Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chee Whiz

Everyone has some dirty food secret.  Some processed nastiness they can (or more than likely cannot) admit to liking.  I don’t care what kind of food hipster you are, you’ve got a hang up:  Kraft mac-n-cheese, Hostess pink plastic sno-balls, baloney on Wonder bread, a Taco Bell addiction, something.  Children, however, are less discriminating.
Last summer I promised the kids ‘junk food Saturday’.  If you read this blog regularly you know this is breaking all the rules for me. But the great thing about kids is you get to re-live some of your own childhood and rediscover some of the confections you may have forgotten on your way to middle age.  Jim was out of town on an annual business trip to Chicago and I was looking for a new angle on entertainment.  The mid-summer 98 degree heat certainly did not encourage the kids to get out their bikes and ride around the park.  So ‘junk food Saturday’ was christened:  the kids were each allowed one manufactured snack they are normally prohibited from eating and two movies.   The PJs would stay on and after a heathy breakfast the sloth would begin!
First we had to pick their poisons and these selections did not come easily.  Picking which item of forbidden junk takes an epic amount of time and emotional investment.  Apparently, over the past 30+ years, I had failed to see that the grocery store is nose to tail filled with Vegas style flashy food crap. The kids almost had nervous breakdowns from the pressure.  There was nail biting, bargaining and almost tears.  It was UN negotiation worthy. Finally after the threat of no junk food Saturday decisions were made.  The results: our son picked some waxy brown rectangle imitating a pastry and our daughter selected two tone pop tarts of a flavor not found in nature.  I selected crab chips.  
A couple months ago the kids started trash talking what they were going to eat for junk food Saturday this year.  Our son had even remembered the actual date and placed it firmly on his mental calendar.  The lists started to get long, clearly they had been thinking about this for the past eight months, like a Christmas list, only oddly more detailed than their Christmas lists.  As the train picked up momentum Jim could hold back his inner Ohio no more.  He chimed in, ‘Well, we are going to change the date of junk food Saturday this year so I can participate!  We’ll do it the week before I go to Chicago AND I am going to pick out the best stuff, not that old lady stuff you amateurs select.  Oh yeah!  In fact,’ He was revving up now ‘In fact, this year we are all going to be allowed to get two things instead of just one!  Yup.’  He beamed from across the table with a grin that said ‘I’ll show you who knows how to have a good time’.  He had upped the ante and affectively lost his mind.  Squeals of delight.  
‘Well then, I’m sure you will be happy to take the kids on that trip to the grocery store.’ I guess I got wrapped up in the emotion as well because I continued with ‘And I’ll place my order now: EZ cheez and a bag of Chex mix.  And I plan to take that EZ cheez and squirt it into a ball and roll it in the Chex mix and pop it in my mouth.  That will be my snack.’  Three sets of eyes blinking at me from the dinner table. Finally our daughter offered a very small ‘Ew?’ Followed by our son ‘Yeah, ew.’ and Jim ‘Who are you?’  ‘EZ cheez, it’s delicious.  Kids do you know what it is?  It’s a can and you squirt it like, well, like a whipped cream can and a cheese product comes out.  Some people squirt it on crackers but some people...’ Jim finished my sentence ‘squirt it directly in their mouths.’  Larger ‘Ews’ all around.
EZ cheez was my Dad’s dirty little processed food secret. I can honestly say with the exception of the EZ cheez I have never seen my Dad eat anything more processed than a pretzel.  My Dad is no hippie, he missed that generation by a generation and he certainly doesn’t buy in to all this slow food (as he would say, ‘horse-shit’), but he is the original whole foods man. And it’s probably and quite simply because when he was a kid such things did not exist.  If he wants a snack he eats peanuts or pistachios.  He doesn’t even eat cereal.  But he likes EZ cheez.  He has a traditional pastime of sitting on the couch drinking wine while writing a book about wine and watching Monday Night Football with the cat on his lap squeezing that EZ cheez onto a club cracker, and of course, occasionally straight in to his mouth.  How could you resist?
And the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.  The other day I made the mistake of going to Trader Joe’s hungry.  I came home with something called ‘Pub cheese’.  It should have been called ‘tub cheez’ because that’s what it was; a tub of EZ cheez with some horseradish.  It was de-freaking-licious.  Jim had a hard time staying out of it too.
So I have a very easy cheese recipe, but it’s elegant and comes with a Jaques Pepin pedigree. I came across this in Food & Wine years ago and it solves many problems.  First; what to do with all those tiny bits of leftover cheese in the fridge.  And second; how to make a ‘wow‘ appetizer in no time.  I find it works best with part stinky cheese, like blue, part creamy, like goat or fontina and a little salty cheese, like parmesan or feta.  But any combination of cheese scraps will work fine.  
Frommage Fort - from Jaques Pepin
1 cup cheeses, shredded or crumbled
3 garlic cloves (I roast mine first because I do not like the sharp taste of garlic)
1/4 cup dry white wine
Roast the garlic. I place them in a 350 oven tossed with a little olive oil and roast for 15 minutes.  Mince the garlic.  Place cheeses, wine, pepper and garlic in a food processor and process until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Fill two 4 ounce ramekins with the mixture, place on a cake sheet and place in the broiler for about three minutes or until bubbly and browned.  Serve with table water crackers or crostini.
Click here for the original recipe.

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