Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nutty Pimiento Cheese Balls: A fun retro appetizer

Every once in a while I’ll see a recipe for pimento cheese pop up in cookbooks or magazines.
   It’s a common food in the Southern U.S., I’m told. The three key ingredients are sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and pimentos (also spelled pimientos).
   I’ve always been curious to try a pimento cheese recipe, and felt the time was right when I happened across a recipe for Nutty Pimiento Cheese Balls (click for the recipe) in Eating Well magazine.
   The recipe is created by Jamie and Bobby Dean, sons of the iconic southern chef Paula Deen. This pedigree practically guaranteed the recipe’s success.
   I was also on the lookout for a fun appetizer for a holiday party.
   These cheese balls scored very high on the taste and fun factor.
   They were delicious – sharp in taste, but not so sharp that children wouldn’t eat them. I think children would like them a lot, in fact.
   The cheese balls, rolled in finely-chopped pecans, have a retro feel to them that will score big at any party no matter the level of elegance. They can be served with the most high-end cocktails or champagne.
   The recipe calls for finely-chopped toasted pecans. For this, I toasted the pecans in a small skillet on the stovetop, instead of in the oven as the recipe suggests. Then I put the pecans in a mini-chopper (a food processor would work, too), and ground them to very small pieces. The cheese balls will roll and pick up the pecans most easily if the pieces are minute.
   The cheese balls are very easy to make.
   Cream cheese, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos (find them in the pickles and relish section of the supermarket), grated onion, garlic powder, salt and pepper are pulsed together in a food processor until smooth. The mixture is scraped into bowl or container, then covered and refrigerated for at least 30 minutes.
   The toasted, finely-chopped pecans are placed in a bowl or plate. The cheese mixture is rolled into one-inch balls, then evenly in the pecans to coat.
   Serve the cheese balls at room temperature or chilled. They will keep well, covered in a container in the fridge, for about four days.

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