Friday, December 16, 2016

"Great Balls of Cheese" - Goat cheese & Blueberry Log with Balsamic-Blueberry Sauce - Holiday Party food!

Date I made these recipes:  December 4, 2016 – Holiday party food!

Great Balls of Cheese – More than 50 irresistible cheese ball creations for any occasion by Michelle Buffardi
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN: 978-1-118-49720-3; © 2013
Recipe:  Goat Cheese & Blueberry Log with Balsamic-Blueberry Sauce – p. 39 (Also made but not published here:  Pineapple-Pineapple (cheese ball) – p. 56)

I have not checked the rules for a while, but I am pretty sure a party is not complete without a cheese ball of some kind.  For this year's holiday soiree, we made two and the runaway "best seller" was the Goat Cheese & Blueberry Log with Balsamic-Blueberry Sauce

Which is not to say that the other cheese ball we served – Pineapple-Pineapple – wasn't good, it's just that the pineapple flavor got buried  in the rest of the ingredients whereas the flavors of the goat cheese and blueberry log were up front and center.  I am once again reminded of the Food Network show, Chopped:  "How did you transform the  [pineapple] because I really can't detect it in this dish and so the flavor is really not coming through...." (I'm looking at you, [Food Network judge] Maneet!)

I would be remiss though, if I did not note that the "money shot" was the "Pineapple-Pineapple" cheese ball as you are to shape it into a pineapple, cover the outside with layered toasted pecans and then use the tops of green onions/scallions for the pineapple steam.  Brilliant!

Several other recipes drew our attention, including the "Cranberry & Rosemary Christmas Ornament" – p. 34, which was shaped like a holiday ornament and decorated with pieces of red and green pepper, and a "Nacho Cat" which was not at all in keeping with the holiday spirit but it amused my husband to no end.  We toyed with a "French Onion Pyramid" – p. 87 and a "White Cheddar Horseradish Ball" – p. 84, before calling time on the whole process.

In other words, readers, there is much to recommend this cookbook as there are several glorious sweet and savory cheese ball options and the photos are hilarious.

Now the Goat Cheese & Blueberry Log is nothing to write home to mother about in the looks department but the flavors are fantastic.  And really, who does not like blueberries and if you don't, that means all the more for me!

But folks, we need to discuss the sauce.  Dear lord, you turn your back on the sucker for one minute and not only do you have something of a hardened mess, but the spoon you used to stir it is now stuck in a Blueberry La Brea Tar Pits!

When I said as much to a party guest, she said "I've had the same thing happen to me" which is comforting at the same time it is not. 

Now the sauce recipe is sneaky because it says cook for about 30 minutes until it is reduced by half and then let cool.  It's that "let cool" directive that will kill you.  I ended up microwaving the mixture twice – once to get it out of the plastic storage container, and once to drizzle it on the cheese – and that is not a "Martha Stewart 'good thing.'" Not at all.

Nonetheless, I managed to drizzle appropriately and our guests just pounced on it.  And this surprised us just a little because many people (not necessarily our party guests), turn up their nose at the thought of goat cheese.  But I tell you what, you stir some blueberries in and then create a balsamic vinegar and blueberry sauce to pour on top, and suddenly you are King and Queen of the Prom!

So keep in mind what I said about the sauce (watch it like a hawk, people), and you'll be fine and your guests will love it and you.

Goat Cheese & Blueberry Log with Balsamic-Blueberry Sauce – serves 12 to 15
For the cheese log
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted for coating
For the balsamic-blueberry sauce
1 cup sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup fresh blueberries
Crackers or bread for serving

Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, goat cheese, blueberries, sugar, and salt.  Form the mixture into a log, covered with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Ann's Note:  You'll want to be very careful folding in your blueberries or they will come apart on you and that doesn't make for a very pretty cheese ball!  That said, you will cover them with chopped pecans and the sauce so that will take care of any appearance issues.

While the log is chilling, make the balsamic-blueberry sauce.  Simmer the sugar, vinegar, and blueberries over low heat until the mixture is reduced by half, about 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Ann's Note:  As I said above, once cooled as directed, this mixture was a bear to work with as it became very stiff and had to be microwaved to get it to drizzle accordingly.  So here's some thoughts:  Maybe make the mixture using blueberry jam and since that contains sugar, cut the amount from 1 cup to maybe a half a cup and see how that works?  I'm thinking that you would still add the fresh blueberries but toward the end.  What I'm looking for here is melting two "like" ingredients – sugar and blueberry jam with sugar – to alleviate (hopefully) the stickiness problem. But if you want to stay true to form, that is fine, just plan to soften up the sauce before serving.

Before serving, roll the cheese log in the pecans and drizzle with the balsamic-blueberry sauce.

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