Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bacon-jalapeño cheese ball

bacon jalapeno cheese ball

While I was home for Thanksgiving, I found in my grandma’s cabinet a North Texas community cookbook from the 1970s. It was a fairly typical cookbook, with chapters on appetizers, soups, main courses and desserts in the traditional order that you’d eat them. But attached to the end was a final chapter that focused on only one thing: cheese.

The placement struck me as strange. Why was it the last chapter of the book? Sure, Europeans are known for having a cheese course at the end of a meal, but Texans not so much. Then I turned the page. It wasn’t just any old cheese chapter—it was a chapter on nothing but cheese balls.

Now, I’ve written before about my love of this decadent and delicious appetizer fashioned from cheese, nuts and herbs. When I was growing up, it was the mark of a very grown-up party if there was a pecan-covered cheese ball on the table. While the kids would get their cheese fix by dipping chips into the pot of chile con queso, the adults would nibble on wheat crackers topped with the nutty, creamy spread.



Then, cheese balls went out of style. Whenever you’d mention them there would inevitably be giggling and eye rolling. Heck, even the term “cheese ball” began to connote an over-the-top, slightly out-of-touch buffoon. For example, take that friend who serenaded all the girls with Lionel Ritchie’s “Hello,” when he first met them. “Oh, he’s such a cheese ball,” people would say. It wasn’t exactly an insult, but you could all agree that your friend was more goofy than cool.


But all things retro eventually come back in style. And in the past few years, cheese balls have been making their way back into polite company. This is very happy news for me, as I never stopped liking them—even when presenting them at a party meant you might not be considered the most sophisticated hostess. Though what’s not to love about a cheese ball as it looks festive and tastes terrific.

Of course, good looks and flavor aside, the best thing about a cheese ball is its infinite variety. Most cheese balls start with a base of cream cheese, but from there you can add just about anything you want—goat cheese, blue cheese, herbs, spices dried fruit and nuts. With a cheese ball, the only limit is your imagination.

As for me, I’ve been enjoying a healthy handful of jalapeño and bacon in my cheese balls of late, which makes for a smoky, savory cheese ball punched up with just a bit of tang and heat. I round it out with some roasted pecans because I like a little crunch, though I do admit it’s almost as good without. It’s been a big crowd pleaser this holiday season, though you certainly don’t need a gathering to make it as cheese balls take little effort to make.

bacon jalapeno cheese ball

I’m still not sure why the cheese ball chapter was at the end of that community cookbook, but I’m not going to ponder it too much. And who knows, maybe it was simply an editorial decision to save the best for last.

Bacon-jalapeño cheese ball



Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 jalapeños, stems and seeds removed, diced, divided
6 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled, divided (about 6 ounces)
Salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans, roasted
Crackers for serving

Instructions:
Mix together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cilantro, garlic, cumin, cayenne, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, half of the diced jalapeños and half of the crumbled cooked bacon. Taste and adjust seasonings and add salt.

Place the roasted pecans and remaining diced jalapeños and bacon on a plate. Stir together so well mixed. With your hands, roll the cheese mixture into a ball, then place on the plate and roll in the jalapeños, bacon and pecans until covered.

Chill covered for at least an hour before serving. Serve with crackers.

Yield:
12 servings

Author:


HOMESICKTEXAN.COM PRINT RECIPE

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78 comments:

apronless said...

BACON JALAPENO CHEESE BALL

Four words that were MADE to go together.

On top of being snappy and tasty, the jalapenos look quite nice mixed in there. I love bright green (from vegetables or herbs) in cheese.

saraz said...

Remember dip in hollowed out cabbages?

mypantryshelf.com said...

This looks delicious! I have never been a huge fan of the traditional cheese ball, but I LOVE both bacon and jalapenos. We are having an early Christmas gathering this weekend and I will try it out on the family. Thanks for sharing.

sarafina1977 said...

Oh my! I love cheeseballs and this one sounds delightful! :)

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Texas I'm guessing the cheese was at the end of the book because the ladies weren't sure what to do with it.
It didn't fit into a formal dinner commonly served back then. In the 60's we were still going to "teas" with our mom's and wearing white glove and proper little dresses....

Paige said...

wow, this looks amazing. Perfect holiday party food!

Heather @ chiknpastry said...

looks awesome! I adore cheeseballs, and Ilove the Lionel Richie comment - too funny! A couple of my favorite are cheddar+dried cranberry and goat cheese + scallions. I'm sure I can find room for bacon, too!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Apronless--That's why I went with jalapeños instead of chipotle chiles--I loved the way the green looked, especially this time of year.

