There are a number of criteria for selecting a perfect party food, don’t you think? For starters, it should require only one hand to eat it and, relatedly, should not require a plate. In most cases, this rule applies because your other hand is occupied by a beverage. I could also see one employing her second hand to wield a camera, hold a kid, shake a stranger’s hand, high five a friend’s hand, flash a thumbs up across the room (I do this; I say goodness and whoopsie and you don’t say, too—now you know), hold a hand of cards, gesture wildly. You get the picture — party food, at its best, is one-handed (and plate-less).
Second, and almost as important as the uni-hand feature, a perfect party food should be pretty. Beautiful, breathtaking, stunning, even. This is not the time for your favorite slap-dash dinner (which, incidentally, very likely requires two hands and a plate, or a bowl at the very least). This is not the time for a monotone palette of brown and beige (ahem, I should really follow my own rules). This is the time for color and flair.
Third, it should be delicious. Of course.
These cheese straws easily satisfy all three criteria. (1) One handed: check. In fact, you really only need two fingers—a thumb and an index finger, pinched together. (2) Pretty: why I should say so! Standing on end in a variety of drinking glasses—a juice glass, a tumbler, a stemless flute, and the list goes on—you’ve got a spiky bouquet that catches the eye. (3) Delicious: oh, yes. I hope I’m not doing these straws a disservice by likening them to Cheese-Its (or is it Cheez-Its?), but I can’t help myself. They’re so much more honest though: all that’s going on here is flour, butter, salt, milk, cheddar (the sharper the better) and a healthy pinch of cayenne. Simply put, they hit all the right notes: savory, salty, rich and spicy. They’ve got a delicate crunch and you can’t help but reach for another.
I made these on Saturday for my friend Maggie’s bridal shower. My friend Brynn and I did all the cooking (you can see some of the other things we made here!) and, of the things I made, these straws were my favorite. So long as we can discount the tiny strawberry shortcakes, that is. More about those very soon.
Adapted from Gourmet
Perfect party food should also be plentiful. I suggest you double the batch — you won’t be sorry.
Yield: about 2 dozen straws
1/4 pound coarsely grated extra-sharp Cheddar (1 1/2 cups)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
Pulse cheese, flour, butter, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add about half of the milk and pulse until dough forms a ball. Add additional milk, if needed (I used almost the entire 1/4 cup).
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12- by 10-inch rectangle (1/8 inch thick). Cut dough with a lightly floured pizza wheel or lightly floured sharp knife into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Carefully transfer to 2 ungreased baking sheets, arranging strips 1/4 inch apart. (If strips tear, pinch back together.)
Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until pale golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.