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Playing Vivian Howard’s Party Magnet Cheeseball

From Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South

“This recipe calls for dates. Please do not use pre-chopped dates from a bag. They are covered in sugar and taste like sweet cardboard. Use whole, dried dates and remove the pits. Once you get used to the idea of making a cheese ball, keep a few things in mind. Bring it out at least 30 minutes before you plan on serving. This forethought will make it spreadable and allow the complexity of its flavor to come through.”



For the Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans:
  • 2 cups pecan halves or pieces
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
For the Cheeseball:
  • For the Cheeseball: 1/4 cup high-quality blue cheese (I like Maytag)*
  • 1/3 cup (5 1/2 tablespoons) butter*
  • 1/4 cup fresh goat cheese*
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cream cheese*
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (both white and green parts work here)
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


Serves: 8


* 30 minutes before making your cheese-ball mixture and while you roast the pecans, take the blue cheese, butter, goat cheese and cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften.

For the Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the pecans thoroughly with the melted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and slide that sheet onto the middle rack of your oven. Roast the pecans for 11 minutes if using pecan halves and 10 minutes if you’re using pieces.

Bring the slightly darkened and toasty-smelling pecans out of the oven and hit them with the remaining salt. Let them cool 5 minutes. (These will keep for 2 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.)

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients except for the pecans and parsley. Paddle it up until homogenous. It will be loose and sticky and you’ll wonder how you’re ever going to form that mess into a ball. The answer is, you transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so. During that time the cheese mix will firm up enough for you to pat it into a sphere. Once it’s stiff enough to hold up, form the ball and roll that ball in the pecans, followed by parsley.

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