Cheese Balls Redux
Remember those cheese balls your grandmother or great-aunt used to serve at all the family get-togethers? We decided to take a look at this old-fashioned favorite and give cheese balls a new flavor, texture, and appeal.
Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 °F (175°C; Gas Mark4).
Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove and let cool. Finely chop them by hand or in a food processor. The walnuts can be prepared a day ahead of time. Seal in a tightly closed container.
In a medium skillet, cook the pancetta over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes, or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Drain on paper towels. The pancetta can be prepared ahead of time.
In a medium bowl, use a soft spatula or a kitchen fork to blend the blue cheese and cream cheese. Add the dates and cooled pancetta and stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.
Place the chopped toasted walnuts in a bowl.
Lightly flour your hands and form 3/4-inch balls with the cheese mixture. Roll each ball lightly in the walnuts, making sure to coat the balls on all sides with the nuts. Place on a serving plate. Alternately, you can assemble the entire cheese mixture into a large, long loaf shape coated with the nuts and serve with crackers. The cheese balls can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.