The return of the cheese ball

The Baltimore Sun

Eric Larson, owner of Marion Street Cheese Market outside Chicago, has fond memories of the cheese ball when his folks entertained. But he also knows that it has been shunned for many reasons -- not least of which is that many cheese balls of yore tasted as bad as they looked.

It doesn't have to be that way.

"Cheese purists think you shouldn't manipulate cheese like that," Larson said. "Other people think of it as not an exciting way to entertain."

But Larson wants to bring the cheese ball back into everyone's good graces. The first step is to bypass run-of-the-mill ingredients. "When you start with really good-quality raw materials, it lends itself to a far superior product," he said.

Larson and his chef, Michael Pivoney, have buoyed up the ball by using artisanal cheeses. They also offer a few cheese-ball tips: A 1-pound cheese ball should accommodate 12 guests. Make it a day ahead at most. Take it out of the fridge 30 to 60 minutes before serving.

Renee Enna writes for the Chicago Tribune, which provided the recipe analysis.

Artisanal Cheese Ball

Makes about 12 servings

8 ounces fromage blanc or cream cheese

1 package (4 ounces) aged cheddar, finely shredded

1 package (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1 tablespoon sour cream

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon each: garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 green onions, thinly sliced

8 slices smoked applewood bacon, cooked, drained, diced, or 1 cup finely chopped smoked almonds

Combine the cheeses, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, pepper and salt in a food processor or bowl of a stand mixer; puree or beat with a mixer on low until mixture is smooth, about 3 minutes. Fold in the green onions; place mixture in a large bowl. Shape into a ball with a large mixing spoon; chill 1 hour.

Meanwhile, if using bacon, cook in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 6 minutes; drain on paper towels. Chop; set aside.

Gently remove cheese ball from bowl. Spread bacon bits (or almonds) on wax paper or cutting board; roll the cheese ball until evenly coated. Serve at room temperature.

Per tablespoon: 165 calories, 14 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 43 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrate, 7 grams protein, 372 milligrams sodium, 0 grams fiber

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