Saraz--Actually, I don't remember that, though it's worth investigating. I'm intrigued!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Mypantryshelf--You're very welcome. You can never go wrong with those two!

Sarafina--If you love cheese balls, i reckon you'll enjoy this version, too.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Thank you! That's great insight into why it's at the end of the book.

Paige--It is perfect party food. It also travels well if you need to bring something to a party.

Heather--A friend made one with dried cranberries, goat cheese and bacon and it was incredible.

Nancy said...

I love, love cheese balls, and for that matter have never lost my love of chile con queso so thank you for sharing this! (And it has bacon!)

I just bought one that is goat cheese, honey and pistachios.

Yummy

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Nancy--That goat cheese, honey and pistachio cheese ball sounds fabulous!

Deanna B. said...

I love cheese balls. I think Mad Men has really helped them make a comeback, but I agree that they never should have gone away. You had me at bacon.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Deanna--That's a good point about Mad Men, I hadn't thought about that but it makes perfect sense!

Kathryn O said...

I love that there's a whole chapter on cheese balls in that cookbook! This looks so incredible - definitely the perfect party food!

Lauren at TwIn Style said...

I'm not sure I've ever had a cheese ball before, but I guess that makes sense given their unstylish status. I never understand why food goes through trendy phases; if it tastes good, it tastes good, right? I mean, it's cheese, jalapenos, bacon...what's not to like?

HZ in DF said...

Do all homesick Texans think alike? ;) I'm planning a holiday party and on my list of "it's not a Christmas party without..." is the pecan crusted cheese ball that my parents always served at their Christmas or New Year's gatherings, first in south Texas and then in the east Texas piney woods. Since deviled ham is difficult to find here in Mexico, I think I'll take a page from your book and go with bacon instead!

Candace said...

I could eat this whole thing all by myself. Cheese balls are my favorite party food. Bacon and Jalapenos must take this one to a whole new level. Yum!

kale @ tastes good to me! said...

It's funny cause I was thinking the same thing about mad men! Interesting how media plays such a role in what we're interested in tasting. (Or wearing, or listening to, or...the list goes on and on!) At any rate your post was humorously written and as usual, totally mouth-watering. Media or no media, I want me some cheese balls!

DonnaG said...

Congratulations on having your cookbook picked by the Washington Post as one of this year's 10 best! http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/washington-posts-top-10-cookbooks-of-2011/2011/12/04/gIQAB6tMsO_story.html

Tuscan foodie in America said...

Right on time for the Holidays!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Kathryn--They are definitely the perfect party food!

Lauren--I'm with you!

HZ--I think we must! Hope you enjoy it with bacon.

Candace--Yep, I may or may not have done that before.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Donna--Thanks! That was a very nice surprise!

Tuscan foodie in America--It sure is!

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Yep. You just enhanced the already pretty near perfect cheese ball. Anything you can make ahead like this for entertaining is solid gold in my book. Delish!

allieeatsmeat said...

WOW these look amazing, I have never seen these in the uk but they look great. My husband would love them! I'll be trying these out for a festive season party.

Katherine Weber said...

Hi Lisa, I was born and raised in Houston, living in NYC past 15 yrs (sound familiar?) and I've been lurking and enjoying your blog for some time. Congrats on your beautiful book! Growing up in the 70s, I *definitely* remember cheese balls as the sign of a proper holiday house party. Yum! - Katherine Weber

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Miss Meat and Potatoes--That's definitely one of my favorite things about it, plus it takes no time to whip together yet looks very impressive.

Allieeatsmeat--I'm pretty sure the English would take a shine to cheese balls!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Katherine--Thank you! And your story is very familiar!

Amanda said...

I always knew my parents were having a Grown-Up Party by evidenced by the cheeseball in their fridge and the Chex Party Mix on the table. :)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Amanda--Absolutely!

lisa said...

Lisa-
Maybe it is a Texas thing...I love cheeseballs too. Sometimes, I make them just for me and eat on it for a few days. Especially when it is soup weather. I can't wait to try this. My Mother always used to buy one when she was having friends over for dominos...They still serve that and Lipton Onion Dip on holidays!!

Glenna said...

Yum! Yum! Yum!

SeattleDee said...

