We've partnered with California cheese maker Cypress Grove to highlight creative ways to incorporate one of our favorite ingredients—goat cheese, like their award-winning Humboldt Fog—into your holiday party spread.
I am a cheese person. Put a plate of gooey macaroni and cheese, a slice of pizza with extra mozzarella, or creamy cheese dip in front of me and I'll choose that over just about anything else. So when the holiday season rolls around, it's only natural that I turn to my most beloved ingredient when planning a party menu. But while all cheeses are equally perfect in my eyes, during the more festive months, one in particular stands above the rest for its versatility: goat cheese.
With a tangy, earthy flavor and creamy yet stable texture, goat cheese is like the food world's equivalent of a multi-sport athlete. Mix it into a batter or dough to lend a savory bite, blend it into a smooth, silky dip, spread it on a piece of toasted bread with toppings, or let it shine at the center of your cheese board—the possibilites are endless, making it the ultimate holiday party secret weapon.
This year, I plan on buying up a bunch of my favorite goat cheese (a citrusy and herbaceous variety from Northern California that has just the right amount of that goaty twang) and using it to make a slew of crowd-friendly dishes, like the ones below. From light bites and appetizers all the way to dessert, here are some tasty ways to work goat cheese into your seasonal spread:
Ah, the crostini. These little bite-sized pieces of toasted bread topped with any toppings you please make the easiest of make-ahead holiday party appetizers. My favorite way to make crostini: Toast slices of olive oil-drizzled bread in the oven; let them cool; spread a healthy dollop of goat cheese over every piece; and top with sautéed or roasted vegetables and herbs (like jammy red onions and basil, or sautéed morel mushrooms) or fresh, seasonal fruit (like soft, sweet persimmons).
There are many ways to bake goat cheese, each more delicious than the next. You could start with these crunchy semolina crackers, which are baked with goat cheese and thinly sliced shallots right on top; you might even serve them along side your cheese board for some serious goat cheese-on-goat cheese action. Or you could make this easy baked goat cheese and ricotta; it feels and tastes like comfort food, but the addition of candied tomatoes makes it worthy of a magazine spread. If you're feeling ambitious, you might want to try this stunning herbed goat cheese and vegetable galette; the punchy goat cheese mellows as it bakes to bring out the earthy, rustic flavors of the seasonal root veggies.
In a season chock-full of hearty, carb-heavy foods, it's nice to have something green on the table every now and then. That doesn't mean you should skip the goat cheese, though. Goat cheese's bright, citrusy notes and rich texture is the perfect complement to the peppery arugula, buttery pistachios, and crisp pears in this autumn-friendly salad. If you want to take any plain-old salad up a few notches, transform goat cheese into these crispy, melty-centered fritters and gently place them atop a field of fresh greens.
There are plenty of ways you could use a batch of whipped goat cheese—as a dip for crudités, dolloped over roasted beets, spread on toast—but I am only going to share one with you, since it is my all-time favorite: drizzled over Alon Shaya's whole roasted cauliflower. The dinner table show-stopper is first poached in a broth of wine and spices before being browned to crispy perfect in the oven. This cauliflower wouldn't be complete, however, without a decadent, zingy sauce of whipped goat cheese, feta, cream cheese, and cream. Serve it as a main dish for your vegetarian guests, or pass it around the entire table as a shared side.
In the world of hors d'oeuvres, there are few things better than a bite of crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside fried goat cheese. If you've never had one, you've got to give this fried goat cheese with honey and black pepper recipe a shot. Not only does it make the perfect grab-and-go appetizer, but you can also prep the batter and goat cheese in advance so that all you have to do when guests come knocking is fry them up. For a more savory take, try these Italian goat cheese-stuffed olives, which are fried until crisp in a coat of breadcrumbs and egg, and sprinkled with a finishing touch of Parmesan and lemon juice.
Wait, put goat cheese in dessert, you say? Absolutely. Goat cheese's fluffy texture lends itself well to being mixed into batters and doughs, while it's punchy flavor pairs nicely with fresh fruits and flavors like vanilla and chocolate. The flaky, almost savory crust of this blackberry galette and hazelnut-chocolate rugelach both get a boost from goat cheese to the pastry dough. For a dessert that's even more goat cheesy, make a batch of this luxurious goat cheese ice cream and let your guests choose their own toppings, like roasted figs or sautéed dates.
Ok, I know what you're thinking: "Duh, a cheese board! I could have thought of that myself." And you're right. But here's what you maybe didn't think of: Make goat cheese the star of the show; you're probably most familiar with the soft, creamy version of goat cheese, but there are aged, fresh, semi-firm, and hard goat cheeses you can also bring to the board. Since putting together a cheese board is fairly simple, you could make a batch of roasted fig jam (apricots or cranberries also work well) or herb-infused honey (I'd start with lavender or rosemary) for a fancy homemade pairing.
When Mary Keehn first started making goat cheese, she had just two goats (Esmeralda and Hazel) and no experience. But after perfecting a fresh goat cheese over her stovetop, which quickly caught on in her Humboldt County, California community, she launched Cypress Grove Chevre in 1983. Today, Cypress Grove has over 1,000 goats and produces a variety of award-winning goat cheeses, like Midnight Moon, Truffle Tremor, and its most popular, Humboldt Fog. In partnership with Cypress Grove, we're excited to share unique ways to bring goat cheese to your holiday table this season, from dips and spreads to fancied-up cheese boards.