Are you ready? For the big game? I hear it’s tomorrow: Superbowl Sunday!
What? You’re not an American football fan? Me neither. I’m not even sure which teams are playing. I think I’ve only watched the full superbowl game once in my life. Last year actually, because a friend invited us to a party and I thought it was a great excuse to bake cookies. And then she made everyone watch the game. What’s up with that? Fortunately the food was worth it. And the fact that she had 3D glasses for everyone when a 3D commercial aired. That was pretty cool.
But really, I think food is the only reason the superbowl exists. There’s something about game food. It’s salty, often greasy, and simply delicious. You can’t eat this food for your normal Sunday evening dinner. Or even watching normal TV. It’s special occasion food but not because it uses special ingredients or you serve it on special plates. And so someone invented football and the big game so we could enjoy our nachos, our chicken wings, our pretzel crisps, and these cheese straws.
If you plan on watching the game, you will want to have a plate full of these. If you’re not, make a mental note to bake these up for your next party. They’re crisp and cheesy and can be as sophisticated as one desires. They’re also super fast and it’s quite likely you have all of the ingredients sitting around. Oh yes, and they’re quite addicting.
I made these for a work potluck this past week and so I made some according to the recipe below, which is closer to the original and probably more perfect as game food, and another batch in which I subbed out the red pepper flakes for 3/4 tsp fennel seeds. Both were delicious; I may have preferred the fennel seed version just a bit more because it had, in addition to the cheese, this big “hmmm” taste. But I encourage you to play around, maybe cut them into thin crackers instead of straws or use a different type of cheese or add in other flavors. I’m thinking black pepper-cheddar cheese crackers will be my next take.
Adapted from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook through Smitten Kitchen
4 ounces (about 1 cup) finely grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon milk, cream, or half-and-half (I used skim milk, it worked just fine)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper. Pulse the mixture until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle that is ~1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza wheel), cut the dough into thin strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide . Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet. If the straws break, just piece them back to together by pressing on the dough.
Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. Serve the cheese straws at room temperature. I kept them in the refrigerator overnight before serving, but I would definitely give them time to come to room temperature.