This recipe sounds tempting, and does manage to cover most of my major food groups... bacon, cheese, chiles, garlic, nuts... All that's missing is chocolate. Hmmm, chocolate martini to go with?

saraz was right on with the cabbage memory - magazine spreads featured dips in all manner of hollowed out vegies, but green and red cabbage were most commonly used in the NW.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Lisa--Cheese balls are perfect during soup weather! And, I still love the classic onion dip, too.

Glenna--Thanks!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

SeattleDee--Looks like I need to investigate further the cabbage dip trend!

idiosyncraticeye said...

Cheese is my favourite so perhaps I need to make the acquaintance of cheeseballs. I want to make potted cheese too, similar idea. :)

Danielle said...

Ok....NOW my Christmas Eve appetizer list is complete.

Nazlo said...

apronless sums it all up -- I can't wait to make this recipe

crazycat said...

You are the wisest cook on the web!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Idiosyncraticeye--If you love cheese, you definitely need to try cheese balls.

Danielle--Sounds like a feast!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Crazycat--Thanks!

Andrew Winston said...

Served this at our holiday party and everyone went crazy for it. You might have picked up a dozen fans last night! Thanks for the lovely work you do, Lisa.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Andrew--You're very welcome and I'm thrilled that y'all enjoyed it!

The Galley Gourmet said...

Big, huge, yum!! I heart cheese balls of all kind and I can't wait to make this one! P.S. Making your Tingas and Cemitas tonight:P

Katie@Cozydelicious said...

I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan of cheese balls. Except sweet, chocolate/nut versions - those are great. But yours looks flavorful and fresh and fun. Since there is no neon orange going on here, I think I'm going to have to give cheese balls a second chance and try this recipe!

Kristen said...

I made a double batch on Friday and fashioned five portions out of it. Somehow, I only have one left. They went so fast when they hit the table. Now it looks like I need to make another double batch since I was planning on them for events during the week. Good thing it's a fast and easy recipe! This recipe is a winner, easy and delicious. Thank you so much for sharing.

KMunoz said...

My husband made this tonight for a work lunch spread and of course I had to sample it... OMG! It is so delicious! We plan on making another for our Christmas dinner! =D

lindley said...

Picking ingredients up tomorrow morning to make this for family Saturday. Thanks! By the way, bought 3 of your beautiful books when it first came out - two as gifts to homesick Texans in other parts of the country, and one to keep...unfortunately, a friend came over, fell in love with it and I ended up giving her my copy....now, if only there's one with my name on it under the tree, I'll be happy! It's a beautiful book - a keepsake - and this 5th generation Texan is so happy for you and your deserved success!

Anonymous said...

Would this turn out right if I didn't add the Worcestershire sauce? I've never bought it so don't have it and really don't want to buy a bottle just for 1/2 a teaspoon. I was asked to bring a "surprise dish" to Christmas Dinner and think this would go over good but I don't want to mess it up lol.

Anonymous said...

I went to a wedding reception once where they served individual cheese balls, about the size of a meatball, now that's the only way I make them. It is easier to take your own little appetizer rather than cut off a chunk and put it on your plate--and you get more nuts. I place a small bowl of stick pretzels nearby to use as "toothpicks" and place one in a cheese ball so people know what they're for but wouldn't advise putting pretzels in each one as they get soggy.

zestybeandog said...

This looks like a great holiday appetizer! I also wanted to let you know that I’ve selected you for the Versatile Blogger Award. You can find out about why I selected you and what you need to do in my link below. Cheers!
http://zestybeandog.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/versatile-blogger-award/

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

The Galley Gourmet--Enjoy!

Katie--You know, I've never had a sweet cheese ball. Will have to try that sometime!

Kristen--Perhaps you should make a quadruple batch instead!

KMunoz--I'm so pleased y'all enjoyed it!

Lindley--Fingers crossed!

Anon--It should be fine.

Anon--That's a great idea

Linda said...

I LOVE Cheese balls! My Mom has a great one that I need to be sure I get her recipe. It uses the basic cream cheese with a sharper cheese - the best thing is that it is rolled in chile powder! We usually make it at Christmas...better be giving her a call to be sure we have all the ingredients!

thesecretlifeofmrsbundt said...

I love a cheese ball! And my beloved will love this one as it contains his favorite ingredient: hot peppers!

I have an OLD Betty Crocker Cookbook, from the 1960's, which I refer to from time to time. It's got some humdingers in it, but also a lot of great info too. From when people had time to cook. It's a great resource! And I love using it knowing that my mom and grandma saw those same recipes too!

