I’ve noticed something about many chefs. They don’t sleep much, they have shitty eating habits since they dine at hours when you usually aren’t (like, at 2:00am), they’re dehydrated, and they like to create work for themselves. In many cases with this Ghetto Gourmet series, a chef will politely ask to create an extra dish: “Can I make something else?” Chef Mike Angeloni at L’Unita restaurant on Avenue Road experimented with the bright orange spread that is Cheez Whiz and everyone’s favourite crescent rolls by Pillsbury. Mike’s years at the Black Hoof and Splendido have not entirely prepared him for this task. In fact, he had never even tasted Cheez Whiz until I insisted he try a spoonful. He was pleasantly surprised.
So what would we get out of the Italian restaurant’s kitchen from a chef who used to spend his childhood days making perogies with his mother and weekends making pasta with his grandmother? Cheez Whiz foam was on this ghetto menu. Mike heated some spreadable cheese and milk together, strained it and put it in an aerosol canister. It looked like beautiful orange-sorbet coloured whipped cream with the tangy zing of the Whiz. A shocking disappointment if you were really expecting orange sorbet.
I mention that it actually looks like spray cheese in a can and, well, it essentially is. Next up is the fanciest version of pigs in a blanket you could dream up. Pillsbury crescent rolls with 26-hour roasted pork shoulder, pulled apart, pressed and deep-fried until crisp, were spread with some Cheez Whiz, rolled up and thrown in the deep fryer. “You could serve this at a cocktail party,” I insisted earnestly. I doubt Mike will, but he smiled like he would consider it.
Mike also had a plan to throw the crescent roll dough into the fryer to see if it would puff up like deep-fried chicharrones. It didn’t puff up as much as he had hoped, but it was dusted with hot smoked paprika and plated with crispy pork shoulder, charred cauliflower with cauliflower puree, pearl onions pickled in beet juice and Cheez Whiz foam. It was a version of a dish he makes at L’unita (obviously without foamy cheese product or fake chicharrones).
But seriously, someone needs to serve crispy pork shoulder and Cheez Whiz wrapped with Pillsbury crescent rolls at a party and tell me they’re not a huge hit.