“What is a cheese ball?” My husband asked me yesterday as I was manipulating a bowl of soft cream cheese into a rounded shape. I think what he wanted to ask me was, “Why would one do what you are doing right now?”
I agree, it is a strange, rather retro concept to mold a pile of cheese into a shape and cover it with crunchy things then make it hard again and serve it with crackers and wine, but the cheese ball is one of those things that seems appropriate for this time of year. It has that essence of holiday decadence that I crave come late fall.
With Thanksgiving being but a little more than a week away we are coming down to the wire with menu planning and I wanted to share with you a few make-ahead appetizer ideas this week that you could add at the last minute.
When I host a dinner party, the very last thing I always consider are the appetizers. I’m embarrassed to admit what normally happens is The Professor asks me about 12 1/2 minutes before the guests arrive what we have to set out for pre-dinner snacks. Then I hide my distress with annoyance and say something like, “I don’t know, don’t we have some olives in the pantry?!” He then rifles through the pantry to find the olives or quickly runs to the grocery store for some chips and that is how pathetic the cocktail nibbles are in this house.
Not this year. This year I’m bringing on the fancy with a glorious spicy ball of cheese studded with tiny cubes of tangy Manchego cheese and covered with toasted pepitas, chives, and poppy seeds. I can make the whole thing in advance which will ensure that it’ll actually happen because there’ll be no last minute runs to the store on Thanksgiving—we live in a town where things are actually closed on that day, believe it or not.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced onion
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3 chipotle chiles en adobo, chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces Manchego cheese, about ¾ cup cut in small dice
- ¼ cup minced chives
- ¼ cup toasted, salted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Heat butter in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
- Combine onions, cream cheese, chipotles, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until completely combined. Transfer to a medium bowl and add Manchego cheese. Fold in cheese until incorporated. If cheese is too soft to shape into a ball at this point you can refrigerate for a little bit until is hardens up.
- Combine chives, pumpkin seeds, and poppy seeds on a small plate.
- Using wet hands form cheese into a ball shape and holding the ball over the plate, sprinkle on the chive topping until cheese ball is completely covered. Place on serving tray and place in refrigerator until solid, about 30 minutes.
- Serve with crackers, celery, cucumbers, or tortilla chips.
One More Thing
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