26 August 2015

Queso loco

Homemade three-cheese spread

Fresh out of college, a friend went to work for a production outfit. One of his first projects was a Cheez Whiz TV ad, memorable because the talent — a little boy — was on his tenth-or-so take “savoring” his sandwich when he finally broke down. “Again?!?” he’d cried. “I really, really don’t like Cheez Whiz!”

Weird kid. It wasn’t until my forties that I acknowledged how horrible the stuff actually is, and only because I needed to blame my hypertension on something other than alcohol and cigarettes. Not that my cardiologist’s a fool (he’s sitting president of the Philippine Heart Association, I’m proud to say). We don’t even keep Cheez Whiz in the house, although I admit to buying a sachet (pimiento flavor, please) to satisfy the occasional craving. I’m certainly not proud that I have yet to overcome its lure at this point in my life.

Having said that, it wasn’t Cheez Whiz that inspired me to make my own spread, but a tub of Alpenmark that I found in the ref. It took me a while to realize that it wasn’t actually cured meat (the label had “salami” plastered prominently on the label, and the rest in sprachenheit (Pinoy gibberish for anything German; what I didn’t know until today was that the expression was popularized by martial arts actor Ramon Zamora)). It was pretty good, too, that spread was, sort of like an adult version of Cheez Whiz, not at all garish in color or in-your-face cheesy.

Homemade three-cheese spread

Besides, you know how I love the challenge of making something new out of (hopefully a lot of) odds and ends languishing in the recesses of our ref. Was that Edam cheese from last (last?) Christmas? Or cream cheese from God knows when? Into the blender they went, along with a bit of cheddar, blitzed until homogenized and lump-free. It was cheesy-okay at this point, if monotonously so. Then I spied some leftover fried buwad nukos (dried squid) from that morning. I’ve used it before to add flavor to soup. Would it work with cheese? There was only one way to find out.

And boyohboy, work it did! That spread went from one-note to “hmm… interesting” in a jiffy, and the nice thing was that you couldn’t even really pinpoint where that earthy undertone of umami was coming from unless you were in on the “secret” — just don’t put in too much or you’ll give the game away (besides making it too salty).

Is this cheese spread healthier than the commercial kind? Eh, I wish I could make that claim, but I guess it all boils down to how much self-control you have. Ma finds it disgusting when I slather dollops on my toast. “Hoy, are you trying to kill yourself?” What can I say? It’s the kid in me. I might as well be that boy in the commercial. This one, I mean:

Cheez Whiz “Cheese O’Clock” TVC

Homemade Three-Cheese Spread

Use any old cheese you have for this recipe; it’s very accommodating. Thin the spread with hot water to make it more spreadable (and add volume). The fried dried squid is for saltiness and that undertone of umami. To give your spread extra sheen, add some sunflower, soybean, or corn oil.

  • 1 pack (250 grams) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup grated Edam cheese
  • ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • 2 small dried squid, fried to a crisp
  • 2 teaspoons sunflower, soybean, or corn oil
  • fine salt, as needed
  • hot water
  1. With a blender or food processor, blitz cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add Edam, cheddar, honey, oil, and squid. Blend until homogenized. Taste mixture for saltiness and add salt as needed.
  3. Still in the blender/food processor, thin mixture with water, a teaspoon at a time, until to your desired consistency.
  4. Transfer to a clean container and let cool. Refrigerate until using.

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