With tortilla chip ears, little chive whiskers, cream cheese filled figure, and a carrot tail, “Nacho Cat” is certainly nacho everyday cheese ball. The inventive recipe was made by Michelle Buffardi in her book Great Balls of Cheese ($17; hmhco.com) which was released last October and recently featured on the Today show.
Perfect for entertaining, the book includes more than 50 cheese ball recipes, ranging from sweet to savory and everything in between. “I found inspiration everywhere—I’d see something in nature and picture it as a cheese ball,” the N.Y.C.-based author tells InStyle.com.
Adding Nacho Cat to her collection of cheesy creations seemed like a fitting addition, though the recipe actually started out to resemble a dog modeled after Buffardi’s golden retriever mix, Tarzan. “He’s blonde and fluffy with wavy fur. I tried and tried but couldn’t find something edible to make his floppy ears out of—so I gave up and tried a cat! Their ears point up and I could easily use a tortilla chip.”
As for the mouth and eyes? They’re created using fresh black olives. “I like to cut them really straight to give the cat sort of a bemused, smug look,” says Buffardi. “A cat made of cheese would not be smiling.”
Smile or not, we still think Nacho Cat is cute enough to eat—read on for the recipe on how to make your own!
Excerpted from GREAT BALLS OF CHEESE, © 2013 by Michelle Buffardi. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, preferably orange
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 jalapeño, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato salsa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Pinch coarse salt
1 carrot, 2 nacho cheese tortilla chips, 1 pitted black olive, and fresh chives, for decorating
Tortilla chips or crackers, for serving
1. Using a stand mixer or a bowl and a spatula, mix together the cream cheese, cheddar, onion, jalapeño, salsa, cumin, and salt until combined. Form the mixture into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. While the mixture is chilling, peel strips from the carrot to use as “stripes” on the cat and set aside. Peel the carrot until you reach the middle. Remove any bits of carrot sticking to the core of the carrot and reserve for the cat’s tail.
3. Before serving, unwrap the cheese ball and break off a 3-ounce portion (about the size of a golf ball), roll into a ball, and set aside; this will be the cat’s head. Form the remaining cheese mixture into an egg shape, and place on a plate. Arrange the reserved carrot strips on the egg shape to make the stripes. Attach the reserved carrot to the back of the cat for the tail. Place the reserved golf ball–sized cheese ball on top of the cat to make the head. Stick the chips in for the cat’s ears. Cut the olive into eyes and a mouth and arrange on the cat’s face. Finish with pieces of chives for the cat’s whiskers.
4. Serve with crackers.