This isn't a wimpy cheese ball. It has 19 ingredients. And it's a showstopper. In my cheese ball research, I learned that most of the recipes out there include cheddar cheese, cream cheese, butter, and something with a kick. So that was my starting point. But I decided that if I was going through the effort of making such a thing I wanted each bite to be bold. I suggest using very flavorful cheeses so they stand up to the shallots and garlic. You can make it as spicy as you like with Sriracha or Tabasco. I chose to roll mine in pecans and dried cranberries, but feel free to use any kind of nut or dried fruit. Roll right before eating, or the nuts and fruit will get soggy.
This recipe makes an insane amount. I recommend freezing half of it in balls or in logs. Then anytime you want a cheese ball, thaw it for a few hours, roll it in pecans and cranberries, and serve. —Phyllis Grant
4 large cheese balls
extra-virgin olive oil
to 5 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
cloves garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
creamy Dijon mustard
apricot jam (any large chunks removed or chopped up)
Sriracha (or Tabasco), more to taste
unsalted butter, room temperature
cream cheese, room temperature
grated cheddar cheddar (I recommend a combination of mellow and sharp)
creamy blue cheese (I use Mountain Gorgonzola)
Turn heat to medium under a medium-sized frying pan. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot and shimmery, add the shallots. Cook until they soften and just start to get crispy (about 10 minutes). Turn to low heat and add the garlic. Cook for one minute. Turn off the heat and stir in mustard, apricot jam, Worchestershire sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, hot sauce, and salt. Set aside.
Place butter and cream cheese in a standing mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment, whip until smooth and light (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the sides. Add mayonnaise, cheddar, and blue cheese. Whip again on medium for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the side. Add shallot/garlic mixture. Mix for another 30 seconds. Taste. Adjust. It might need more salt. Add more Sriracha if it doesn't have enough kick. And often, I need to add some acid (more lemon juice or vinegar). Mix well after adjusting the balance.
At this point, you should chill the mixture so it's easier to handle. Or go for it and just brave the sticky mess. The thing to remember is you will be rolling it in nuts and dried fruit so it doesn't have to be perfect looking. After an hour or so in the fridge, use saran wrap to shape the mixture into any size balls and/or logs. Chill in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Or freeze for a few months.
Take the cheese balls out of the fridge about 30 minutes before serving it (a few hours before if frozen). Place chopped nuts and cranberries on a large plate. Use your hands (fun!) to cover the ball with a thin and even coating of fig jam. Place cheese ball on nut/cranberry plate. Wash your hands. Then go to town rolling the ball in the pecans and cranberries. You might need to use your hands a bit to make sure the goodies stick. Serve immediately with classic round butter crackers.
Phyllis Grant is an IACP finalist for Personal Essays/Memoir Writing and a three-time Saveur Food Blog Awards finalist for her blog, Dash and Bella. Her essays and recipes have been published in a dozen anthologies and cookbooks including Best Food Writing 2015 and 2016. Her work has been featured both in print and online for various outlets, including Oprah, The New York Times, Food52, Saveur, The Huffington Post, Time Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table and Salon. Her memoir with recipes, Everything Is Out of Control, is coming out April 2020 from Farrar Straus & Giroux. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband and two children.