Liz Lemon’s CHEESY BLASTERS: Thanks, Meatcat!!
Oh, this is gonna be fun.
How many of us worship at the altar of Liz Lemon? Raise those hands! On “30 Rock”, Tina Fey created a wonderfully lovable yet crazy character with endless quips, horrible shoes and an insatiable craving for junk food. Her favorites included pop-tarts, cheese doodles (“400% of my sodium??”), candy, doughnuts, night cheese (“working on my night cheese!”), and a seemingly endless number of hot dogs and entire pizzas. But Liz Lemon’s greatest culinary contribution to the television landscape involved the combination of those last three items: Cheesy Blasters.
Yes, we are making Cheesy Blasters today! Some of you may be thinking, “I can’t eat this, I’m a foodie.” But if you’re like me, you are probably so excited that you’re on the verge of lizzing. See, the repulsive thing about the stereotypical “American” foods that Cheesy Blasters represent (things like that pizza that had mini cheeseburgers lining the crust, or the fried chicken sandwich using two doughnuts instead of a roll) is that they’re so unbelievably unhealthy and disgusting and could probably kill you. (And who knows what you might find in there.) But guess what? My Cheesy Blasters, while still being laughably insane and delicious, are pretty good for you. Or, at the very least, pretty not-bad for you. Because instead of two sources of artery-clogging cheese and whatever in god’s name is in hot dogs, we’re veganizing!
Obviously, this is going to be quite a challenge, with numerous components to reimagine and recreate. As Jenna Maroney would say, really inappropriately, “I’m going to have to reinvent you, break you down completely, and build you up from scratch, just like Mickey Rourke did to me sexually.” We could do this much more easily, buying some store-bought vegan hot dogs and prepackaged vegan cheese, heating them up and rolling some delivery pizza around the hot mess. But where’s the fun in that? We’re going to make everything here from scratch. (Except the pizza sauce. Let’s take just one shortcut, ok?) Is that skepticism I’m sensing? “What is this, Horseville? ‘Cause I’m surrounded by naysayers! Wordplay!” No, we’re going to do this and it’s going to be amazing. Let’s get started.
Notes: Full of gluten, soy, nuts, and general ridiculousness
PART 1: YOU TAKE A HOT DOG
One of my favorite (repeated) experiences as a vegan is to listen to people complain about how disgusting faux meats are, because omigod what is in there? Sure sure, because beans and vegetables and flours are much grosser than the mystery entrails of hot dog components. Nice try.
For the hot dogs, I used a mixture of vital wheat gluten (the protein that makes seitan), chickpeas, a bit of tofu, various flours, and veggies. It actually turned out well! A lot of people would recommend steaming your homemade veggie hot dogs to get the right amount of chewiness, but baking is easier and who cares about the texture when you’re wrapping this in pizza?
- 2T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2C carrots, chopped
- 1 can (15 oz.) cooked chickpeas, rinsed
- 2T tamari
- 1/2t coriander
- 1/2t cumin
- 1/2t garlic powder
- 1t salt
- 1+1/2t liquid smoke
- 1T spicy mustard
- 5T silken tofu (note: the remainder of a standard 12.3 oz. container is what I used for Part 2)
- 1T tomato paste
- 1+1/3C vital wheat gluten (VWG)
- 2/3C chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour, gram flour, or besan)
- 1T cornstarch
- 2/3C all-purpose or wheat flour
1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, sauté your onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.
2. Add your carrots. Add 1/2C water and cover the pot to let the carrots cook, for about 10 minutes. Check periodically, and if anything is sticking or you fear for burning, add more water, it’s cool.
3. Once the carrots are soft, add your chickpeas, and all of the spices and accoutrements, from the tamari to the tomato paste. Stir everything through and cook for about 3 more minutes.
**Meanwhile: Preheat your oven to 400°
5. Turn off the stove. With your immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot until very smooth.
6. In a mixing bowl, mix your VWG, chickpea flour, regular flour, and cornstarch. Add the chickpea/veg mixture from the big pot and mix thoroughly. (You could even add the flour mixture into the big pot. Just combine it all.)
7. Mix it all up vigorously. Work those guns!
8. Line a big baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into hot dog shapes, place on the parchment, and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes, then lower to 350° and cook for another 20 minutes. They should be very firm in the middles.
