Recipe make-over: Cheese and Sausage Balls

Growing up, my family always made cheese-and-sausage balls around the holidays. I don't know why they emerged just then; it's not like they were a Bûche de Noel or something that screams, "JUST MAKE ME IN DECEMBER." Anyway, my mom still has the aluminum canister we stored them in (also the tin used for her oatmeal rock cookies), and she and my sister adore these as much as ever. There are just three ingredients in these goodies: Bisquick, Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage, and cheddar cheese. Simple, flavorful, but, unfortunately, full of ingredients that I try to avoid: factory-farmed meat, fillers, additives, loads of salt and myriad unpronounceables. So today, I attempted to give them a make-over. I wanted them to maintain their humble simplicity but use humanely-raised pork and less processed baking mix. You can't just ask for "your most Jimmy Dean-like natural sausage" at the butcher counter, so I decided to try three and do a taste-test. It's just no fun to be me. ;) Anyway, I chose a hot italian, a Louisiana-style andouille, and a chorizo. You want these balls to have some kick, so I thought these would give me the best flavor foundation. I cooked them separately and then kept tabs on them with little parchment markers. These sausages didn't put off as much grease as do Jimmy Deans, so I compensated by adding a little buttermilk to the mix.

My versions just emerged from the oven and remind me of meaty gougères. You just can't go wrong really. I'll let you know how the votes come in, but so far, they're all pretty freaking good.