Hornsfan said...

YUMMY! Cheeseballs are one of those delicious holiday treats and old-school church and community cookbooks are a treasure trove of combinations of flavors for cheeseballs!

Krupa said...

Anyone ever tried the jalapeno bacon from HEB? I bet it would be AMAZING in this cheeseball!

sportsglutton said...

What a perfect sounding snack that could easily turn into a meal for me. Fantastic.

cheers!

Carol Graci said...

Hi Lisa,
I bought 3 of your cookbooks for gifts. Great recipes and one going to Colorado and the others are for Houston. Making your cheese balls for Christmas party as they look really good. Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

I made the cheese ball or as l called it a boulder, last weekend and everyone loved it.Thanks for another great recipe. Merry Merry!

Rona said...

Got up this Christmas Eve morning and made your cheese ball and stuffed bacon wrapped jalapenos to go with our Mexican theme dinner. Can't wait to taste it. Merry Christmas from South Texas(Victoria,Texas). PS I asked Santa for your cookbook!

Jennifer Jo said...

Made your cheese ball for our Christmas Eve dinner. Have been snacking on it ever since. So good.... http://bit.ly/sRVLI9

What A Dish! said...

I'm going to make this for NYE!! I make a cheese ball every year but it will be good to change it up a bit.

Steff @ The Kitchen Trials said...

I made this for my family's holiday smorgasboard and won the unofficial award for best contribution. (this award is not official since there were no independent award auditors, but I think I'm a tough judge, so it's still a nice award.) Thanks for helping to bring back the cheese ball!

Terry from Fort Worth said...

Made this for Christmas Eve to go with our tamales and chili and it was a huge hit. I actually made 2 of them since I have a vegetarian in the family, and he gobbled up his version as we did ours. I usually make a cheese ball Xmas candy cane - mix cream cheese, shredded cheddar, green chiles, and spices - shape it into a candy cane and decorate with chopped red bell pepper and green onions for the stripes. Always has been a favorite in my family, but it's been surpassed by your version. Oh, and the boyfriend gave me your cookbook for Christmas. Love it! Happy holidays from your home state Lisa. You've done us proud :)

Brandie @ Home Cooking Memories said...

Oh, man! I already have a store-bought cheeseball for New Years Eve and I'm totally thinking I need to make yours now. I guess I could serve both, but doubt the other one will get much attention. Anyway, thank you for sharing this...fabulous.

Anonymous said...

Lasted less than ten minutes after I set it out tonight. Great recipe.

Jen said...

Oh my God I need this!!!!

Thank you for sharing!!

: )

Jen

Joycee said...

Would love to know the name of that old cookbook since I'm a collector! I was a newlywed in the 1970's and didn't have a single cookbook to my name. We suffered through tuna casserole and spaghetti for nearly 2 years!

Jennie @themessybakerblog said...

I have to have this. It just sounds so good. I think I will make this for my easter dinner appetizer. Thanks for sharing. I seriously love your site.

Jennie @themessybakerblog said...

Just made this today. It's fabulous- definitely a must try.

Cortnie Parson said...

Sounds delicious, and different from everyday cheeseballs.

THoey1963 said...

Looks like a great addition to hold off the scavengers as I prepare the T-Day meal. If I wanted to make this ahead of time, how many days would it last if refrigerated?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

THoey--It should last 2 or 3 days if it's well wrapped. Make it--it's always a huge hit!

THoey1963 said...

Made a double batch today to take to our weekly poker tournament. Figured I'd try it out there and then make it as an appetizer for T-Day while I am cooking. Takes a little time to make, but I am sure it will be worth it...

stonemaven said...

My "picky as heck" out S-I-L LOVED this. Of course she didn't know it was mine at the time. ;-) I made the base a few days in advance, then added the bacon and chopped jalapenos the day of. Worked great and gave the flavors time to marry.

Michele ma belle said...

I made this delicious cheese ball as a Thanksgiving appetizer. It was a HUGE hit! My middle child said, "This is one of the best things I've ever tasted!" I frequently visit The Homesick Texan and several recipes have become family staples. Thank you for sharing your wonderful cooking. The bacon jalapeño cheese ball will now become one of our family holiday traditions!

Vicky Lynn said...

I had company company over today and wanted to have something that was easy to prepare but still a bit special. This fit the bill. Fast and easy to make, but such a big flavor punch. Delicious! Thanks for a great recipe!

coccinelle said...

nom nom nom

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