Well, I finally pulled the trigger on making this pine cone cheese ball thanks to having an event worthy of such a task - the annual Santa Lucia celebration of the Nordic Club of Columbia, S.C.
It was a success - so I was told. Scandinavians are a very honest bunch of folks (sometimes, to a fault) or at least, polite.
This is definitely a dish for which you have to pay attention to its appeal, as much, or more so than its taste. However, I do have some aesthetic ideas for the next one.
I actually wanted the pine cone to sit on the table in all its glory for a while, but someone, whom I won't mention, decided it looked good enough, just long enough, and then it became food. Thankfully, the taste reviews equaled the presentation compliments.
I obtained this recipe from my good friends at MeadowCroft Farm, but, as with most recipes, I made some adjustments.
Oh, by the way, those are true Norway Spruce (Picea abies) branches I used as a garnish. No, not really.
16 oz cream cheese, softened, but not too much as you need to be able to form/mold
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup bacon crumbles
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
2 teaspoons chopped dill weed
1 tablespoon rosemary (my favorite herb), finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups whole almonds
extra virgin olive oil
table (fine grain) salt
- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and mayonnaise, integrate/fold using hands
- Add and equally distribute each additional ingredient one at a time: fold, add, fold, etc, yada yada.
- Form/mold into pine cone shape.
- Cover with foil or lid, not touching cheese ball.
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Spread whole almonds on cookie/baking pan.
- Drizzle almonds with extra virgin olive oil and integrate with hands.
- Sprinkle smoked paprika and table salt, to taste, on almonds, and integrate.
- Place almonds in oven 10 to 15 minutes and check often enough, after 7 minutes, to prevent burning.
- Remove, allow to cool and then chill.
- Insert whole almonds into cheese ball and place remaining almonds in a container.
- Chill cheese ball until roughly 45 minutes prior to serving.
- Accent/garnish with conifer (Coniferae) branches, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata).
- Arrange Triscuits®, Wheat Thins® or your favorite cracker(s) around edge of pine cone.
- Place remaining almonds in a small serving tray aside main dish.
- Not required, but it does help to have a Christmas squirrel holding a pine cone next to the dish, to gain attention, just in case you botched the presentation of the dish.
P.S. If you have some Scandinavian blood running through those Southern veins or simply want to be Scandinavian (Just kiddin', although often sought by many.), check out Nordic Club of Columbia, S.C.