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October 12, 2009


I have a number of Spanish-speaking friends from all over the world -- Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela -- and when I asked them how to pronounce Idiazabal, I got three different answers:





So, I'm just going to call this dish Alinea Cheetos and be done with it.

Because that's what it is: cheese, flour, salt, water, a little bit of frying, and there you are.  Alinea Cheetos.

First, a mise en place:


Clockwise from the top: water, cheese, salt, tapioca flour.

Next, I prepared the steaming portion of our program.  I don't own a steamer, and since I had no plans to buy one, I picked up this silicone splatter screen instead and figured I'd jury-rig equipment I already had to make this work:


See?!?!?  You can use it to steam:


I set a large pot of water on the stove to boil -- the circumference of which was the same as the silicone splatter guard -- and made the dough from the ingredients in the mise en place.

I combined 50g of the grated Idiazabal (saving 10g for the final step of the recipe) with the tapioca flour and salt in my food processor:


While the food processor was running, I slowly added the water:


The end result is that the dough looks like a blob of really nice ricotta:


I put the dough between two layers of plastic wrap and rolled it with a rolling pin until it was 1/8" thick:


By this time, the pot of water on the stove had come to a simmer and had begun to release steam through the holes of the splatter guard:


Still in the plastic, I placed the dough on top of the steamer/splatter guard:


I covered it with a pot of the same size and let it steam for 12 minutes.  Then, I flipped the dough and let it steam another 12 minutes on its other side:



After the 24 minutes of steaming was up, I removed it from the splatter guard/steamer, and let it cool to room temperature:


Once it had cooled, I removed the plastic and placed it on.... dunh dunh DUUUUNNNHHHHH, a rack in my NEW (well, used) DEHYDRATOR!!!



Y'all, I was just so freakin' sick and tired of failing miserably at trying to dehydrate things in the oven.  My lovely friend, Heidi, offered to loan me hers, but on a lark I searched Craigslist one Sunday morning and there it was.  An Excalibur 4-drawer food dehydrator.  Being sold by someone mere minutes from my house.  I called the number on the ad, and within the hour (and for $50), this lovely machine was mine.... alllll mine.


The dough went in to dry out at 130 degrees F for two-and-a-half hours.  I checked it, and it was still a little wet at that point, so I let it go another 30-40 minutes until it had fully dehydrated and was crispy.


Meantime, I ground some BLiS smoked salt and maple granules with my mortar and pestle while I waited for the canola oil to get hot enough so I could fry the now-dry Idiazabal dough:


Once the oil had reached 425 degrees, I gently slid the flat of dough into it, and let it fry for about two minutes -- when it had become puffy, light, and airy:





I let it drain on a few layers of paper towels before breaking it into cracker-sized servings.

I used a pastry brush to brush on a thin coating of BLiS maple syrup (which seriously? Rocked my damn world, that stuff is SO GOOD and I love it so much I wanna marry it), then sprinkled it with the maple granule-smoked salt mixture.  Then, I sprinkled the remaining 10g of Idiazabal on top before putting it under the broiler:



I took them out after about 30 seconds, and let them cool on a cooling rack.

Here's what they looked like:


I put them in a bowl, and made my usual round of phone calls to the neighbors to have them come over for a taste.  And, freakishly (but lucky as hell for me), no one was home, so I settled in for the evening with a TiVo full of Mad Men and Glee, a glass of Podere Forte, Castiglione d'Orcia (Petrucci, 2005), and proceeded to eat every last one of my Alinea cheetos.  All by myself.

And they were fantastic.

Idiazabal cheese is made from unpasteurized sheep's milk, and it has a smoky flavor, even though it's not smoked.  It's slightly nutty, a little buttery, and I love it shaved over gluten-free pasta with a little olive oil.  I also like to grate it over sausage and lentils, or beef shortrib soup with kale and chard.


