Petit Pommes Frites with Habanero Cheddar Fondu, Bacon Powder

In the same batch of cheeses that we received from Ashe County Cheeses was a Habanero Cheddar. When it arrived I cut a slice off and popped it in my mouth. Let me preface the result by saying that I really like spicy foods. I’ll put Tabasco on anything, I love sriracha and I’ve eaten pickled jalapenos. With that said, this cheese is a mean, sadistic little son of a bitch. It hurt me, mostly because I wasn’t prepared for it, but it hurt me. It punched me in the face and taunted me, burning all the way as I walked to the break room in search of milk.

To provide an idea of how hot habanero peppers are we need to look at the Scoville Scale. Named after chemist Wilbur Scoville, this index measures the spicy heat of a pepper. A pepperoncini is 100-500, jalapeños are 2,500-8,000, cayenne pepper is 30,000-50,000, and the habanero is 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville Scale.

Even though it had scorched me, I still wanted to share this cheese. Realizing that not everyone would enjoy this evil little treat as much as I did, I needed a way to turn the heat down. I decided to make a cheese fondu by reducing some nice, pH neutral heavy whipping cream and then melting the cheese into it.

No matter how much of a food snob you are, there aren’t many better things to dip into melted cheese than French fries. Work in some bacon and onion and you have purely magical bar food.

For the French fries I always use russet potatoes for their starch content. You need the high starch both to provide the crunchy brown crust and the fluffy interior. For a better analysis than I can provide on these golden treats, check out my favorite food science book of all time, “How To Read A French Fry” by Russ Parsons.

To provide the bacon flavor, I made bacon “powder” using tapioca maltodextrin. Tapioca maltodextrin is a modified starch that thickens fats rather than liquids. Use sixty percent bacon fat and forty percent tapioca maltodextrin by weight, then blend in a food processor and pass through a tamis to get a fluffy consistency. Maltodextrin has a very neutral flavor, leaving only a nice fluffy pile of bacon powder to season your fries with.

Garnish with some very freshly sliced chive, dip and enjoy. Just make sure you have something to drink.

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