PART 2: STUFF IT WITH SOME JACK CHEESE
So, I’m one of those lucky vegans who didn’t have to overcome a past obsession with cheese. But this means I don’t really remember what most cheeses tasted like (except for Parmesan; I’m not an animal). The internet and my omnivorous brother taught me that a more interesting variation of the mild jack cheese is pepper jack, peppered with a real kick of spice. Obviously, Lemon would choose the more fun cheese, right? To recreate this, I made a mild, creamy cheese using both soaked cashews and tofu, and then kicked it up a few gears with some sriracha. It worked! And it’s one of my new favorite cheeses. I know you are probably scoffing and saying, “That’s not jack cheese!” But it’s fiery, delicious and versatile. And what did I say about Horseville?
- 1C cashew pieces
- 9-10 oz. silken tofu
- 1/3C nooch (nutritional yeast)
- 1-2T lemon juice
- 1t miso
- 3T tahini
- 2t sriracha (can add another 1/2t if yours is on the weaker side)
1. Measure your cashews in a measuring cup, cover with water, and let soak for about 3 hours. (Usually I would say that boiling works if you didn’t plan ahead, but we want some bite and texture to remain. Still, in a pinch . . . )
2. Add all ingredients to a blender, food processor, or large bowl if you are using an immersion blender, and blend until smooth.
PART 3: FOLD IT IN A PIZZA
Homemade pizza is one of my favorite things to make. I experiment with crusts, toppings and most importantly with cheese substitutes. I much prefer spreading an interesting hummus or pesto on my pizza rather than a prepackaged vegan cheese. It’s so much more exciting! I wasn’t about to change my tune for this project, yet I wanted a cheesy taste. (It’s called Cheesy Blasters for a reason! So much cheese!) The answer is a cheesy bean-based spread that bakes into the pizza crust absolutely perfectly, covered in a traditional sauce.
Tip: Make the pizza dough first, so the wait time as it rises can be filled with other things, like making the hot dogs.
FOR THE CRUST:
- 1+3/4C warm-to-hot water (like shower temperature)
- 1 packet instant yeast (about 2+1/4t)
- 1T sugar
- 4C whole-wheat flour
- 3t salt
1. Mix the sugar and water together in a glass measuring cup, then add the yeast. It should start foaming. Let it sit for 5 minutes to get all properly foamed up.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and the salt. Add your foamy water and mix into a ball, and knead knead knead! (Add more warm water if needed.)
3. Let the dough sit in a well-oiled mixing bowl, covered with a dish towel, for 2 hours. (Tip: It helps to keep the bowl near heat. Put it on top of your radiator, near your heating vent, or on your stove as you use a different burner, as I did. Just don’t set it on fire!)
FOR THE CHEESY SPREAD:
- 1 can (15oz.) white beans (cannellini or great northern), rinsed
- 1/3C nooch
- 2T lemon juice
- 2t tamari
- 1t miso
- 1T tahini
- 1t mustard
1. Blend everything together in your blender, food processor, or in a big bowl if using an immersion blender. Taste and adjust to your liking.
PLUS: 1C pizza/marinara sauce of your choice (we’ve had enough recipes in this post!)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Once the dough has risen, roll it out onto a clean, floured surface and shape into a circle the size of your pizza stone, grill plate, or baking sheet. (I used a circular grill pan). Make it as flat as you can, and pinch the outer crust.
2. If, like me, you don’t have a pizza stone, cover your baking sheet with parchment. It just makes things easier. Lift the rolled out dough onto the sheet/pan/stone/what-have-you.
3. Smooth the entire batch of your cheesy bean spread onto the dough, then top that with your marinara sauce.
4. Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the edges are golden and the inside is bubbly.
5. Let cool before handling!! I never learn this lesson.
CHEESY BLASTERS ASSEMBLY:
For an authentic Cheesy Blaster, you’re probably meant to wrap the entire pizza around the hot dog. We won’t be doing this, because a) holy crap, and b) I had to feed 5 people with this, so we are making individual portions with slices of the pizza. (Oh, and yes, I fed 4 other adults the Blasters, in their proper form. It was hysterical.)
For each blaster:
- 1 hot dog
- 1 piece of pizza (about 1/8 the pie)
- two large dollops of jack cheese spread
1. YOU TAKE YOUR HOT DOG –
2. STUFF IT WITH SOME JACK CHEESE –
3. FOLD IT IN A PIZZA –
YOU GOT CHEESY BLASTERS!!
Oh man, guys, this is so delicious. There really is SO much cheese, just oozing out everywhere. It makes it pretty messy and pretty difficult to photograph, but dayum if it isn’t worth all the trouble. That Liz Lemon, hoo hoo, she is a smarty!
Now say it with me: Thanks, Meatcat!