As seems to happen every year, Christmas snuck up on me. I had big plans for making fancy Christmas cookies, making a Bûche de Noël and watching all of my favorite Christmas movies. Instead, I haven't made a single cookie, there will be no Bûche de Noël on our Christmas table and Love Actually is the only holiday movie I have watched.
That said, this holiday season has been festive and full of friends, small gatherings, visits from friends and family, hunting for a Yule Log and a Christmas tree, and many holiday activities. To kick off the holiday season, we hosted a trivia night a few weeks ago. Rob perfectly executed the trivia portion of the night (each guest submitted a category and Rob prepared questions in each category - note that two of our categories were West Virginia Potpourri and Former Soviet Bloc Countries) and I was in charge of food. I didn't want to be doing last-minute cooking so I went entirely with dishes that could be prepared ahead of time, including a party favorite of mine from Smitten Kitchen - Cheese Straws.
These cheese straws are ideal for parties - they don't require a napkin, plate or silverware, they can be prepared in advance, and there is a good chance you have everything you need to make these in your refrigerator or pantry. So, if you are heading to a Christmas Eve party tomorrow, these could be perfect snack to whip up to share!
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon heavy cream (I think milk will work, too)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the heavy cream and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
3. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8- by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a pizza wheel (if you have it, otherwise use a sharp knife), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to a parchment-lined cookie sheet , leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The straws can be any length, but I prefer them longer (8-10").
4. Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.
5. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. I like serving mine standing up in a glass - and add some festive wax or tissue paper for a nice touch.