Cheetos are a miracle of science. Consider the recent NYT magazine cover story on food conglomerates and their efforts to hook the public on their products. Of the chips, processed lunch meats, and sugary sauces, I was most impressed with the Cheeto. Not only does it crunch, but it pleasingly melts in the mouth, wherein lies a key added benefit: we tend to think airy, delicate foods are harmless. And so we keep dipping our orange hands into the Cheeto bag.
A morsel that both dissolves and addicts: genius. The first Cheeto emerged from a bubbling test tube, huddled over by a mob of lab-coated food scientists. Like a novel, it transformed from a dreamy vision into a real live object. But in the obsession with all things modern (see ipad, etc.), we lose sight of the past and the fact that all culinary history is full of experimentation.
Take Yorkshire pudding, for instance. As a rule, any expanding food, be it a Cheeto, Yorkshire pudding, or a loaf of bread, is the product of trial and error, in other words, the scientific method. A tiny amount of batter ladled into a hot muffin tin blows up into a golden, yummy balloon. The first gal to crack open the oven and witness this event must have fainted right into her tub of freshly churned butter.
Cheetos and Yorkshire Pudding: pools of liquid puffed up into addictive treats. Both products of food experimentation, the former was created with the intent of hooking consumers. Scientists tested sugar, salt, and crunch metrics with the precision of researchers hunting for a cancer cure.
Yorkshire Pudding may not be the perfect food (to my mind, the Dorito is unsurpassable), but they’re honest, successful and absurdly simple examples of kitchen chemistry. Fresh out of the oven, these things are plenty addicting, but if you want to be like the Cheeto guy, serve them as we do here, with a spoonful of foie gras mousse and strawberry preserves.
Yorkshire Pudding w/ Foie Gras and Strawberry Preserves
Makes about 12 Y.P.’s
1 cup flour
1 ¼ cup milk
foie gras terrine
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk salt and flour. Whisk in eggs until very smooth. Whisk in half the milk, then the remaining half. Transfer to a measuring cup and let rest.
3. Add a teaspoon of oil to each compartment of a 12 tin muffin pan. Place in oven until oil is extremely hot. Swirl around carefully.
4. Fill muffin tins about ¾ full. Bake about 15 minutes until golden and puffy. Serve with foie gras and jam.