh fruit that is in season will provide a good palate cleanser between cheeses. You can include dried fruits as well. Adding sugared pecans or candied almonds lends a sweet and salty element as well as a nice crunchy texture.
To truly make your cheese board a dessert course, we recommend you add squares of high-quality chocolate. You can choose a variety of chocolates, such as a bar of white chocolate with pistachios, dark chocolate with orange flavoring, or milk chocolate truffles.
Supplement with sweets
We suggest adding interesting accompaniments such as biscotti, donut holes, chocolate chip cookie crisps, or cinnamon raisin bread to really amp up your dessert cheese board.
How do you serve brie on a cheese board?
If you plan to serve a creamy Brie, either as a dessert or with the typical cheese course, there are several steps to follow to ensure your guests enjoy this sumptuous cheese. First of all, it is important to take it out of the refrigerator an hour before serving so that it can come to room temperature. This ensures that the flavor and texture are just right.
Cut into pie-like wedges
You should cut round cheeses like Brie into small triangular wedges. Keep the serving sizes small by slicing the wedges roughly the width of a pencil. On occasion, you will find Brie in a rectangular shape, in which case you should slice the cheese straight across into squares.
Include the rind
You can eat the rind on the Brie cheese, but this is a matter of preference. Encourage your guests to take an entire wedge, and if they don’t wish to eat the rind, they can keep it on their own plate, versus scooping out the insides of the cheese on the cheese board.
Pair with the right knife
If other cheeses are being served, there should be a knife for each cheese or at least a way to wipe the knife between slicing cheeses to avoid cross-contamination. If you’re curious about what type of knife to use for cheese, we encourage you to read this article that answers the question: "What Kind Of Knife Is Best For Cutting Cheese?"
Ultimately there is not a strict rule that you must serve cheese at a specific time during the course of a meal. If you want to host a cocktail party where everyone will be grazing, a cheese board is a good appetizer. We have given you plenty of suggestions, so you know how to transform the cheese course into either an entree or a dessert. Just don’t forget the wine!