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Photo: Claire Lower

Rolling in to an office holiday party or other seasonal gathering with a cheeseball is a simple, cost-effective way to win friends and influence colleagues. Cheeseballs are fun to eat and easy to make, and there are plenty of recipes for them on this wide and vast informational web.

I don’t think I’ve ever made the same cheeseball twice. I like to play around with flavors, but I also hate following recipes. I do, however, love a plug-and-play formula that gives guidance without confining you to a strict ingredients list, and I happen to have just such a formula for making easy, savory cheeseballs

Claire’s Easy and Flexible Cheeseball Formula

8 ounces of spreadable cheese + 8 ounces of shredded hard cheese + 1 tablespoon of seasoning blend + 2 teaspoons acidic liquid + crunchy stuff

That’s it.

For the spreadable cheese, you’re going to want cream cheese, goat cheese, a mixture of cream cheese and goat cheese, or a pre-seasoned cheese spread like Alouette (though you may have to cut back on the seasoning if you use that last one).

For the hard cheese, cheddar is the go-to, but don’t be afraid to try something aged, like crystal-flecked aged gouda, gruyère, or pecorino Romano.

The exact amount of seasoning you should use can vary depending on how salty it is, so start with two teaspoons if it’s super high in sodium. There are a seemingly endless number of seasoning blends available for purchase at Trader Joe’s alone, and you can get fancy with it if you want, but don’t underestimate a classic packet of Italian seasoning, which is just the right size for flavoring one cheeseball.

A splash of acidic liquid keeps your ball of dairy from feeling heavy and saturating your palate with fat. Lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and pickle brine all work well, but the last of those is my absolute favorite.

Finally, you’ll need some crunchy stuff to coat it. Fried garlic is my most recent jam, but I also enjoy a traditional chopped pecan (or any other nut) and everything bagel seasoning mix.

How to assemble your cheeseball

While your soft, spreadable cheese comes to room temperature, shred your hard cheese if it’s not pre-shredded. Place both cheeses in a bowl and mix them up real good with a wooden spoon. Add a couple of teaspoons of seasoning mix, mix again, and give the mixture a taste. Add another teaspoon or two if you think it needs it. Add your acid, mix once more, then give your un-balled cheese one final taste and add a little more of whatever it needs.

Wrap your cheeseball in plastic and pop it in the fridge, letting the flavors meld for at least an hour. When you’re ready to serve it, unwrap it, sprinkle your crunchy stuff on a plate, and roll the cheese in the little bits, pressing them into the ball as needed to help them stick. Serve with crackers.

 



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