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The Whiz

February 6, 2018

Four years in Philadelphia taught me all about the glory of Cheez Whiz.

That’s actually how you spell it. Four years in Philly didn’t teach me that. In fact, I have a mental block on the spelling of this shelf stable Kraft “cheese dip”. The only way I know that the spelling is correct is because I’m looking at a jar of the stuff as I write these words.

In college I would go to the dining hall and put Whiz on my fries. I’d add it to cheesesteaks. I’d pump it on burgers. If you had some corn chips and jalapenos, Whiz would turn your meager lot into nachos. On those occasions when I might be eating vegetables, Whiz could find its way onto a pile of broccoli. For as much Whiz as I’ve eaten over the course of my life, until this past weekend I never ever even considered buying it at the store.

Really, it goes against everything I hold dear. So what gives?

Cheez Whiz was a critical component of my food plan for last Sunday’s big game. I was cheering for Philadelphia, so naturally, I wanted to have some version of a Philly classic to munch on as I drank Tröegs and cheered the team from the City of Brotherly Love.

The most American Philly-centric thing I could come up with was Philly cheesesteak tater tot nachos. And that might have been ambitious cooking project, since while I’ve eaten more than a lifetime’s worth of cheesesteaks, I’ve never made one myself.

That said, I’ve watched the grill guys at some of the best shops in the world do their thing. So, I was reasonably confident I could make something passable. The trick would be finding the right ingredients.

Shaved steak was actually surprisingly easy to find. Who knew. Trader Joe’s had it in their fresh meat aisle. Beef with a “no antibiotics administered” claim was good enough for my game day eats. Usually, I’d look to Whole Foods meat counter first, but I was in a time crunch.

The tater tots also came from TJs. Mrs. Fussy prefers the Ore-Ida ones. My hope was that the ingredients in the ones from the Trader are just a little bit better. But that’s based on nothing but blind trust in a large corporation. In other words, madness.

But let’s put that aside for today. Because you can go two ways on cheesesteak cheese.

There’s provolone and there’s Whiz. What I’ve come to find is that there are two different styles of cheesesteak. Some places make a tender delicate steak that calls for real cheese. The other makes a greasy salty mess that demands Whiz.

Both are good. They are just different. That said, if you’re going to be putting the chopped up steak and onions on top of tots, that screams for Whiz. So I trekked out to Walmart to buy my jar of that crazy orange goo. Because if you’re buying Whiz you might as well buy it from the Waltons.

Even though the jar of Whiz is in arm’s reach, I can’t actually tell you what’s in the stuff. Somehow, it’s legal for Kraft to write the ingredients in a small black font on a dark red label. I know I’m getting older, but man, that’s hard for me to read.

What I can see is that at the bottom there is a statement that says, “partially produced with genetic engineering.” Whoa. I guess the labeling folks are finally starting to get a little traction. Well, good on The Kraft Heinz Company for getting with the program.

It’s kind of awful to admit this, but the Whiz really makes this dish.

Tots go in the oven to heat up. A large cast iron skillet gets preheated. Sliced onions go into the skillet to brown in a little safflower oil and salt. The shaved steak goes on top of the onions. It’s salted, browned, and chopped up using two spatulas. When it’s almost done, the Whiz comes out, and the thick cheese-like substance melts into the nooks and crannies of the beef, coalescing with the beef fat and oil, to create something entirely new.

All of this is turned out on top of a warmed plate filled with tots, and eaten with fingers while screaming at a television from the couch.


Perhaps the most horrifying thing is that I still have half a jar of the stuff, and now I’m tempted to find other uses for Whiz. Or maybe, now that I’ve discovered just how easy it is to make a pretty freakin good cheesesteak at home, I’m just going to work this dish into regular rotation.

What make it even more dangerous is that I’m the only one in the house who loves it. Fortunately, I’m out of shaved steak. Unfortunately, I suspect that despite having a date printed on the jar, Cheez Whiz will last in the refrigerator indefinitely.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Pam C. permalink
    February 8, 2018 12:18 am

    Daniel, you can add it to mac & cheese, or use it as a dip for hot pretzels.

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