Column: Holiday party? Bring it!

CHARITY ROBEY PHOTO Cayenne cheese puffs
Cayenne cheese puffs

When I’m invited, I don’t like to show up empty-handed. But what to bring? More than once, I have blown it badly.

Like the time I brought a dozen live Chesapeake Bay blue crabs to the home of a woman who turned out to be allergic to shellfish. She was my college friend’s mother.

I flew to their house in New Hampshire on a commuter plane from Norfolk, Virginia with a box of live crabs in the overhead.

During the flight, there was unrest among the crabs. The pleasant woman next to me, who was seated after I stowed my cargo, looked nervously around the cabin, searching for the source of the commotion. I played dumb.

Forbidden to enter my friend’s house with a box of allergens, I ended up in the driveway, hosing those beautiful blue crabs into a storm sewer.

During the holidays, tangy cheddar cheese puffs, with a touch of cayenne pepper, are always welcome at a party. Except for that one incident involving an excessive amount of very fresh cayenne, and my failure to intercept a child who mistook the cheese puff for a cookie. No permanent damage, and I’m sure the kid has forgotten about it by now.

Well, maybe.

Season’s greetings!

Cayenne Cheese Puffs 
(Makes 2 dozen)
6 ounces (1 1/4 cup) all-purpose flour or 6 ounces (1 cup) gluten-free flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 ounces (1/2 cup) butter
8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter and cheese with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is like coarse crumbs. Then mix by hand, grabbing handfuls until the dough barely holds together. Make 1-inch balls using a melon-baller, or by rolling the dough between your palms. Place the balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.