Ask Chef Phyllis:
You’d never guess that one of the most frequently asked holiday questions people ask me (and also the second most asked question of all, right after ideas for skinless boneless chicken breasts) is about…cheeseballs. That’s why I’m writing this day about a seriously good cheeseball recipe with a decidedly different twist.
Years ago, my late husband’s Army buddy, Fred Frick (who served as a cook) mentioned how he’d use dried beef to make creamed chipped-beef open-faced sandwiches. I can remember how these guys would proudly talk of slamming and de-coring many heads of iceberg lettuce for salads. It sounds like punishment to me, but it was just KP, or “kitchen patrol” work for them.
Anyway, they mused at what they affectionately called this recipe’s military (and more familiar) name: Sh*t on a Shingle. Guess I’ve heard of this dish all my life without ever really knowing much about it. Fred proudly boasted that he was one of the few cooks to master the humble ingredient of dried beef.
I asked him if he meant the dried beef in a jar that you can find at the grocery store. Yes, was his answer. He explained that, if done right, it’s one of the best open-faced sandwiches out there. Truly an American classic, renowned for its flavor and creaminess. If done right, he repeated. (But, as you all know I’m fond of saying, that’s surely the makings of another post.)
It’s interesting to me that dried beef is also an ingredient in a 1928 cheeseball recipe I found in an old cookbook belonging to my mother. But the jarred product is one that I would never recommend or use. I suggest substituting bacon, uncured and free of both nitrates and nitrites. Everything is better with bacon! I also suggest butter too.
It’s come to my attention that I’m not the only blogger who thinks about these things. The Food Network and various food websites also strive to answer questions from their viewers, both seasonal and year-round.
The ultimate question, at least this Christmastime, seems to be: “How do I make a cheeseball?” (Apparently, those common port wine cheeseballs from the supermarket are so last year!)
I tried the following recipe personally. It’s a new twist on an old favorite that will delightfully surprise your guests, making it a pleasant way to entertain not just this season but any time of the year.
You might gift one of the cheeseballs along with the recipe. Happy entertaining!
Any Time of the Year Cheeseballs
Chef’s note: You can eliminate the bacon altogether, or use it in only one of the cheeseballs, as I do below. Your guests will wonder what the new flavor is! It’s our secret. This recipe makes 2 (3½- to 4-inch) balls.
2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, very softened
¼ cup Gorgonzola Dolce cheese (this moist, soft cheese is pricey but worth it)
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Tillamook two-year sharp white cheddar)
1 heaping tablespoon homemade mayonnaise
½ cup finely diced onion or green onion, or ¼ cup dried onion flakes
½ head roasted garlic, mashed to a paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ lb. bacon, cooked crispy and chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha, Tabasco, or Frank’s hot sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated white pepper
Chopped nuts, such as pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans, or substitute other optional coatings in place of nuts, such as unsweetened coconut, chopped olives, capers, pimentos, or chopped pickles
- Mix all ingredients except chopped nuts, in the order given (reserving bacon for just one ball if desired). Divide mixture in half. (If using bacon in only one ball, add now to one of the halves.) Roll each half into a perfect ball.
- Coat each ball completely with chopped nuts or one of the optional coatings. Make sure to press the nuts in so the entire surface is coated. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Image from iStock/StephanieFrey.