Snack Break: Cheesy and Crispy

Most of the things we know about food and how to treat specific ingredients have stemmed from accidental discoveries.  Who knew that egg whites could be whipped into a meringue?  Or that ginger root is actually edible?  One thing can be transformed into another just by heating it, whipping it, freezing it. But the magic of cooking it not reserved for the chefs of the world.  When I was a kid I remember when my grandmother would make the grandkids “cheesy crisps,” literally just shredded cheddar cheese broiled in oven until crisp.  It was amazing watching the feathery cheese curls melt into a gooey puddle and then suddenly firm up into lacey little chips.

Last week, with this memory in mind, I decided to take the cheese crisp idea one step further.  I would make a cheese crisp bowl.   Now before I go taking credit for any of this, I had seen this edible bowl done before on TV, though I had never made it myself.  I used extra sharp cheddar, but I wished I had had a better brand of cheese to work this.  As a college student, Kraft cheese sometimes just has to do.  I grated about a cup of cheese on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  If you don’t have parchment paper or else a reliable non-stick cookie sheet, I highly recommend at least getting a roll of the baking paper before attempting this.  Otherwise, you may face some grief trying to get the cheese crisps off the sheet.

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I have a little toaster oven so that’s what I ended up using to bake my cheese bowl, but you can obviously use the broil setting on your oven.  Just make sure you keep an eye on it!  It took about 10-11 minutes for the cheese to properly crisp in my oven, but don’t think that’s the norm.  You want to bake the cheese until it starts to darken on the edges but doesn’t burn.  Even more tricky, however, is you need to make sure that the crisp is completely cooked in the middle as well or else you’ll have a very chewy, floppy bowl.

Once you think it’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for a minute or two.  It will fall apart if you try to mess with it too early.  On the flip side of course, you can’t wait too long or you won’t be able to shape it.  Using a spatula and/or your fingers lift the cheese crisp off the tray and drape it over the backside of a bowl, cup, or some other rounded container.  It should cool and harden in only a few minutes but be very careful when moving it after the fact; it will be very delicate.

Now comes the burning question – what do you fill a cheese bowl with?  I’m seen people fill them with salads or creamy dips, but having inappropriate ingredients for both, I decided to make up a simple batch of scrambled eggs which I topped off with sautéed kale.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how to make scrambled eggs.  You just do you.  But with kale, I prefer to sauté it with olive oil, garlic, and a bit of salt.  This too, is rather self-explanatory, so I will only caution you to go easy on the salt especially with a salty cheese.  The combination will be more potent than you might think.

Photo by Jasmine McNenny

So that’s it, really.  I filled my bowl with scrambled eggs and garlic kale.  From start to finish it probably took me fifteen minutes, a doable timeline even for the busiest college student.  It was tasty, unique, and fun to eat as I picked off pieces of the bowl to be added to every bite.  A nice component to any meal and an impressive  addition to a friendly dinner party.

Why stress when good cooking can be this easy?