Thursday, January 28, 2010

Swimming in Velveeta

Hal and Andrea visited yesterday for lunch. We had enchilada soup ala Chili's. The recipe included Velveeta cheese. After we ate, Andrea was asking me what was in the soup. When I mentioned Velveeta, everyone paled. The night before, Richard looked in the refrigerator and said "Velveeta cheese - I haven't eaten that stuff in 35 years...what is it anyway?"

Velveeta is a pasteurized process cheese food which was born out of research by Kraft into the use of whey left over from regular cheese processing. Despite my guests horror, plenty of people like Velveeta. There are 1867 recipes listed on Recipezaar incorporating it. The last time I used it was in Velveeta Fudge! Working for Equal, I was testing foodservice recipes they'd collected from various chefs and were publishing in a little brochure. This was one of them....not only was the idea of Velveeta Fudge weird but the notion of replacing sugar with Equal to reduce the calories was even more ridiculous. The fudge was actually pretty good if you didn't know about it's checkered past.

The enchilada soup also contained masa harina which is the secret to achieving the flavor of enchiladas. Enchilada sauce, cumin and chili also add to the flavor profile. We had cilantro, green onions, chips, salsa and grated cheddar (the real thing) for stir-ins and toppings. Everyone ate two bowls and we had to scrape the bottom of the cauldron to refill everyone.

Hal and I remembered working on a Velveeta burger for Burger King about twenty years ago. Hal worked hard with the Kraft marketing people to work out some kind of joint promotion deal. It was tough to do back then and we didn't get anywhere. The burgers however were well received in the tests we conducted. Burger King had a portable store - actually a trailer outfitted with all the BK cooking equipment. They'd drive this to a consumer testing facility and we could use the actual equipment for food preparation. BK had a stringent testing protocol.

With Superbowl on the horizon I think about the Rotelle cheese dip that almost every Texan eats while watching the superbowl. A brick of Velveeta is heated up with a can of Rotelle tomatoes. It's eaten as fast as possible preferably with warm tortilla chips before it all congeals. I came to enjoy this while I was consulting in Austin with Guiltless Gourmet. We were making fat free dips and always comparing the products to the real thing - the Rotelle dip being the standard of excellence in this context.

The GG fat free dip stuck to me for some time like glue and the image above (lifted from John Mariania's web site) reminded of the last I heard of it. A radio station somewhere in Texas was running a contest. The gist of it was that they were throwing a set of truck keys into a vat of GG fat free cheese dip. People could dive into the vat and try to get the keys and win the truck - I gather the vat was deep. They called to ask if there was anything in the dip that might be physically damaging to the skin or eyes? When you compile a formula you think of a lot of things, but certainly not what might happen when people swim in it!

Ah...those Velveeta memories.

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