In the Kitchen: Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” (1963)

Dear Constant Reader,

Recently Eva (she played Blanche in The Wrathskellar) pointed me at a Buzzfeed article where the authors cooked and tasted some “vintage” recipes (ranging from 1955 to 1973) and found them disgusting. Knowing my love of the midcentury, Eva called on me to defend the honor of these maligned dishes. I’m going to do my best.

Since we were having a wrap party for The Wrathskellar, that seemed like a perfect opportunity to inflict serve some of these tempting treats. First up the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”.

I’ve made cheese balls for parties before and I wasn’t quite sure how this could be bad, unless you used poor-quality cheese. Because the party was just cast and crew, I made a half-recipe. I probably could have made a quarter. It’s a generously sized cheese ball.


I gathered my ingredients: cream cheese, crumbled blue cheese, shredded sharp cheddar, onion (not pictured because I’m a dimwit), Worcestershire sauce, chopped walnuts, and parsley. The onion and parsley got chopped finely and the walnuts toasted (nuts are always better toasted). The cheese was allowed to come to room temperature. The recipe didn’t say how much parsley, so I added about a tablespoon. Everything was tossed in the mixing bowl and combined. I ended up smushing it together with my hands.


Then it was molded into a rough porcupine shape, wrapped in plastic (like Laura Palmer) and stuck in the fridge for a few hours.


Here’s the little darling in all his glory, sprinkled with paprika and adorned with olives. I used multicolored toothpicks for extra festivity and Spanish olives, as the recipe called for, and not those nasty black olives in a can like the Buzzfeeders.

My taste testers universally liked it and left comments like “tastes good”, “almost too cute to eat”, “stinky, but in a good way”, “so good!”, “de-lish”, and “Yummy! Would go well with almost anything – fruity, nutty, cheesy. What’s not to love?”

It was indeed tasty, if a bit bland, which I suspected was going to be the case, tasting most strongly of the blue cheese. If I were to make this again, I would stick with the ratio of cheeses, but up the quantities of the onion, Worcestershire sauce, and parsley. The walnuts were probably about right. Also, I might add a dash of Tabasco. The olives were only there because the recipe was trying to sell Imported Spanish Olives. I think they could be left off without any harm. Also, if it were a larger party, I think multiple small porcupines instead of one big one. It’s cuter.

What do I think of the report that started this all? Not much.

The description of the dish by the Buzzfeed people was “Underneath all those olives, it’s literally just cheese. Mostly blue cheese. Melted and molded lovingly by hand into an animal with a face.”

Well, it’s a cheese ball; of course it’s just cheese. Had they never encountered a cheese ball at a party before?

It’s not “mostly blue cheese”; blue is the least of the cheeses (1 part blue cheese to 2 parts cream cheese to 4 parts cheddar), although the most pungent of the three. I can see how this would not appeal if one didn’t like strongly-flavored moldy cheese. Most of the comments from their tasters bear this out: “Just a big ol’ fungus ball.” “I didn’t want to eat it because a) the smell…” “It’s fouler than foul: like a roadkill porcupine that has been roasting on hot tar for several hours.”

I’m also not sure why it says “melted”. The cheese should not be melted, just brought up to room temperature so everything can be combined, chilled to let the flavors mingle, and then brought up to room temperature before serving (most cheese should not be served cold). If they actually melted the cheese, I can see why the results would be unappealing

One person said: “How do you even ruin cheese?” How did they? This is a super-simple, if plainly flavored, cheese spread. My only guess is that none of them knows how to cook and that they used cheap crappy cheese. On a different dish they noted with pride that they used the cheapest imitation crab they could find instead of the shrimp the recipe called for.

I would consider Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” to be redeemed.

For those who want the recipe in easily readable form. This is as writ from the original:
Olive-Cheese “Porcupine”
4 oz. blue cheese
8 oz. cream cheese
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
Spanish Green Olives

Allow cheese to soften at room temperature. Mix with parsley, onion, Worcestershire sauce, nuts. On waxed paper form mixture into oval shape. Refrigerate 2 hours. Roll “porcupine” in paprika. Let stand at room temperature 1/2 hour before serving. Garnish with Spanish Green Olives on wooden picks for “quills”. Serve with crisp crackers.

Lest you think the Olive-Cheese “Porcupine” was invented by the Spanish Olive Council, here’s a cheese porcupine from 1964, made of cream cheese and butter, flavored with beer, decorated with breadcrumbs and pretzel sticks for quills.

I’ve got one more recipe that I made at the party to report on and I’ll be trying even more as soon as I can find an occasion and an audience.

M2

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Published in: on 10 November 2015 at 2:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Hooray! I’m a fan of cheese spread shapes! I also saw that Buzzfeed article and was disappointed that they made it such a joke when most of those recipes probably weren’t terrible!
    Party cheese shapes all the way!


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