A while back I posted about chupaquesos, a food invention of Howard Tayler. Looks like I’m going to have to do it again. But let’s get just a little more imaginative.
Grate up a half-pound or so of a cheese. Cheddar works well. So does swiss. And jack, and gouda, and even mozzarella. In fact, for this exercise let’s go with mozzarella. Go ahead and grate up a half pound of mozzarella.
Now heat up a skillet or griddle. Cast iron, non-stick, electric skillet, it really doesn’t matter. Whichever, heat it to medium. Now you’re going to sprinkle some of that grated cheese right in the middle. Not a lot this first time, just enough to make about a six inch circle. Perfection is not required here. Now wait. Watch it melt, smell it toast. Try not to drool too badly.
Get your spatula ready. When the edge gets a bit brown (about a minute to a minute and a half) you’re going to flip this just like a crepe or a pancake. Let it toast for another minute or two, then flip it onto a plate and let it cool a bit. Don’t touch it right away as it WILL burn you. Let it sit for three to five minutes, however, and you can pick it up and eat it. Just like a flat, crisp sheet of bread. You now have the two critical pieces of knowledge. First, that you can toast/fry cheese, rendering out the fats and leaving a crispy sheet. Second, that it is delicious.
Delicious as it is, it’s just the start. But it’s got this potential. It’s a flat, crisp sheet. Like… oooh, pizza. What if we make another sheet, perhaps a bit larger — say, 8 to 10 inches across. Now while it’s browning let’s top it. Sprinkle it with some spices, things like basil and oregano. Dribble a little crushed garlic over it. Toss on some pepperoni, and maybe a little diced tomato, and at the last just a little more shredded mozzarella. Now instead of flipping just slide that out and onto the plate. You’ll never look at pizza the same way again. Oh – and if you want it “to go”, fold it in half before it comes out of the pan. Sure, call it a calzone if you want.
What’s something else? Well, how about this time we use cheddar. Now sprinkle it with some chorizzo, and at the last instant add some softly scrambled eggs. Fold it so it make an inside out omelette, and serve it with a bit of sour cream and salsa.
These cheese shells make good taco shells, by the way. An easy “form” if you don’t have the tools is to purchase some cheap corn taco shells. Toast one side of the cheese, flip and toast the other, then remove it and drape it over the shell. Because both sides are toasted it (usually) doesn’t stick. Another tool is a narrow rolling pin. Just drape it over the pin till it cools and hardens, set it aside and make the next shell.
I have to mention the downside – yes, there is one. When you cook the cheese this way you’re rendering out some of the fats. The result will feel greasy. It IS greasy. If you think about it, it’s the fat that was already in the cheese but it can be offputting for some. That means it won’t work for some people and some dishes. Blotting helps in some cases, but it’s best to plan ahead.