Monday, February 7, 2011


Photo: Carol Han

Fake cheese flavouring is a secret foodie vice of mine and a general epicurean shame food. Powdery, salty and only vaguely creamy as it dissolves on your tongue, it’s somehow the most potently cheese like flavour while managing to taste nothing like the real thing. The fried corn puff, in my opinion is the ultimate vehicle for the stuff.  Cheeto, Cheezie, Cheese Doodle, what have you, with its satisfying crunch and airy non-descript taste it lets the cheese flavour shine front and centre and is totally addictive.  As a kid I could happily eat a bag of them until my fingers and mouth were stained an unnatural orange hue, but it’s hard to rationalize the snack food as an adult.  I like to think that my palette has evolved since my primary school days, and as a conscientious eater I generally shun mass produced, highly processed junk food in favour of things more wholesome and complex, home made and gourmet.  

This love-shame relationship with the Cheeto is why this featured recipe from Saveur Magazine’s website for Broccoli and Cheetos is so great.  Listed in it’s best of 2010 recap, this recipe from chef Craig Koketsu of New York City's Park Avenue Winter, features the crunchy snack as a garnish for broccoli served on a sauce made with Gouda and Parmesan cheeses.  Hello!  Fitting nicely into the high end/low brow foodie nostalgia trend, this dish would feel right at home next to a Kobe beef slider or truffle infused mac and cheese.  It certainly makes me rethink my attitude towards the humble Cheeto in my adult eating life.  Broccoli and cheese is a classic combination, and while the Cheetos and cheese sauce pretty much negate any health benefits of eating your vegetables, the garnish is an innovative and whimsical touch.  A little bit of whimsy on the plate is never a bad thing. I plan to make for dinner pronto and I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it.  And If that makes me wrong, dammit, I don’t want to be right.  

Broccoli and Cheetos
Recipe from Chef Craig Koketsu (as featured on


2 cups heavy cream
3 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tbsp. minced shallots
6 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 cups grated aged Gouda
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/4 lbs. (about 2 large heads) broccoli, cut into small florets, stems cut crosswise into 1/4″ slices
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. crushed red chili flakes
2 cups original Cheetos, crushed by hand

Make the cheese sauce: Heat cream, 2 tbsp. garlic, shallots, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, about 6 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir in cheeses until melted, and season with salt. Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan and strain sauce, discarding solids. Set aside and keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain broccoli, transfer to a bowl of ice water, and let chill. Drain and transfer to paper towels to dry; set aside. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic and chili flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccoli and cook, stirring often, until just subtly browned, about 6 minutes.

To serve, spoon cheese sauce evenly among 6 warm serving bowls or small plates. Top sauce with broccoli and a generous sprinkling of Cheetos. Serve immediately.

Bon Appetit!


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