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Make Your Cheese Plate 100x More Exciting in Minutes

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With precisely one additional step, your cheese plate that reads “I unwrapped this cheese” can turn into an appetizer that looks like you used a recipe! But really, you just put that cheese in the oven. Maybe you added some toppings, but that’s only if you really want to show off.

Photo by Mark Weinberg

Here’s how to make baked cheese dip for however many people, with whatever kind of cheese, for any sort of party:

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Which Dish?

This appetizer can be made in a big dish for everyone to scoop into (all at once), or it can be divvied up to individual dishes. You’re going for a dish (or many) that are suitable for the oven and have a lip—but not too high of a lip or the cheese will have a harder time getting tan from the heat. Like these:

Pillivuyt Oval Eared Roasting Dishes (Set of 2)

Pillivuyt Oval Eared Roasting Dishes (Set of 2)

$65
Oval Nesting Ramekins (Set of 6)

Oval Nesting Ramekins (Set of 6)

$110
Staub Oval Roasting Dishes

Staub Oval Roasting Dishes

From $99
Round Tart Dish Bundle

Round Tart Dish Bundle

$71

The Cheese Aisle

There are a lot of really fancy cheeses you could put under the broiler if you wanted to melt your money away (get it!), but here, it’s better to go with more standard cheese options. You can buy lots, mound it into a dish, and simply throw it into the oven.

Here are our top picks—you’ll see that some are soft enough to scoop while others shred. You may need to fuss with some of them to prep them for the oven, but more on that below. You can also mix cheeses—soft with hard, soft with soft. Go for it!

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  • Ricotta: Mound into the pan.
  • Fontina: Cube and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Goat cheese: Dump into the baking dish.
  • Feta: While it won’t melt, it will sigh and warm—and it’s a whole lot easier to find than halloumi.
  • Brie: The whole wheel, in the dish, in the oven.
  • Mozzarella: Sliced, with fillings (see ideas below) between each layer of slices.
  • Blue cheese: Stick the whole hard-rinded wheel into the oven. Or, crumble and add some creaminess (see below).
  • Parmesan: Grate and mix with some added creaminess (see below).
Photo by Mark Weinberg

Smooth Stuff

Some of the harder cheeses—such as blue cheese and Parmesan, need creaminess added so they’re more of a dip and less of a pile of melted cheese. This could come from any number of ingredients: You could use one or a combination of sour cream, mayo, cream cheese, and half and half. You want to add enough so that it makes the mixture stirrable but not soupy.

Add-Ons or Ins

Before your cheese goes into the oven, it could use some extra stuff swirled in: herbs, sautéed onions or garlic, tomato sauce, olives, sun-dried tomatoes. If you can part with a broiled cheese top to your dip, you could add on some tomatoes or sliced mushrooms with olive oil—they’ll cook under the heat of the broiler.

Thing is, all these things could also be used to top the cheese once it comes out of the oven. It allows people to customize their baked cheese, especially if you’re going for individual ramekins. Set out a set of toppings and let people go at them. Here, we decided our friends would really like the mushroom confit and balsamic brown butter from the forthcoming cookbook Around the Fire, so we put it over the whole dish. Our friends did not complain.

You could also take your toppings sweet—roasted fruit with honey, toasted nuts, nuts in a honey syrup, jam. Then again, you could also leave your cheese unadorned. It’s a dish of melted cheese.

Baked Ricotta with Mushroom Confit and Balsamic Brown Butter
Baked Ricotta with Mushroom Confit and Balsamic Brown Butter

Broiling Business

Some baked cheese recipes will have you bake the dish between 350 and 400° F so it gets all the cheese very well melted, but does the top brown? I’m not convinced. Broiling it means you have to watch it a little closer, but you get a melty inside and molten top in a matter of minutes—okay, maximum 20 minutes for a large dish.

If I was working on a cheese plate, 20 minutes in I’d still be at the cheese store, pretending I could decide between Valençay and Bûcheron. But instead...

Photo by Mark Weinberg

What's your go-to party appetizer! If it's not cheese, we'll need to talk.

Tags: cheese, dip