Friday, September 12, 2014

Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball

I love snacks. I think that’s why I hang so tightly onto my football fan self, even though I’m so over the celebrity worship that professional sports displays have become. I need to have a time that demands snacks. Indoor tailgating from the comfort of my own couch on my weekends off is how and when these snacks will happen.

Like this Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball. I had never, ever made a cheese ball in my life until I tried this one. Now, I may never stop making cheese balls! This is that delicious! Cream cheese mixed with lots of sharp cheddar, a bit of garlic, some smoked paprika and the spicy kick of jalapeno chiles. Many, many crackers are going to give their lives in the service of this fabulous cheese spread.

There are a million ways you could go with this basic formula, but I really liked this pretty simple direction. I used jarred pickled jalapenos for this, and I think that was a good move (although you could use fresh peppers if you like). I liked that they’re softer in texture than fresh peppers, and I liked the addition of the bit of inevitable briny flavor they carried along. The amount in the recipe below is fairly spicy. You could use more or fewer chiles to taste.

Finally, a word about bacon. I didn’t use any. I know you want bacon. The recipes I looked at in developing this one included bacon, but I left it out. This cheese ball would probably be great with added bacon, but it was delicious without it. Think of me what you will. But make some version of this cheese ball!

Cheddar Jalapeno Cheese Ball

If you don’t have smoked paprika, you could use ground cumin, chili powder, or a combination of the two. You could also use different chile peppers. I think chipotle chiles canned in adobo would be pretty great.

1 small garlic clove
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for garnish if desired
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers
about 1/3 cup crushed tortilla chips

1. Finely chop the garlic clove. Sprinkle with the salt and chop and rub into a paste as described in this post.

2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese and cheddar. Add the garlic-salt paste, smoked paprika, lime juice and pickled jalapeno peppers. Stir together to combine well. All the ingredients should be well distributed.

3. Shape the cheese mixture into a ball. (Your hands are the best tool for this.) Roll the ball in the crushed tortilla chips. Sprinkle with a few dashes of smoked paprika if desired. Place the cheese ball on a plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour, or until ready to serve. Serve spread on sturdy crackers.

Makes many snack servings.

Another recipe like this one: Garlic and Herb Vegetable Dip

One year ago: Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Energy Bars (one of my favorite recipes!)

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