3tbspbottled ranch dressing I used Hidden Valley Ranch original
3tbspchopped chives divided
2cupssharp cheddar cheesefinely shredded
12ouncepackage center-cut baconcooked & crumbled, divided. This will yield about ¾ cup bacon crumbles
2sliceswhite cheddar cheesefrom the deli and sliced thin
butter crackers like RITZ brand for serving
In a large skillet, on medium-low heat, cook your bacon until crisp (this can take anywhere between 10-15 minutes). Once cooked, drain your bacon on a paper towel lined plate. Once cooled, chop your bacon then set aside.
In a large bowl, with a rubber spatula, combine the cream cheese, ranch dressing, garlic powder, kosher salt, black pepper and 2 tablespoons chopped chives. Cream together until smooth and all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Add the finely shredded cheddar cheese and ½ cup of the bacon crumbles. Gently fold them into the cream cheese mixture until all the ingredients are completely combined.
Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on your counter surface. You will transfer all your bacon cheddar ranch mixture to the center of the plastic wrap in a rough ball.
Pull up the two long sides of the sides of the plastic wrap to cover the cheese mixture and gently shape the mixture into a football shape. It is much easier to do this while the plastic wrap is covering the cheese mixture. As you shape the cheese football you will just tuck in the short sides of the plastic wrap to ensure that the cheese mixture is covered completely.
Transfer the football shaped bacon cheddar ranch cheese ball, while still wrapped in the plastic wrap, onto a plate and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the cheese ball to hold its shape as a football.
Once your bacon cheddar ranch cheese football has refrigerated you can place the remaining bacon, chives and chopped walnuts onto a large plate (step 4), or a large pie plate works well also.
Unwrap your football cheeseball and very carefully place it onto the plate of chopped walnut mixture. Using your hands, gently coat the outside of the cheeseball with the nut mixture being careful to keep the football shape. Once your bacon cheddar cheese football is completely covered then transfer it to your serving plate.
You will garnish your football with “cheese” laces. To do this you will slice two thin strips, about ¾ inch thick, from the long edge of one of the pieces of the deli sliced white cheddar cheese.
You will then slice, length wise, another two thin pieces, this time about an ⅛ to ¼ inch thick, of the deliwhite cheddar cheese. You will cut one of these very thin slices into four equal parts.
Using the two thick strips of the white cheddar cheese lay one strip on one end, making sure that it drapes all the way from one side to the other, and repeat with the other piece on the opposite side of the football. You will want to place these pieces about 2-3 inches up from each point on the football shape.
With the very thin pieces you will place the long one going lengthwise down the center of the middle of the football shape.You may need to trim your piece slightly so that it does not go all the way end to end and touch the thicker strips. Place the 4 smaller strips across the center strip of white cheddar cheese making the laces pattern as seen on a football.
To Store: This cheese ball can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and can be stored, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 3 days in total.
To Freeze: This will freeze well in the freezer in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to one month. When ready to serve, remove from freezer and place on a tray to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Once soft, serve and enjoy!
Make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature. If it’s chilled, you’ll have a really hard time mixing everything smoothly.
I like to pre-chop my raw bacon before cooking it. I find it cooks a little faster and also yields more evenly sized bacon crumbles. You can also use the Ready-Cook bacon. Just cook it according to package directions, in the microwave, and make sure that you have ¾ total bacon crumbles. This is a great option if you do not like to make a mess in the kitchen cooking your bacon on the stove top.
If you prefer to shred your own cheese, I suggest you place your block of cheese into the freezer about 20 minutes prior to shredding it. It helps the cheese shred better on the fine side of your box grater.
Instead of bottled Ranch dressing, you can mix 3 tablespoons of sour cream with 2 tablespoons of dry ranch packet mix.
You can lightly toast your walnuts prior to chopping them. This adds a great elevated flavor but is not necessary.
If you do not want to get your white cheddar cheese from the deli, you can use a block of white cheddar cheese to make the “laces". You will want to make sure to cut it thin enough so that the cheese is pliable. You can also use a string cheese stick the same way by cutting it lengthwise into long strips then into smaller strips.