We like to file this recipe adaptation under the ‘My-kid-just-went-vegetarian-what-do-we-make-for-Christmas-dinner?’ category. Because that’s exactly how we started making it. After all, back in the ’90s, before Food Network and Google booted the Joy of Cooking, the conundrum of cooking for a vegetarian at holidays usually meant dusting off the Moosewood Cookbook. In our case, mom seized on some god awfully named recipe for “Nut Cheese Balls.”
But ever since, a loose adaptation of that recipe has stuck with us. It’s basically a dish of nut and cheese patties twice baked and topped with a béchamel sauce. It’s fatty and far from vegan, but for those who eat dairy, or make exceptions for the holidays, it’s one more great anti-Tofurkey entrée — like a stuffing, fake meat cutlets and eggnog all baked into one… Stuffing Cutlets… Stufflets.
1 1/2 cups walnuts, ground
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 Tbs. dried sage
1 Tbs. dried thyme
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 cup organic whole milk
2 cage-free, veg-fed eggs
1. Pre-heat your oven to 370 degrees while you prepare your nut-cheese mixture.
2. Using a food processor or blender, grind your walnuts to a fine powder and place mixture in a large mixing bowl. Next, shred the cheddar and combine with breadcrumbs to the mixing bowl. Wash and chop parsley, add it too. Season mixture with sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands.
3. Now add a cup of milk and the two eggs, mixing thoroughly.
4. Grease a deep baking pan with olive oil or cooking spray. Spoon out large balls or medium-sized patties of the nut-cheese mixture. Place them in the baking pan like you would do cookie dough.
5. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until crisping at the edges but still gooey to the touch. Set aside, still covered, until béchamel sauce is prepared.
4 Tbs. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbs. flour
2 1/2 cups organic whole milk (warm)
1/2 white onion
6 whole cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
6. In a medium saucepan, put the butter on medium heat and add minced garlic. Saute for about five minutes.
7. Once butter bubbles have subsided and garlic is smelling nutty, make a roux by adding a tablespoon of flour at a time, whisking thoroughly to keep from over-clumping. Once all flour is added, slowly whisk in warm milk about half a cup at a time.
8. Cut a white onion in half so that the petals stay intact as one piece. Take the cloves and punch them through the outer layer of onion so they stick embedded in it. Add your onion half, complete with cloves, into the liquid. Season with nutmeg, thyme, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring liquid up to a slow boil and turn down heat, simmering for at least 15 more minutes.
9. When ready to finish dish, pour béchamel sauce over top the baking pan of nut-cheese patties. Sauce should almost cover them, but try to save about a half cup of warm béchamel for added garnish. Bake for another 20 minutes or just until sauce is bubbling. Serve with a squirt of fresh béchamel on the plate.
Beverage: Great Divide’s Old Ruffian Barleywine-style ale
Soundtrack: Fiery Furnaces’ “Slavin’ Away”