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Cheesy spice blend conjures chip nostalgia

It’s hard to resist nostalgia, even when it imparts an unpleasant aftertaste.

That about sums up my experience with Doritos, Cheetos and other artificially colored and flavored corn chips. I’m inclined to say that I “never” buy these snacks, but when someone else ponies up the cash to offer them as part of a party, picnic or other special event, who am I to resist?

Such was the case when my husband purchased a mixed package of single-serving bags of chips for a family trip to Mt. Ashland. He banked on me choosing the plain Ruffles or Lay’s, leaving the fun, flavored chips for the kids. I did indeed choose the potato chips — initially. But burning calories on the slopes while keeping up one’s body temperature demands some extra carbs, and I would not be denied an extra bag.

Doritos’ siren song is only slightly diminished by the knowledge that after the last chip is consumed, their irresistible flavor turns strangely stale and unsavory on the tongue, remaining for hours. Fortunately, we had some tangerines to cleanse the palate a bit.

A better bet for hitting Doritos’ unique note of cheese, tomato and spice without the dose of monosodium glutamate, Yellow 6 and Red 40, is mixing up one’s own spice blend and adding it to more wholesome foods. The ratio of cheddar cheese and tomato powders (available online) to spices in the following recipe sounds like a delectable topping for popcorn that still sates that craving for salty, crunchy snacks. Or wow a cocktail-party crowd with these popovers, created by Chicago Tribune food writer Stacey Ballis.

If you prefer Cool Ranch Doritos to Original, you can brush the tops of the hot popovers with a light coating of melted butter and sprinkle with ranch powder, or serve with a ranch butter made by mixing a packet of ranch dressing powder into a stick of softened unsalted butter.

You can make the popovers a day or two ahead. To reheat, place them on a wire rack over a baking sheet and bake in a 400-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes until hot and crisp.

Doritos-Style Popovers

3 large eggs

2 cups milk (whole or 2%, not skim)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese powder

1 tablespoon tomato powder

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening, for greasing pan

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until light and foamy. Slowly whisk in the milk and butter until incorporated.

Combine the flour, cheese powder and seasonings in a large bowl. Whisk milk mixture into flour mixture until no lumps remain. Transfer batter to a large measuring cup, cover with plastic and let rest at room temperature, for 1 hour. (Alternatively, batter can be refrigerated for 1 day. Bring fully to room temperature before proceeding with baking, for at least 4 hours.)

Heat oven to 450 F with rack in lower-middle. Generously smear shortening on inside of a 6-cups large or 12-cups small popover pan; lightly dust cups with flour, shaking and tapping to remove any excess. If you don’t have a popover pan, you can use a muffin tin; they just won’t “pop” quite as tall, but they will still be delicious.

Whisk batter vigorously to make sure it is fully combined; pour into popover pan, filling each cup to about 1/2 inch from top. (Don’t overfill; you might have a small amount of batter left over.) Bake without opening oven door until fairly well popped and just beginning to brown, for 20 to 25 minutes, but start checking at 15 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 300 F without opening the oven door; bake until popovers are golden brown all over, for 35 to 40 minutes more.

Open oven door; using a small skewer or tip of a paring knife, poke a small hole in top of each popover. Turn pan if they are not coloring evenly. Close door; bake until deep golden brown, for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven; rest popover pan on a wire rack. Poke each popover again with a skewer or knife; let cool, for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn out popovers. Serve hot with spread or filling of your choice.

Makes 6 large or 12 small.

Tribune News Service photo