If you think of the cheese ball as a sort of holiday punchline, get over it. I’m not talking about the Cryovacked orb of processed pap in the supermarket dairy section. A homemade cheese ball is another thing entirely. Sure, it requires some pluck, at first, to plunge the cheese knife in: Attacking a pristine cheese ball with its coating of chopped nuts intact feels a little like a desecration, and one already mauled by other guests may call to mind a crime scene. But once you schmear that combo of cheese and cream cheese on a cracker and experience the textural delight of creamy plus crunchy, all inhibitions will fall away. For the cook, a cheese ball is also an invitation to creativity. Why not brighten it with fresh herbs and lemon zest? Take the ball and run with it. The recipe below is my go-to—eminently adaptable and a terrific canvas for experimentation. Make one for your next shindig. It’s so much easier than baking cookies, and every bit as festive.
Cheesy-in-the-Right-Way Cheese Ball
Total Time: 2½ hours (includes chilling) Serves: 16
Use an electric mixer to beat together 2½ cups grated Muenster cheese, 8 ounces cream cheese, softened, 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, 2 teaspoons sumac and 2 teaspoons Tabasco until well combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. // Spoon cheese mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a ball and wrap tightly. Transfer cheese ball to refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours. // Cover a rimmed baking sheet with 1 cup toasted and chopped mixed nuts such as almonds and pecans. Roll cheese ball in nut mixture, pressing lightly to make nuts adhere, until cheese ball is evenly covered. // Serve with your favorite crackers and zero shame.
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