Cheese is crowdpleaser—a perfect product that can be sliced, melted, or otherwise manipulated into something that is a little more involved, like a dip or a cheeseball. Because it’s so good in its own right, it doesn’t need a ton of futzing. You can turn a log of goat cheese or pile of shredded cheddar into an elegant party snack with barely any cooking.
Roll goat cheese in stuff
This is basically the laziest version of a cheeseball, only it’s a log. Rather than mash a few different cheeses together and roll them into a ball, I urge you to grab an eight-ounce log of chèvre, then roll the chèvre in stuff—like fresh, chopped herbs, bacon bits, fried garlic, fried onions, everything bagel seasoning, or chopped and toasted nuts. Make sure to really press all the little bits into the cheese so they stick. Serve with bread or crackers.
Whip some feta
A lot of whipped feta recipes call for the addition of cream cheese, yogurt, or heavy cream…but my favorite features feta, and nothing but feta. Adding other ingredients can result in a silkier spread, but it also mutes the feta flavor. As I’ve said before, “I want my whipped feta to be airy, spreadable, and feta-forward. I also like not having to measure anything.”
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The best whipped feta is just that: crumbly cheese that has been obliterated and aerated by the blades of a food processor. Toss a block in there and let the blades do their thing:
At first, it will appear that you are just making crumbled feta, but be patient. The cheese will start to ball up and roll around the bowl, before settling into the edges in the form a creamy, spreadable dip. Give the sides of the bowl a scrape, give the cheese a taste, and grab some dippable snacks. If the feta is too aggressive for you on its own, you can add a tablespoon of cream cheese or labneh (for every six ounces of feta), or a drizzle in a bit of olive oil and blitz once more, but I encourage you to try it on another food before you start tweaking.
Serve with tart apple slices, blanched crudités, and toasted pita points, with olives and honey on the side.
For my money, there is no easier, tastier, and low-effort-high-reward snack than frico. Set a nonstick pan over medium heat and shred some cheese. Or, even better, buy some pre-shredded cheddar. The starch used to prevent caking in the bag will encourage a faster, more even browning of your crisp, as well as cut down on bitterness.
Add the shredded cheese to the nonstick pan—be it fancy real-deal parm or humble grocery store cheddar—and let it fry. The cheese will melt and the fat will render out of the shreds, leaving the proteins and dairy solids behind to form a delicate, lacy network of crisp, salty cheese. Remove the cheese from the pan once it loses its melted appearance and begins to brown. Let cool and crisp on a plate. You can also make a whole bunch of frico at once by placing tablespoon-sized heaps on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake at 400℉ fro 5-8 minutes, until crisp.
If you want to get fancy, you can dust the crisps with a little smoked paprika, or you can fry other things (like pickles, bacon, or pepperoni) directly in the crisps, but don’t stress about it. Plain frico is elegant enough already.
Air fry some cheese nuggets
Halloumi is substantial and filling, which is probably why our very own Joel Cunningham calls it “the steak of cheese.” You can grill it over medium heat until it browns on the outside, or throw it in a nonstick pan to the same end. You can also toss it in the air fryer at 375℉ for five minutes or so to make a cheese nugget with a delicate crispy skin and tender, melty, slightly-squeaky interior. (You can also waffle it to marvelous results.)
All halloumi, no matter the prep method, takes well to a drizzle of honey. But nuggets beg for a dipping sauce, so set out a few ramekins of your favorites. A squeeze of fresh lemon is never bad either.
Pour pepper jelly on top of cream cheese
A block of softened cream cheese with a jar of pepper jelly poured on top of it is an ideal party snack. It’s salty, sweet, fatty, and spicy, and festive-looking in its own rustic sort of way. Don’t over think it: Serve it with Wheat Thins and be happy.