French cheeses are intimidating, but the only way to get to know them is by tasting as many as you can. Let’s walk through 5 different kinds of fromage and talk about what you should pair with them. I’ve also included a shopping list with info on where to buy French cheeses, too. Special thanks to the French Cheese Corner for sponsoring this post!
How to Make a French Cheese Plate
There are over 1,000 different kinds of cheese in France, and that’s an intimidating number for even the most experienced of cheese sluts. How do you navigate all that fromage? It’s much easier if you understand the main categories of cheese: fresh, bloomy, washed, aged, and blue. While there’s a lot of variation within these types, knowing how to categorize a cheese will always give you some idea of how the cheese will taste and what you should pair with it.
Let’s start by introducing you to 5 sultry little French cheeses: Saint André, Saint Albray, Le Cayrol, Esquirrou, and Saint Agur. This lineup represents a variety of types, ages, and milk-types, which is exactly what you’re looking for on a cheese plate.
What Do You Pair with French Cheese?
When it comes to French cheese pairings, you want to keep it classic and simple, so you can focus on the natural flavors in the cheese. Look for compliments, like toasted pistachios and nutty sheep’s milk cheese, and contrasts, like sweet honey and salty blue cheese. Salty charcuterie, cornichon pickles, and fresh fruit are all great additions to a French cheese plate.
Five Sexy French Cheeses
Taste these cheeses by themselves first, then try them with their suggested pairings. Scroll to the bottom of this post for info on where to buy the French cheese listed here.
Bloomy-Rind Cheese: Saint André
Pair with: fresh strawberries
A triple-cream brie like Saint André is one of the most luxurious things that will ever be inside your mouth. It tastes and feels like a hybrid between brie and butter. Because it’s so rich, you need something with a little brightness to zip through all that fat. Fresh strawberries add juicy sweetness and acidity to counter that thick, salty cream.
Washed-Rind Cheese: Saint Albray
Pair with: dijon mustard
While it’s technically not a washed rind, this flower-shaped fromage still has plenty of funk. It’s much more savory than Saint André, with notes of fresh onions and a slightly sweet finish. Dijon mustard brings some tang to the buttery texture and adds a little salty savor, too.
Aged Cheese: Le Cayrol
Pair with: pâté and cornichon
This goat’s milk cheese comes from the Pyrenees in Southern France and has gentle herbaceous notes that complement the porky flavors in pâté. It also brings a lovely toothsome texture, which you need when you’re pairing it with a soft, squishy charcuterie. You’re pairing fat with fat here, so add a little acidity in the form of a cornichon (aka baby French pickle).
Aged Cheese: Esquirrou
Pair with: apricot preserves and pistachios
Here’s another French hard cheese from the Pyrenees, but this one is made with sheep’s milk. The flavor is richer and less herbaceous than goat’s milk, with more flavors of roasted nuts. Complement that toasty flavor with some buttery pistachios, which also add a pop of color to your platter. A dollop of apricot preserves will tease out the cheese’s fruity notes.
Blue Cheese: Saint Agur
Pair with: honey
French blue cheeses tend to be creamy rather than crumbly. Saint Agur is a classic, with a gentle blue funk and slight butterscotch flavor in the finish. All blue cheeses have extra salt added, so they’re amazing with sweet accompaniments. Drizzle this creamy blue cheese with some high-quality local honey and go to town.
Here’s how to put your French cheese plate together
French Cheese Plate
- 8 x 10 slate or board
- 3 small spoons
- 1 cheese spreader
- 1 soft-cheese knife
- 1 spear-tipped cheese knife
Cheese and Meats
- 3 oz Saint André, room temperature
- 3 oz Saint Albay, room temperature
- 3 oz Le Cayrol, room temperature
- 3 oz Esquirrou, room temperature
- 3 oz Saint Agur, room temperature
- 3 oz Pâté de Campagne, room temperature
- 1 cup strawberries
- ¼ cup dijon mustard
- ½ cup cornichons
- ¼ cup apricot preserves
- ½ cup pistachios, roasted with shells
- ¼ cup honey, local
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 1 sleeve of crackers or sliced baguette
- Temper all ingredients at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Slice the Le Cayrol, Esquirrou, and pâté into thin triangles.
- Put the mustard, preserves, and honey into tiny bowls or jars.
- Place the mustard in the lower-left corner, the preserves in the upper-left corner, and the honey in the upper-right corner.
- Position the Saint André in the lower right corner, the Saint Albray on one side of the mustard, and the pâté on the other side.
- Line up Le Cayrol next to the pâté, then fan out the Esquirrou by the preserves.
- Place the Saint Agur by the honey.
- Add the strawberries next to the Saint André, the cornichons by Le Cayrol, and the pistachios by the Esquirrou.
- Place the crackers or baguette on a separate plate, then fill in any empty spaces with rosemary sprigs.
- Put a tiny spoon by the mustard, preserves, and honey.
- Add a knife next to all the Saints (a spreader for Saing André, a soft-cheese knife by Saint Albray, and a spear-tipped knife by Saint Agur).
Where to buy French cheese