Cheese and cracker trays are popular appetizers at parties, events and dinners. Cheese and crackers are a classic combination and an easy to eat and serve appetizer. Often, they are simple platters with a small selection of cheeses and crackers. To make your cheese and cracker tray spectacular, vary the types of cheeses, add garnishes and arrange the platter in a visually interesting way.
Create a selection of cheeses that vary in texture and flavor. A high-quality white cheddar cheese is a classic choice and will provide a tangy bite to the cheese plate. Smoked gouda and a wedge of brie are mild, creamy cheeses that complement fruits and nuts very well. For a sampling of stronger cheese, choose a blue cheese, cubes of feta or marinated mozzarella. A spreadable cheese like boursin is a nice addition as well. Cut some of cheeses into cubes, such as the feta and gouda. Slice and cube the cheddar cheese and leave the brie, blue cheese and mozzarella whole. Provide a cheese knife for your guests to slice and spread their cheese.
A variety of crackers can add visual dimension as well as different flavors. Provide water crackers for a simple, mild option. Sesame crackers and rice crackers have unusual textures and unexpected flavors. Butter crackers are traditional option and come in many different flavors, such as herb, peppered and sesame. Always have extra crackers, as some of your guests will snack on just the crackers rather than the cheese.
Fruits and Garnishes
The accompaniments you add to your cheese platter make the difference between a standard arrangement and an unexpected, exciting one. Provide small bowls with apricot jam and raspberry preserves. Both apricots and raspberries complement creamy mild cheeses very well. A small bowl of honey can often provide a surprising element, especially when combined with strong cheeses like feta. Slice pears and apples and toss them with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. Provide a selection of nuts as well, such as walnuts, cashews and pecans, to provide another textural element. You can also provide slices of salami, a jar of caviar or a plate of smoked fish for a fancy, larger platter.
Arranging the Platter
When you are arranging your cheese tray, keep in mind that it has to be both visually interesting and easy for your guests to eat from. Arrange the crackers as a border around the tray. Supply small bowls or plates next to the main platter with extra crackers, instead of having the cracker boxes out on display. Line up the sliced cheeses and cubes of cheese next to the crackers. Place small assortments of fruits around the platter and place the nuts in the center. Set the bowls of jams and honeys next to the platter and arrange the spreading cheeses and soft cheeses in the center part of the cheese tray. Fill in any areas with meats and caviar.
Marie Price is a freelance food, arts and gardening writer. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute of Fine Arts in Brooklyn, NY where she studied painting and art history. She also has many years experience with catering and baking. She currently works as a marketing director and technical writer at a nursery, where she also uses her knowledge of plants.
Nick Richards/Demand Media