How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love you with the depth and breadth that all my belt can take.
Forgive me for waxing poetic. I really like cheese straws. I like them more than I should. Every year, our friend Florri DeCell gives us some for Christmas, and I have convinced Nancy that they make you fat so I get to eat almost all of them by myself. Then I go the extra mile and make sure I gain weight to maintain my credibility. You need a friend like Florri.
Florri is a lovely person in so many ways. We had Florri and her husband Ken over for dinner with another couple one night more years ago than I like to think, and one of the other guests made a baldly anti-semitic joke. A few seconds of awkward silence followed which Florri broke by saying in a level voice, “Tacky.” Perfect. Another time, Ken was waxing poetic (we do that a lot here in Washington) about the Atomica Pizza at Pizzeria Paradiso here in town, which he proclaimed “almost as good as sex.” Florri, with a twinkle in her eye, succumbed to the temptation of swinging at a hanging curve ball and said, “Better.” Ken, having batted a few hanging curve balls out of the park in his day, took it in good part and laughed more than anyone. He later slipped the incident into a Washingtonian magazine piece, where he worked back when it was readable.
You may not be able to come up, time after time, with perfect one-word comments, but you can make Florri’s cheese straws, which, all things considered, is better. Here’s her recipe, which is eerily similar to my mother Dear’s recipe (a very good sign):
Grate 1/2 pound extra sharp cheddar cheese, and mix it well with 2 sticks of butter and a teaspoon of Tabasco sauce.
Next, sift 1 3/4 cups flour, and add a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon or so of cayenne pepper. (I added the “or so.”)
Mix everything thoroughly and squeeze it through a pastry tube in 3 1/2 inch strips onto an ungreased cookie sheet (you already committed 2 sticks of butter, after all.) If you don’t have a pastry tube, just roll it out on a floured pastry board and cut it into strips — say, about 3 1/2 inches long and about the width of, oh, a pastry tube.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 10-12 minutes, until the edges are very lightly browned.
You’ll have about six dozen cheese straws. You can stand there and eat them off the pan, give them as Christmas gifts, serve them as appetizers, or double the recipe and send them to me.