Have you ever have one of those bites of food that you keep in your mouth to savor as long as possible before swallowing? That kind of bite that you know you’ll keep in your memory for a very long time and you just don’t want it to end? The kind of bite that tastes infinitely better when you are able to share it with other people and follow each bite with a delicate sip of perfectly paired wine, that tastes better when you eat it outdoors in perfect sunny weather? The kind of bite you talk about for years to come (remember those goat cheese balls…? and that wine…? and that weather…? and you all stare into space remembering that moment).
These Oven-Baked Goat Cheese Balls with Fresh Basil and Honey are just that kind of bite. The kind of multi-level taste that just keeps going and going until you finally get the gumption to swallow. A puffy, melty pillow of tangy goat cheese mixed with fresh basil and sweet, pure honey, coated by a crunchy, warm, oven-fried panko layer and drizzled with more honey and garnished with more fresh basil.
Good Lord, these are good.
Now. Make no mistake- these are delicious if you dive into them all by yourself huddled around your kitchen island trying to take photographs of them for a blog post but you just can’t seem to wait so you keep taking nibbles of them (or scraping the bowl with a spoon from the mixture of goat cheese, basil, and honey with your finger… this may or may not have happened during the making of this recipe).
But I believe that delicious food can be enhanced by
two three things: 1) people to share it with, 2) a good wine paired specifically to that food, and 3) if you are lucky, beautiful weather so you can dine al fresco.
I don’t want to tell you want to do, because you are an adult and can make your own decisions. But I will anyway. Next time you need an appetizer- whether it’s for a party or for a fancy dinner for two- you NEED to make these goat cheese balls. And you NEED to pair them with the perfect chilled white wine, which for me was Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay. And if possible, you NEED to eat them outside in perfect sunny spring weather.
First, let’s talk about the wine. Usually, I’m a red wine girl. But something about warm springtime weather calls for a glass of chilled white wine. Next time you need a good white, pick up a bottle of Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay. It’s not your typical chardonnay, which can sometimes be very simple and often too sweet or buttery. Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay is aged for nine months on French Oak Barrels to increase complexity. The wine pairs incredibly well with fresh lobster and melted butter, seared scallops with a cauliflower puree, chevre cheese, or a light citrus and stone fruit salad.
In other words: it goes insanely well with these goat cheese balls! Also, you can likely find it for under $20.00 at your local wine store. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to spend over $20 on a good bottle of wine, ever.
Gloria Ferrer wines have earned over 400 gold medals and 50 90+ scores in the last 5 years. They are known as experts in the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and produce estate grown still and sparkling wines that rival some of the world’s finest. I just wish I was closer to California so I could actually visit the vineyard in person!
Back to the goat cheese balls. Between the wine and these tiny, tasty beauties, it’s really easy to throw an elegant spring soirée without much effort. This recipe is easy to make, and best of all, the goat cheese balls can be made and assembled days- even weeks!- before baking, since they are meant to be frozen. That means that before your guests come over all you have to do is pop them in the oven and worry about more important things.
This brings me to a key point: the goat cheese balls MUST be frozen before baking for at least thirty minutes. Why? Goat cheese is soft- very soft- and will become melty very quickly in the oven. If you freeze them before baking, it ensures that the outside gets nice and toasted and golden brown, without the cheese melting too much. They will stay together and retain their shape if you freeze them before. So, make sure you take this into account when you are making them in terms of timing.
First, mix together some goat cheese, fresh basil, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl. I found it easiest to mash the ingredients together using a fork to break up the cheese easily, and transitioning to a spoon when the cheese was fully broken up.
Then, measure equal portions of the cheese mixture, rolling them into balls, dipping them in an egg wash and then in panko bread crumbs. I recommend using a small cookie scoop for this task- it will ensure that each of the balls are measured equally and help form them into near perfect spheres. I love the panko bread crumbs with this because they are so light, crispy, and airy, even if they technically are a more refined ingredient. If you want, you could certainly use whole wheat bread crumbs for a healthier option or even ground up nuts (like pecans) as a grain free option….