Greg was smitten with a recipe accompanying Kim Severson’s New York Times story about the cheese ball. A midwest — and Southern — staple, it makes us recall the Christmases of our youth. So we made it, to recall the Christmases of our youth.
As it turns out, nostalgia was not all it produced. Because we quadrupled the recipe — yes, we made four cheeseballs — we had cheeseballs to take to parties, to serve at our own party, and even one to enjoy on Christmas Eve. Everywhere we took our cheeseball, it was met with swoons.
You could use just about any cheese you like, but I went with some real strong ones: gorgonzola picante, cheddar with ale and gruyere. I then threw in a few nubs of leftover Italian sheeps milk with truffles and a whatver else was lying around. The secret ingredient, though? Fish sauce. Don’t leave it out. It gives your cheeseball a nice umami flavor, which keeps the guests coming back for more.
The recipe is tripled from Kim Severson’s original: Bits and Pieces Party Cheeseball. We made our cheeseballs the first weekend in December and they lasted all month. We served the one in the photo above on Christmas Eve. It makes 4 baseball-sized cheeseballs.
8 tablespoons good-quality salted butter
3-4 cups shredded sharp, flavorful cheese, in any combination that might include Gruyère, Cheddar or blue cheese
9 ounces fresh goat cheese
12 ounces cream cheese
3 heaping tablespoon finely chopped scallions
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fish sauce
3 tablespoon slemon juice
1 cup chopped, salted roasted pecans
3 heaping tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
Allow the butter and cheeses to come to room temperature. They should sit out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Put everything except the pecans and parsley in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. It should take about 4 minutes.
Plop the mixture onto a piece of waxed paper and gently form into a ball. Place in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes or until firm enough to work with.
Mix the pecans and parsley together on a large plate or a cutting board, then roll the cheese ball in the mixture. Cover any surfaces with a sprinkling of the mixture and pat into the sides until you have an evenly coated ball.
Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate. When ready to serve, let the ball sit out for at least a half hour to soften. Serve with good plain crackers or small toasts.