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Because Times Square Shouldn't Get all the Ball-Dropping Glory: New Year's Eve Cheese Ball Recipes

cheeseballcheddar-59835918950c387c6c4eca4f24a498be3943ba5d-s1200 Cheese balls are not only a holiday rite of passage in America, they are a New Year's Eve's best friend. It's true that that they're known for the element of kitsch they bring to the Christmas table, as I explored in an article for NPR, but they really belong to the night. The night of New Year's Eve, that is.

I know that some of you will be going to dinner parties or to dine at fabulous restaurants to ring in the New Year. It's time to reconsider. It's possible that you might want to drop that six-course menu and come join me at the hors d'oeuvres table, my friend. Cheese balls ring in the new year right.

They add a level of festivity unparalleled by a full meal. They're easy to make and serve. They look fantastic next to a glass of bubbly. They start a party on their own. They bring out the sparkles in your eye shadow, dress, or eyes, and, if you go artisan with your balls, they make you look fancy. And if you don't finish them, they're perfect for that two am snack before going to bed (it's just not right to go to bed hungry at the start of a new year).

If you choose to join me in artisan cheese ball revelry, here is one of my favorite recipes from an article I wrote for NPR. It's the one my friend Rainbow likes to make or her NYE parties every year. If you want to be a baller and make your party even more festive by upping the ante, click on this link for two more recipes, farmhouse cheddar cheese balls with pecans and bourbon (pictured at top), or lemon cheesecake-balls for those with a sweet tooth.

Enjoy! And I hope your New Year starts off with a smile like the one on your guests faces when you serve these!

Blue cheese ball

Blue Cheese Balls with Carmelized Balsamic Onions

It is hard to beat the classic blue cheese and caramelized balsamic onion pairing, but adding rosemary, cream cheese and cracker crumbs makes the experience even richer. Using a mix of sweet and strong blues, like Fourme d'Ambert and Rogue River Blue by Rogue River Creamery or Valdeon, caters to guests who may normally shy away from strong cheeses, but will also please aficionados who like their cheese spicy. If you wait to pat the balls with crumbs until serving, the balls will keep for up to 3 days.

Makes two 8-ounce cheese balls; serves 8 to 10

1 1/2 medium-sized yellow onions, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon canola oil

3 tablespoons water

2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon (fresh) tarragon, chopped

8 ounces cream cheese (farmer style, if possible), at room temperature

6 ounces crumbled blue cheese, at room temperature

6 whole-wheat crackers

Salt and pepper to taste

Begin cooking onions in oil in a medium-sized saute pan, over high heat for 5 minutes. Lower heat and cook on low for 20 minutes or longer, until onions are caramelized and sweet tasting. Add up to 3 tablespoons of water to onions when necessary to prevent burning and sticking throughout the cooking process. Add balsamic vinegar and tarragon, turn heat to medium, stir and cook for 2 more minutes. Let cool.

Stir cheeses together in a medium-sized bowl until few lumps remain. Add the onion mixture to the bowl and stir again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Form the cheese into two round, evenly sized balls and wrap in wax-coated parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least three hours or overnight.

Crush crackers on a plate. Roll cheese balls one at a time in crumbs until the balls are well-coated. Refrigerate until ready to use.