Ok, I know what your thinking. What the hell? Is she really posting about cheeseballs? No self-respecting #cheeselover would ever admit to eating (or God forbid craving) such a thing. It would be like admitting I was longing for a taste of another holiday tradition in my family, that lead weight, doorstop of fruitcake my crazy spinster Aunt made every year. Aren’t they just a fixture on the holiday table, an old and better forgotten culinary dinosaur? Well think again! Cheeseballs have come a long way from those funky, salty things made from processed cheese, rolled in soggy nuts and topped with a glowing maraschino cherry!
Last years Cheeseball Invitational and the creation of the Turducken of cheeseballs (a 5 lb. dream of layered cheesy goodness) got me thinking on how to showcase just how many ways you can make a cheeseball that tastes great, looks beautiful and won’t just sit on the table untouched until everyone is loaded with enough holiday cheer to devour anything.
To start I made two kinds of cheese spreads, a variation of my Mom’s Southern pimento cheese and a Boursin style cheese with a chevre base. Both can be made into beautiful shapes, garnished with fresh herbs, spices and veggies to add some color and style to your next festive celebration! Using quality cheese, mayo and fresh herbs and spices are the key to both recipes. I used my favorite cheeses and gourmet mayo but you can sub your own local cheeses as long as they are of the same type and style. Shaping cheeses into forms and careful arranging of garnish are also important. After forming cheese mixture chill in fridge for 1 hr to meld flavors and so they become a bit firmer to work with.
- 2 1/4 cups Keen’s Cheddar, shredded
- 3/4 cup Empire mayonnaise, I like the smoky bacon or paprika flavored
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 4 ounces pimentos, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon finely minced roasted garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon grated onion
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 dash hot sauce (or more!)
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
Blend all ingredients except pimento till smooth with a hand mixer. Add pimento and mix till some pieces still remain, not completely smooth. Cover and chill for 1 hr. Form into large teardrop shape to form a pine cone shape, garnish with whole almonds as shown or serve with warm hush puppies, bread, crudite or as a kick ass burger topping.
Boursin Style Chevre
2 large logs Vermont Butter and Cheese Farm fresh chevre or 1 pound of your favorite chevre
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon each chopped fresh basil, parsley, thyme, scallion
1 tablespoon coarse grind black pepper
3 cloves roasted garlic
Let butter and chevre come to room temp to soften. Blend together and add in all ingredients mixing till smooth. Chill to firm enough to work with about 1 hour. Form into candy cane shape and garnish with finely chopped red pepper as shown. You can also roll around seedless grapes and garnish with chopped toasted pistachio. Delish!
On Pinterest I also found a simple but brilliant arrangement of fresh mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes and basil leaves that would be fast, easy and just the thing for last-minute get togethers. Try it by layering fresh basil in a circle on your favorite platter, alternate tomatoes and cheese securing with small toothpicks to hold design together. Drizzle with EVOO and enjoy!
To pair open up a bottle of your favorite bubbly to celebrate your new talent!
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season,