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Making pounded cheese from Amy Thielen's new cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, was a jump into uncharted territory for me. Dropping blocks of gorgeous aged Cheddar into a food processor was an act of faith. How could this cheese not break down and turn into a greasy pile of cheese ooze? The secret is in the cool butter: adding it to processed cheese brings the mixture right back into alignment, turning that purée into a creamy spread. Drizzled with sweet port syrup and chopped walnuts, the final dish is an entertainment-worthy appetizer for any and all cheesehounds.
Why I picked this recipe: I had never even heard of pounded cheese before this week, but how could the combination of aged cheddar, butter, and port syrup be bad?
What worked: Like magic, a few spins in a food processor with most of a stick of butter turns a block of sharp aged cheddar into a grown-up, funky version of EZ Cheez. And I mean this in the best way possible. Spread it on a few Ritz crackers and you'll understand.
What didn't: Make sure to follow the directions carefully. The processed cheese really needs the addition of cooler butter to turn it into a smooth mixture without breaking.
Suggested tweaks: If you're not into port, you could drizzle the cheese with maple syrup or serve it with a thinned jam (currant or blackberry would be quite nice).
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, KQED's Bay Area Bites, and Berkeleyside NOSH. Follow her @KateHWiliams.