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Cheese Ball (AKA “Party Magnet”)

Made with goat cheese, scallions, chopped dates, and roasted pecans, this cheese ball makes a delicious addition to any charcuterie board or appetizer spread.



This gourmet cheese ball appetizer is adapted from a recipe called “Party Magnet” in one of my favorite cookbooks,Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by chef Vivian Howard. Howard writes: “The cheese ball is a cliché. I believe, however, that like the pig in a blanket and the baked potato, cheese balls are so clichéd they’ve actually become cool…when this thing is put out at a party of any kind, people hover over it like it’s a crystal ball.”


Howard’s cheeseball is, of course, anything but cliché. Made with goat cheese, cream cheese, and softened butter – as well as scallions, chopped dates, and homemade salt-and-butter-roasted pecans – it’s a big upgrade from the classic party cheese ball made with Cheddar cheese. Go ahead and double the recipe; cheese balls freeze beautifully. And be sure to allow 30 minutes for the cheese ball to come to room temperature before serving so it has a spreadable texture.


WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE THE CHEESE BALL



STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS


In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the beaters or paddle attachment, combine the goat cheese, cream cheese, butter, hot sauce, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until evenly combined.



Add the dates and scallions.



Mix on low speed until evenly blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.



Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface, remove the cheese mixture from the fridge, and scrape the mixture onto the center of the plastic wrap.



Holding the four corners of the plastic in one hand, twist the cheese with your other hand to seal the plastic and shape the cheese into a rough ball. Don’t worry if the cheese is soft. It will firm up in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until the cheese ball is firm enough to handle.



Combine the chopped pecans and parsley on a plate.



Unwrap the cheese ball and roll it in the nut mixture until evenly coated.



Chill until ready to serve. Let the cheeseball sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so that it has a spreadable texture.



Cheese Ball (AKA Party Magnet)


Adapted from Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South by Vivian Howard (Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2016)


Made with goat cheese, scallions, chopped dates, and roasted pecans, this cheese ball makes a delicious addition to any charcuterie board or appetizer spread.


Servings: Makes 1 large or 2 small cheese balls Prep Time: 20 Minutes Total Time: 20 Minutes, plus plus 15 minutes to make the roasted pecans and at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to chill


INGREDIENTS


FOR THE CHEESE BALL

  • 4 oz (½ cup) log goat cheese (or 2 oz each goat cheese and blue cheese), at room temperature

  • 3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ⅓ cup chopped dates (see note)

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (white and green parts, from 2 to 3 scallions)

  • ⅓ cup Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans, roughly chopped (recipe follows; alternatively, use store-bought roasted salted pecans)

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


FOR THE SALT-AND-BUTTER-ROASTED PECANS

  • 2 cups pecan halves

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • ¾ teaspoon salt


INSTRUCTIONS


  1. For the Cheese Ball: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the beaters or paddle attachment, combine the goat cheese (and blue cheese, if using), cream cheese, butter, hot sauce, and salt. Mix on medium-low speed until evenly combined. Add the dates and scallions and mix on low speed until evenly blended. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap on a work surface, remove the cheese mixture from the fridge, and scrape the mixture onto the center of the plastic wrap. Holding the four corners of the plastic in one hand, twist the cheese with your other hand to seal the plastic and shape the cheese into a rough ball. Don't worry if the cheese is soft. It will firm up in the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until the cheese ball is firm enough to handle.

  2. Combine the chopped pecans and parsley on a plate. Unwrap the cheese ball and roll it in the nut mixture until evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve. Let the cheeseball sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving so that it has a spreadable texture. Serve with crackers.

  3. For the Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans: Preheat the oven to 350ºF and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

  4. In a medium bowl, toss the pecans with the melted butter and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Spread the pecans out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the pecans are slightly darkened and fragrant. While still hot, sprinkle the pecans with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt. Let cool for 10 minutes. The nuts will keep for 1 week in an airtight container at room temperature.

  5. Note: Do not use pre-chopped dates from a bag, as they are sweetened. I use whole pitted Medjool dates; you'll need 4 to 6 dates to get ⅓ cup chopped.

  6. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cheese ball can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and refrigerated, or frozen for up to 1 month. To freeze, wrap the cheese ball well in plastic wrap and place it in a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.


NUTRITION INFORMATION


Per serving (8 servings)

  • Calories:193

  • Fat:17 g

  • Saturated fat:9 g

  • Carbohydrates:8 g

  • Sugar:7 g

  • Fiber:1 g

  • Protein:4 g

  • Sodium:117 mg

  • Cholesterol:37 mg

Special thanks to Jennifer Segal, for the recipe and images. You can support Jennifer by purchasing her cookbook, "Once Upon a Chef, the Cookbook," featuring over 100 delightful recipes.

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