The one extremely useful and extraordinarily delicious Southern skill I have mastered is the making of cheese straws—and by that I do not mean the kind sold at Sarabeth’s and countless other Manhattan emporiums that persist in selling twists of puff pastry glazed with cheese and calling them straws. A true cheese straw is an ineffable combination of butter and cheese and flour that melts in your mouth and is a de rigueur addition to every Southern cocktail hour. The only thing better might be a hot cheese olive, made with the same dough. They are the perfect briny, cheesy bites (otherwise known as a salt-and-fat delivery system), as well as my tiny but successful attempt to redeem the reputation of my home state. The New Yorkers I served them to never failed to chase the trays around.
Julia Reed’s Hot Cheese Olives
Makes 50 hors d’oeuvres
A savory party bite from the Mississippi Delta
photo: Michael Witte
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
8 oz. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1⅔ cups)
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about ⅔ cup)
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. cayenne, or more to taste
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg
50 small pimento-stuffed olives, drained
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the cheeses and blend well. Add flour, cayenne, and salt, and mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg with 2 tbsp. cold water. Add to the dough and mix until just incorporated.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and flatten. Place an olive in the center and shape the dough around the olive, rolling it in your hand until smooth and pinching to repair any breaks. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and olives.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Let rest for a couple of minutes and remove to a serving tray to pass at once.
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