So it's a cheese I already loved.  And now made into a light, airy, crispy cracker with hints of smoked salt and maple.  A crispy crunch, with sweet, salt, smoke, and a little nutty buttery nose feel.  Made with tapioca flour, so I didn't even have to think about how to adapt it to make it gluten-free. 

I mean, YOU tell me which one of these you'd rather have:


Yeah, I thought so.

Up Next: Wild Turbot, shellfish, water chestnuts, hyacinth vapor

Resources: Idiazabal cheese from Whole Foods; tapioca flour from Bob's Red Mill; David's kosher salt; canola oil from HMart; BLiS smoked salt and maple syrup; Buck Hill Farm maple granules.

Music to Cook By: Mayer Hawthorne; A Strange Arrangement.  A young soul singer from Michigan, Mayer Hawthorne (not his real name -- it's something like Andy Cohen, I think) has incredible talent.  I love his voice, and the production values on this album make me feel like I've been dropped into the 60s, listening to a hybrid of Smoky Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, and maybe someone a little more beachy and coastal.

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No contest...I'd take the Alinea Cheetoes any day of the week...and I bet they don't leave that freaky weird dayglo orange junk on your fingers either!

You got a dehydrator -- yay!!! These look good. I used to love Cheetos, but now can't stand the taste of them. They're just too chemically tasting.

This is the one thing in the Alinea cookbook I've always wanted to try. I love the idea of the smoked salt and the maple syrup with that kind of cheese. I'll dehydrate it in my oven and let you know how it turns out. Nice work!

I thought I was the only person who liked Mayer Hawthorne!! So glad to know someone with your taste in music likes him too. These little bites look really good. I buy Idiazabal (and I'm sure I bungled the pronunciation when I asked for it at the cheese counter) regularly for parties, and it's always the first one to be devoured. Now, I just need to figure out how I can combine the cheese with the maple syrup and some smoky salt without making this actual bite. I never woulda put those flavors together until I read about it here.

I have that dehydrator. It. is. awesome.

I am a sucker for Idiazabal cheese. I brought it to a little family gathering once, and my horrified four-year-old niece thought I said EYEBALL cheese.


The Alinea cheetos look so good, and your choice of TV shows to accompany it is perfect!

Though, now, I have the vision of the cross-eyed Andy Cohen from Bravo singing soulful tunes while flirting with Tom Colicchio...thanks...

I've heard a comedian refer to that "freaky weird dayglo orange junk on your fingers" as cheetle. I love it, it sounds vaguely risque.

I KNEW you were going to get a dehydrator! Somehow I expected it would be smaller, seems pretty huge to me

amazing recipe, I loved the improvised steamer, although I do think you should look for one in craigslist.... :-)

This Alinea adventure has proven more "convenient" than it seemed at the beginning. You're stocking up on Equipment!

BTW: I'd go with the second pronunciation...

Fine work, yet again...And quite a nice description of the interplay of flavors. Now I'm yearning a little for that BLiS maple!! Just a drizzle!


Question: Have you used the silicone spatter screen for frying yet? I recently saw one in my local kitchen store, but was hesitant to purchase, thinking that moisture may collect on the silicone while frying. The women in the store thought the same thing, no one had tried it yet. So I wound up buying the screen door version.

Other...Leash: I haven't used it for frying, because I so rarely fry things. The screen/mesh one is probably better. But, if anyone has experience with the silicone one, I'm sure they'll weigh in.

My husband is from Spain, and he says it's ee-dee-a-ZAH-bol. I just say it's delicious!

They sort of look like pita chips. What was the consistency like? Bready? Crunchy?

next time you make these I hope you invite me over! :P

I love that you made these idiazabal thingies, but also have cheetos in your possession. <3 gourmet.

I think the fact that no substitutions had to be made to make it GF makes it that much better. They look fantastic.

Re: Glee - how much fun is that show?! It's rare that my husband and I find something we both like to watch on TV, but this fits the bill.

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