It’s that time of year again — holiday office party this week, your aunt’s ugly sweater party next week and your in-laws’ annual pot luck dinner after that. ‘Tis the season for cheese!
You should all know by know the strong relationship I have with cheese. It’s incredibly versatile, can be eaten before or after dinner, pairs well with wine, fruit, crackers, nuts and jams and it comes pretty much prepared. I imagine it might be good for you to eat cheese on a daily basis, I honestly don’t know the truth behind this theory but I can hope for the best.
Now, your classic cheese plate is totally acceptable in my book. A wedge of soft cheese, some sliced hard cheese and something stinky always creates the best three-sided cheese plate. Decorate it with nuts and fruit, serve with bread or crackers and you’ve got yourself the perfect wine-pairing-guest- noshing snack at the party.
I, of course, like to take things a step further. Opening a package of cheese and strategically placing it on a platter isn’t enough for me, I prefer to play with my food first. There are two simple ways, both consisting of some hand work, but your finished product will be something party goers will “Ooh and Aah” over.
One two-step process consisting of some hand work that can be done with some pantry finds, is simple, yet fancy. You’ll need some goat cheese, local goat cheese if possible, left out at room temperature until soft. Wearing gloves if possible, roll half tablespoons of cheese into balls, then roll the balls of cheese into something tasty like fresh chopped herbs, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, ground nuts, or even just place on a plate with a lip and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with some toothpicks and you’ve got a fancy little cheese hors d’oeuvre.
Then there’s the ultimate cheese ball. You can really go in any direction with this dish. Start with the base ingredients and then get as creative or simple as you’d like from there. Go with blue cheese and nuts for more of an adventurous snack or cheddar and cranberry if you’re looking for more of a holiday twist. Serve with crackers, veggies such as carrots or cucumbers, or even apple slices depending on your cheese choices.
Holiday Cheese Ball
24 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Few dashes of tobacco sauce
1/4 cup fresh minced chives
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
8 ounces finely grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons store bought chutney
Blue Cheese and Walnut
6 ounces blue cheese
1 shallot, minced
1 cup toasted walnuts, finely minced
Feta, Olive and Sun Dried Tomato
8 ounces crumbled feta
1/4 cup chopped black olives
1/4 cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh parsley
- For the base: Combine ingredients in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium until well combined and soft. Divide into three bowls.
- Cranberry Cheddar : Combine cheddar cheese and chutney into the first bowl of base mixture. Form the cheese into a ball. Combine the chopped cranberry and walnuts, roll the cheese ball into the mixture until well coated.
- Blue Cheese Walnut : Combine the shallots and blue cheese into the second bowl of base mixture. Form into a ball and coat in the finely chopped walnuts.
- Feta, Olive and Sun Dried Tomato: Combine the feta cheese and chopped olives into the third bowl of base mixture. Form into a ball and coat in the finely chopped sun dried tomatoes and fresh parsley.