Did I mention I work in cheese? If not, allow me to inform you that I am currently employed in the specialty department of my local Whole Foods Market, which means that on any given day, I can usually be found cutting, wrapping, cooking, tasting and more generally, playing with many, many, MANY different kinds of cheese. This is also why I believe that cheese is the perfect way to start or end any meal. So does Joy the Baker.
On Thanksgiving, dinner is undoubtedly the main focus, so it makes sense to keep your appetizer course simple and light. Besides, you wouldn't want your turkey getting upset when dinner rolls around and your guests are already full, would you? I didn't think so.
In this lovely blog post about enjoying cheese as a starter, Joy Wilson gives some great tips for not only what types of cheese to serve, but also what to serve them with. And trust me, all of her recommendations are right on.
I love Joy's idea of using a crinkled up paper bag as the surface to serve your cheese on. It's rustic, perfect for what you're serving and makes for really easy clean-up. You can also use a wooden board, a piece of parchment paper or a nice platter. Joy recommends using four or five cheeses, which allows for a great variety. On Thanksgiving you could probably get away with doing three cheeses, simply because there will be so much other food throughout the day. I usually tell people to go with a brie, a blue and a hard cheese. For Thanksgiving, a fresh chèvre with dried cranberries and orange zest is also always appropriate.
One of my favorite blues out there is the one Joy recommends, which is wrapped in grape leaves and is pungent and flavorful. I always tell people who are looking for something to pair with blue cheese, that honey is the best option. Like Joy explains, the sweetness of the honey will balance out the intensity of the blue for the perfect sweet-savory combo. For the hard cheese, you will have tons of options. You can go with Joy's vibrant cheddar-cherry pairing, a nutty aged manchego with tart quince paste or even classic Gruyere with a sweet onion jam. For the brie, you can keep it simple by serving it with some interesting crackers, or go all out and get one with truffles, like Joy said.
Her pickle and chickpea recipes are simple and elegant and make for the perfect salty nibbles to balance out all that rich, cheesy goodness. You can also grab some olives (meaty, bright-green Castelvetranos are my favorite) and slice a French baguette and you'll be ready to go. Your guests will love being able to mix and match their cheeses, crackers and spreads and everyone will be excited to try things they've never had before. So go ahead, say cheese! Like I said, your turkey will thank you.