I’m a cheese ball enthusiast. Let’s just get that out of the way. Born and raised in Wisconsin, I can’t get enough of cheese, in any form. Cliché, right? In the Midwest, cheese balls are a staple during holiday get-togethers. Some people might call them cheese spreads, but they’ve always been "cheese balls" to me. I can’t remember the last Christmas celebration with my family that a cheese ball wasn’t served as an appetizer. And now, I find myself bringing one to every holiday party I’m invited to. I’ve become known as the "cheese ball girl"…and you know what? I’m totally okay with that.
So when the latest cheese ball/cheese spread was developed in the Test Kitchens, I was first in line to sample it. This Cheese & Shallot Party Spread, cleverly shaped into a very festive pine cone, really takes cheese ball making to the next level! The addition of caramelized shallots, country-style Dijon mustard and a mix of Cheddar & provolone cheese makes for a spread you really can’t stop eating.
So how is it made? Let’s get to it. Gather all of your ingredients- there really aren’t that many: butter, shallots, sugar, cream cheese, Cheddar & provolone, parsley, Dijon mustard, salt, and almonds. Rosemary makes for a fitting garnish.
Start of by melting 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet until sizzling. Add in the chopped shallots and sugar- the sugar helps them caramelize faster.
Keep cooking and stirring the shallots. I love the fact that this recipe calls for caramelized shallots- it adds a mellow onion flavor without being too overpowering.
When the shallots are golden brown, remove them from the heat and let them cool down for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine all of the rest of the spread ingredients in a large bowl.
Add the shallots.
Mix together until thoroughly combined. You could use a spoon to stir it together, but I prefer to let the hand mixer do the work for me.
Cover the mixture with plastic food wrap and refrigerate for about an hour. This will make it easier to shape into the pine cone and insert the almonds.
After the hour has passed, remove the cheese mixture from the refrigerator and place on a sheet of parchment paper. This will help you shape the pine cone without it sticking to the surface of your counter.
Mold it into the shape of a pine cone. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
Next comes the fun part- transforming your cheese ball into a pine cone. I put slightly more than a half cup of sliced almonds into my bowl- I knew there’d be a lot of broken almonds that wouldn’t make the cut.
As you’re putting the almonds into the cheese mixture, angle them to resemble the pattern on a pine cone.
Once you have all of the almonds inserted, refrigerate the spread for at least 2 hours to blend flavors. It can also be refrigerated overnight, which is great if you want to get it done before the party you’re going to the next day.
Once you’re ready to serve, garnish with rosemary sprigs. How "evergreen" does this look?
Add crackers on the platter to serve with the spread.
Nothing says "holiday cheer" like a cheese ball in the shape of a pine cone! Make Cheese & Shallot Party Spread for your next holiday party, and watch it disappear quickly. Oh, and make sure to bring copies of the recipe with-because people will be asking you for it!
Come back in a few days when Emily will share a recipe perfect for a date night at home.
Mallory is a Product Specialist in the Test Kitchens at Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.