Ok. So. I had a whole bunch of lovely and clever (I like to tell myself) things to say today about two recipes I made for a Mad Men season opener party Hal and I had two Sunday’s back–he in charge of the cocktails, I in charge of the food–but then I found out that today, April 17th, is National Cheeseball Day. I barely know how to process the fact that there IS a National Cheeseball Day, but I’m considering it major kismet. Because wouldn’t you know it, one of the recipes I had planned to share is for a cheeseball. So deviled eggs will just have to wait for a post of their own. Today, clearly, was always meant to be just about spherical cheese spread.
When I started to think about what I’d like to serve for a Mad Men party, and what would go well with the classic cocktails I knew we’d be having, I went straight to the snacks my mother used to make for our annual New Years Open house. So many of her recipes come from friends of her mother’s, or hand me down cookbooks, or are just things that someone’s aunt had been making for goodness knows how long with a recipe from goodness knows where. They’re all great, and many have a vintage-y feel that I thought would be perfect for the party. I was especially excited to try her cheeseball recipe (which we think came from a family friend way back when), something I remember loving as a child but hadn’t had in years and had never made myself.
Because I hadn’t had it in so long, I did wonder a bit if I was remembering something more delicious than the end result would be, especially because there’s one slightly weird seeming ingredient in this recipe–canned crushed pineapple. I needn’t have worried. It was just as tasty as I remembered, and (also as I remembered) the pineapple is by no means the star player. Instead, it adds a little background hint of sweetness and, I discovered, makes everyone say “ohhhh” when you tell them what’s in this lovely spread. It was a hit with both my party guests and the students who benefited from my leftovers, and both wanted to know how to make it. I’d call that a success.
The best part of this cheeseball process for me (other than it’s awesome taste and nostalgia factor, of course) came when I got to the step in the directions, as written by my mother, that just says “shape into a ball.” It sounds simple on the face of it, but when one is confronted with a bowl full of cream cheese with bits mixed in, “shape into a ball” is actually a fairly daunting proposition. How, I asked myself? With what? I decided that the simplest way is often best, and just got in there with my hands, patting the cheese into as ball shaped a shape as I could. It felt extremely silly and a little gross, and was a fantastic break from my rush around party prep–there’s not a lot of multi tasking you can do when your hands are entirely covered in cheese spread. All of which is to say, you can do it. It will seem weird (unless you’re a cheeseball expert, in which case, tell me your secrets), but you’ll get there.
This would be great for a potluck, a dinner party, or a Derby Day shindig. And you could certainly halve the recipe to make a smaller amount of cheeseball, if 16 ounces feels like a bit much (it’s not, in my opinion, but it’s always nice to have options).
16 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz crushed pineapple, well drained
1 cup chopped pecans, plus an additional 1/3 to 1/2 cups
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
2 tbs chopped onion
1 tbs seasoned salt*
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Mix cheese, pineapple, 1 cup pecans, green pepper, onion and seasoned salt together; blend well. Shape into a ball. Combine remaining chopped nuts and parsley; press into surface of ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until party time. Serve with Ritz crackers for extra nostalgic goodness.
*I didn’t have any seasoned salt, and didn’t realize it until I had done absolutely all of the grocery shopping I was willing to do for this particular endeavor, so I googled around and made a seasoned salt version of my own. I used, with absolutely inexact measurements, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, a lil sugar, kosher salt, and celery salt. There are tons of recipes for this out there on the internets–take a gander, and modify the one that looks tastiest to you. Or, you know, buy seasoned salt. Either way.