When I'm throwing a party and not feeling very rich I often put a potted cheese out for hors d'oeuvres. This is one way to turn an economical slicing cheese into something exotic looking that spreads on a cracker.
Potted cheese is simply cheese grated and marinated in beer, then spiked with dried mustard and Worcestershire sauce and blended fine. Scrape it into a small bowl and guests will think you are an entertaining genius. (You don't have to tell them you're just trying to save a few pennies.) It has the added virtue of keeping almost indefinitely in the refrigerator.
To make this potted cheese, I used two kinds of cheddar, one from Vermont, the other from England, one orange, the other yellow. In general, I prefer a sharp cheddar cheese for flavor. This particular recipe is from Fancy Pantry, by Helen Witty, one of our favorite sources for making tangy dishes out of fresh produce and odd bits.
3/4 pound good quality cheddar cheese (you can combine different kinds if you like)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2/3 cup excellent beer (I use a dark Belgian ale)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, slightly softened at room temperature
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
generous pinch white mustard
salt to taste
Grate the cheese and combine it at the bottom of a mixing bowl with the mustard and the beer. Press the cheese down until it is covered by the beer, cover the bowl and let it stand for a few hours or overnight.
Place the softened butter in a food processor and process until creamy. Add the cheese mixture, Worcestershire sauce, white pepper and cayenne. Process everything until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally as needed. Taste and add more seasonings as you desire, as well as some salt if it needs it.
Pack the cheese into a crock or ceramic bowl. Smooth the top and cover with plastic wrap. For longterm storage, cover the cheese with clarified butter to a depth of about 1/4 inch, then cover the container and refrigerate.
Serve at room temperature, but leave the cheese out of the refrigerator long enough to soften. Crackers or toasted baguette are the perfect accompaniment.