Monday, June 04, 2012

international cheese ball

If you haven't seen Roxanne Webber's Turducken of Cheese Balls recipe on Chow yet, reading its title just now has probably piqued your interest. If it hasn't, then this recipe probably won't thrill you, either. No matter what, click that link, because it's animated! It's a cross-section animation! How freaking cool!

What we have here is a vegetarian -- not vegan by any means -- version of that behemoth party food, using black olives and sundried tomatoes in place of chorizo and bacon. I call it the International Cheese Ball because -- and I'm sure you can figure this out on your own -- Switzerland, Spain, Italy, France, and the US are all represented in its ingredients. I haven't tasted the Chow ball, but I would venture to say that even carnivorous types won't miss the meat in this one.
Nothing says "party" like "cheese ball." Party! Cheese ball! Party! Cheese ball!
I did follow the Chow recipe, so mine is not very different and completely not original -- Roxanne Webber deserves full credit for the inspiration (and Lisa Campbell gets the credit for "inspiring" me to make it). I've grouped the steps a little differently than Webber did, though. What can I say? I have a different flow, y'all. You get my entire recipe here, but check out Chow for the backstory.

The Brie I used was triangular, so I cut it in half lengthwise and put it back together in a square shape. I subbed Jarlsberg for the Emmentaler because that's what I could find, and what the hell, they're both Swiss. I also subbed a not very ripe mango for the Asian pear because I like it, and green onions for the chives because why start believing that chives aren't green onions at this point in my life? I bought the cheeses whole and shredded them in the food processor. No, I didn't clean the thing between cheeses. Yes, I touched every ingredient with my hands. A lot.
I kept the ingredients in little bowls, labeled with their wrappers for easy identification.

Get your cheeses ready:

  • a small Brie, unwrapped
  • 2 1/2 lbs cream cheese, unwrapped
  • 1 cup Manchego, shredded
  • 1 cup Jarlsberg, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar, shredded
  • 1 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 cups chèvre, unwrapped

Get your nuts ready:

  • 1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground
  • 1/2 cup almond slices, toasted, coarsely ground

Get your fresh stuff ready:

  • 1 small, firm mango, peeled, pitted, minced
  • 1 cup sundried tomatoes, rough chopped and then blended in the food processor
  • 8 mission figs, minced
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup green onion, minced

You'll also need:

  • cracked black pepper
  • a mini-can of minced black olives, absolutely drained and dry
  • at least two baguettes, but three is better
  • a sturdy cutting board, at least 9" wide
  • a food processor
  • the ability to get your hands cheesy
  • a tolerance for crap all over your kitchen floor, countertops, and stove
  • space in your fridge for that cutting board with a giant cheese ball on it
I only cut one finger while mincing all of this fruit...

Here goes...

Spread a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese on the top and sides of the brie, and then place it smack in the center of the cutting board, not off to the side, like I did. This baby grows l a r g e.

Sprinkle with black pepper and then smoosh the black olives into the cream cheese.

Now the next step you'll repeat five times, once for each cheese...


Manchego and figs

In the food processor, blend the Manchego and half of the block of cream cheese that you used for the brie. Remove the blade and swish out the cheese blob with your hand. Smoosh it into a flat circle in your hands (don't do anything daring like press it out on some waxed paper -- that's industrial-strength glue that will never lift off). Drape the cheese circle over the olives, pressing it on and shaping it into a ballish shape.

Press on the figs. Aren't they pretty?
I was ready to eat it at this point.


Jarlsberg, parsley, and green onions

Blend the Jarlsberg with the other half of the cream cheese, and repeat that performance.

Mix together the parsley and green onions in a little dish and then smoosh them on.


Cheddar and mango

You know how it goes this time... blend the cheddar with half a block of cream cheese, disc it up, lay it on.

Smoosh on the mango.
I did a terrible job of separating my shizz. I like a little intermingling, anyway.


Bleu and walnuts

Lather, rinse, repeat for the bleu and half-block of cream cheese, except don't let anyone tell you that you can form a mixture of bleu and cream cheeses into a dough that will ever leave your hands, let alone resemble a disc-shaped structure. Maybe in Norway where the kitchens are cold, but no way in hell/Florida. I believe I switched to a butter knife at this point. Just spread the cheese blob onto the ball.

Walnut it up.


Chèvre, pecans, almonds, and sundried tomatoes

This one's even more comical in the "make a disc out of this cheese" department. Have you even seen a chèvre? Please. So yeah, blend the chèvre and half-block of cream cheese and spread it on the ball. It won't be easy. It will be difficult. It is worth it. Employ your cake-frosting skills.

Now mix together the pecans, almonds, and sundried tomatoes in a little bowl and then smoosh that goodness onto the ball. Shape it up and then brush all of the leftover toppings off of the cutting board onto the kitchen counter. Place a giant bowl upside down over the ball to protect it, and then stick the whole deal in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. Unless you live in Norway.

While the ball chills, scoop all of the crumbs into a little bowl and get a spoon. You know you want to.


Party time

At party time, take the bowl off and slide a spatula under the ball, then lift it onto a pretty plate. You can garnish the ball with more parsley if you want. I didn't want. Stick the ball on the table with a couple of butterknives, some little plates, wine glasses, and a few bottles of wine.

While the ball comes to room temp, toast up the baguettes and slice them. Put them on the table too, duh.
With only a tiny slice of International Cheese Ball left and at least seven (visible) bottles of hooch drained by the end of the night, I'd say it was a successful party.

Serves six chatty ladies, one absent husband (not mine), and three lovely youngsters, who waited very patiently until the chatty ladies saw how pretty this danged thing was before launching in.


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