Over Christmas, I read funny lady Amy Sedaris' book on entertaining, I like you. It was a hilarious yet practical book, throughout which she mentioned several times that her cheese ball recipe has made her famous among her friends. I decided to use her recipe, "L'il Smoky Cheese Ball," as inspiration for my own.
The smoky flavours in this cheese ball come from plenty of smoked Gouda cheese, and a little bit of steak sauce (although I used some bold barbecue sauce, since it's what I had on hand). The recipe couldn't be easier, but the results are outstanding. Aside from the flavour in the cheese, what really makes this cheese ball is the outside layer of toasted walnuts. It is to die for; in fact, I think a nice way to present this dish would be to make many individual cheese balls that could each be spread on a crostini, which would increase the walnut-to-cheese ratio.
The cheese ball was a hit at the party, and I received a few requests for the recipe. As I was hoping, the smokiness of this appetizer is really appealing; a friend of mine even thought there was bacon in it. If you ask me, it's never a bad thing for a dish to taste like bacon!
I think I've found my go-to appetizer for entertaining, and for potluck-style parties. It's great to have a recipe that you can count on, that is easy, and always pleases; so, I'm happy to add this one to my collection. I must warn you, however, that the word "l'il" in the name of this dish is very misleading (although, duh, the two packs of cream cheese listed in the recipe should have tipped me off to its size.) This cheese ball is gargantuan! Halve the recipe for small gatherings, and you'll still have leftovers.
Oh, leftovers. Sigh. If only I had hosted the party, and had been privileged to keep L'il Smoky's remaining deliciousness...
Amy Sedaris' L'il Smoky Cheese Ball: The recipe
Amanda's notes: I don't have a mixer with paddle attachment, so I used my regular hand-held mixer to blend the butter and cheese together, and then mixed everything else in by hand.
I used salted butter and added in freshly cracked pepper. I substituted an equivalent amount of smoky barbecue sauce for steak sauce, and threw in some basil and oregano for a little extra colour.
Since I decided to make this cheese ball at the last minute, after forming the mixture into a ball, I put it on a cookie sheet and froze it for about 45 minutes to get it firm enough to coat with the walnuts. After coating, I sat it in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then let it thaw to room temperature before serving. I served this with crostini, but it would also be good on your favourite cracker.
To toast walnuts: spread 2 cups walnuts on a cookie sheet, and toast at 350C for 8-10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through, until nuts are lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool, then chop. You can't skip this step! It makes the cheese ball.
"2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese, room temperature
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons steak sauce
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts or pecans
Crackers, for serving
Place Gouda, cream cheese, butter, milk and steak sauce in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until well combined. Transfer mixture to refrigerator. Let chill overnight. Roll cheese mixture into a ball. Place nuts in a shallow dish. Roll cheese in nuts to fully coat. Serve with crackers."