If ever a snack food deserved a revival, it’s the cheese straw. What should be as common as its orange finger-producing bastard cousin, the Cheez-It, has been relegated to bridal showers and church socials for at least 60 years as ladies insist on chilling and twisting the dough, running it through a cookie press or piping it through a star tip to create those fussy scallops. Who wants to go to all that trouble when you can just open a box of Cheese Nips?
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When taste is what matters most, try these Quick-N-Dirty Cheese Straws. I make the dough (mostly cheese, butter and flour) in the food processor, roll it into a rectangle, slice it into strips with a pizza cutter and bake the straws for about 15 minutes. No chilling, no piping, no fussing. But the freshly-baked straws – a French fry-like batch of long, thin, crunchy, buttery, spicy, omigod cheesy crackers – are addictive. I don’t know whether it’s the intense flavor or that drool-inducing “snap,” but it’s impossible not to make a fool of yourself over these things.
I use a habanero cheddar and add crushed red pepper flakes for extra kick, but if hot-hot-hot damn, that’s hot!-heat isn’t your thing, use whatever cheese-and-seasoning combo you like. The classic extra-sharp cheddar and cayenne. Gruyere and thyme. Parmesan. Asiago. Paprika. Dried mustard. Poppy seeds. Just be sure to double the batch, because they’re even better the next day.
So I’m told.
Adapted from Matt Lee and Ted Lee’s “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook”
- 1 1/2 cups (about 4 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon half-and-half
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper and process in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the half-and-half. 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 an 8-X-10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into long, thin strips, 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut). Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving 1/4 inch between them. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.
- 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 on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature.