In the UK, New Year's Eve tends to focus on having a night out or some drinks with friends and family to see in the new year but there usually isn't a big lavish meal involved. In France, the New Year's Eve meal is just as important, if not more so, than the Christmas one so it's a four or five course meal that lasts for hours. It usually involves a starter - foie gras or smoked salmon are popular - followed by some sort of meat (lots of people eat game, such as venison, wild boar or guinea fowl) then a cheese board and finally a dessert. Sometimes, you get extra courses thrown in for good measure - a hot starter and a cold starter, ice cream and then Yule log or (one that quite appeals to me !) what they call a "trou normand" (a Norman hole !) - a scoop of apple sorbet covered with Calvados (apple brandy) that is designed to help you digest halfway through the meal ! If you like the idea of a French-style cheeseboard but don't know where to start, here is some advice from Port Salut - a French cheese that I'll be telling you more about in the New Year.
Ten Tips for the New Year’s Eve or Party Cheeseboard
End a dinner party in style this festive season and earn yourself a reputation for creating a truly memorable cheeseboard with the help of Port Salut and cheese expert Juliet Harbutt. Here’s her top ten tips for pulling together a show-stopping centre piece.
• A slate or marble cheeseboard, decorated with a few autumnal leaves and berries is great for making a lasting impression
• Ideally a cheeseboard should include five to ten cheese from the seven different types, but don’t over cater – allow approximately 75-100g per person
• Offer a range of shapes – logs, wedges, cylinders, squares – and cut blocks of cheese into different shapes for an attractive finish
• Try to provide a separate knife for each type of cheese so that more guests can help themselves at once and there is less cross contamination of flavours
• Ideally buy cheeses you have tasted and had cut at the deli from the original cheese, or buy pre-pack cheeses as near to their best before date as possible for the best taste
• Before serving ensure all the cheeses have come to room temperature – a slither will take 5 minutes and whole Brie will take at least an hour so best to serve similar sized portions
• If you are lucky enough to have a whole or half Stilton don’t pour Port into it; rather than adding to the taste of either, it is an old tradition used for style not taste
• Ideal accompaniments to the cheeseboard include: oat cakes, rustic breads, pickled walnuts, savoury, mildly spiced chutneys, mixed nuts, dried fruit or fresh apples or pears
• As well as wine, beer & cider also go very well with most types of cheese so encourage guests to have fun experimenting with their pairings
• Impress your friends and family with your newly acquired expertise with these quick facts:
• 95% of cheeses are suitable for vegetarians
• Stilton is just one of 90 British blue cheeses on the market
Visit the Port Salut website at www.portsalut.co.uk for Juliet’s downloadable cheese guide, listing all her cheese recommendations for the perfect dinner party cheese board.
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