My Venture into Cheese Whiz
From time-to-time, Cracker Barrel serves a dish called Apple Cheddar Chicken. I've never had it before but my friend Sue has and she really likes it. Sue got a copycat version of the recipe from a friend and recommended that I try it. It was good but I instantly wanted to make some changes -- which I am sure comes as no surprise to neither Sue nor my mother.
In the original recipe, the crackers are baked on top of the apples for most of the baking time. Then, in the last few minutes, you add the Cheese Whiz and cheddar cheese to the top and return the dish to the oven for a few minutes. With the addition of the cheeses to the top, the crackers lose their crunchiness and, in my opinion, their textural appeal. In addition, I'm not sure I like the combination of apples with chicken. It's OK but apples and PORK make beautiful music together. I, therefore, decided to change the recipe to use pork loin chops instead of chicken breasts and put the crackers on the top so that they would remain nice and crunchy. Pork loin chops, by the way, only have about 2g more fat per serving than boneless, skinless chicken breasts so I did not radically change the amount of fat in the recipe. If you are worried about the fat content, it's the cheese you should be worrying about.
I have been called a cheese snob. I don’t like American cheese slices or any kind of process cheese. To me, process cheese is as much like real cheese as Tang is like freshly squeezed orange juice. I couldn't believe that I was about to spend money buying [gulp] Cheese Whiz. I couldn't buy the Cheese Whiz at my normal grocery store lest I be judged by the other shoppers and the 16-year-old kids who sack my groceries. For this, I had to go to Walmart – and chose one far from where I lived.
I arrived at Walmart – a store I normally avoid at all cost. I put on a trench coat but couldn’t find my sunglasses anywhere. Luckily, I found some purple sunglasses in the parking lot, put them on, and headed into the store. I prayed that I wouldn't run into anybody I knew. Not having purchased Cheese Whiz before, I wasn't exactly sure where to find it. After going up and down several aisles, I approached a woman with two small children and said "Excuse me but do you know where I can find the, uh, [in a very low voice] Cheese Whiz?" "CHEESE WHIZ?" she loudly repeated as I moved my hands up and down trying to shush her. Other customers looked up and disapprovingly scowled when they looked in my direction. I'm sure they were mortified to hear that I was looking for Cheese Whiz. That or it was the fact that I was sweating like a pig in a trench coat in 95F degree weather while my head was being squeezed like a vice by purple plastic sunglasses made for a 6-year-old. The woman kindly pointed me in the direction of the Cheese Whiz. I quickly found the almost-cheese-like product, paid for it, and hurried out of the store. I may have embellished this story a little bit but you can see what frame of mind I was in while having to purchase…gulp…Cheese Whiz.
Anyway, you have to try this recipe. And you know what? The Cheese Whiz wasn't half bad! I was pleasantly surprised. It truly was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. By the way, if you have a little girl who lost her sunglasses, let me know. I have a pair she can have. Enjoy – and happy Cheese Whizzing!
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Apple Cheddar Chops
1 TBSP vegetable oil
5 to 6 Boneless Pork Loin Chops (America's Cut) -- about 1" thick
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 21-oz can apple pie filling
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Cheese Whiz (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup total)
8 oz cheddar cheese, freshly grated (2% cheddar works great)
25 butter crackers (such as Ritz or Townhouse), roughly broken into small pieces
2 TBSP butter, melted butter
Preheat the oven to 350F. Salt and pepper the pork loin chops (both sides) and set aside while you prepare the other ingredients.
Add the juice of half a lemon to the apple pie filling and stir to combine. Set aside until needed.
Break up the crackers into small pieces (do not crush into small crumbs). Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Set aside until needed.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork loin chops and cook about 2 minutes or until the pork has browned on the first side. Flip and cook 1 minute longer. At this point, the pork will not be cooked through. Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13" glass dish with cooking spray. Add the chops in an even layer – leaving some space between each chop. Pile some apples on top of each chop.
Take the lid off of the Cheese Whiz and microwave it for about 20 seconds to melt it slightly. The glass gets hot so use caution when removing it from the microwave. Stir the cheese and add about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of Cheese Whiz to the top of each of the apple-covered chops. Sprinkle each chop with some cheddar cheese. Finally, add some of the cracker pieces to the top of each chop.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese has completed melted, the juices are slightly bubbling, and the crackers are dark brown. Let rest 5 minutes in the dish before serving.