Nearly every Christmas Eve of my childhood was spent at my grandparents’ house where our entire family would gather to eat hors d’oeuvres, soup, and, of course, my Grandma Draper’s Christmas cookies. Now that I live in that same house, I’ve continued the tradition of hosting, and because my freezer is full of game, I always try to add a new wild twist to the night. In the past, I’ve done a smoked salmon dip, but with no salmon in the freezer this year I’ll be using some smoked pheasant I brought home from Scattergun Lodge in South Dakota. This is probably the best smoked pheasant I’ve ever had, and when combined with some crushed pecans and bit of mustard and Worcestershire, it makes for an absolutely incredible cheese ball.

Smoked Pheasant-Pecan Cheese Ball

**Ingredients **
1 smoked pheasant
1 cup pecans
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups Colby jack cheese, shredded
1 tbs. stone-ground mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

**Directions **
Cut all of the meat from the smoked pheasant, taking extra care to remove the sinew and tendons from the leg meat. This should give you enough meat for a couple of cheese balls, plus some extra for snacking. Roughly chop the meat into smaller pieces. Use a food processor to pulse the meat into a fine shred. You’ll need approximately 1 cup of shredded smoked pheasant for this recipe.

Run the pecans through a nut grinder or pulse them in the food processor until they are in fine pieces. Add the cream cheese, shredded cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire into a mixing bowl, along with about ¼ cup of both the shredded pheasant and finely chopped pecans. Mix this together well. (A stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a food processor will make the blending process a lot easier.)

Place a sheet of plastic wrap in a medium, high sided bowl and scrape the cheese mixture in to the bowl. Wrap the plastic wrap tightly around the softened cheese and form a rough ball. Set the cheese ball in the fridge to chill for at least a couple of hours. You want it fairly firm before the next step.

Once the cheese ball has firmed up, use your hands to smooth out the ball shape. Mix together the rest of the shredded pheasant and pecans and place them on a large plate or sheet pan. Unwrap the cheese ball and roll it in the pan, using your hands to pack the pheasant-pecan mixture onto the cheese ball. Chill until serving.