American cheese slices (aka plastic cheese, fake cheese) are a polarizing food subject. Some folks turn their noses up, and for good reason. American cheese technically isn't even cheese and must be labeled 'cheese product.' Its flavor is mild (some would say bland) and it's full of chemicals. But others enjoy the convenience of the individually wrapped slices and its melting qualities are legendary. It doesn't separate or get greasy but oozes into a smooth, creamy pool.If you grew up eating American cheese, it might have a special place in your heart, even if you now serve more sophisticated cloth-wrapped cheddars in your adult life. American cheese is a foundation of nursery food: grilled cheese, mac and cheese, cheese omelets. It melts beautifully over burgers and hot dogs and is fed to toddlers as a snack.
On the other side, American cheese technically isn't even cheese and is required to be labels as 'cheese product' or 'cheese food.' It is full of chemicals (Kraft Singles: Milk, Whey, Milk Fat, Milk Protein Concentrate, Salt, Calcium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Whey Protein Concentrate, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid, Apocarotenal, Annatto, Enzyme(s), Cheese Culture.)
While I might have a nostalgic moment about its taste, truth is my palate really has moved on and so I never buy American cheese. That said, if it didn't require the purchase of a special digital ingredient scale, a silicone loaf pan and a few odd ingredients, I would totally make Mark Mc Clusky's DIY American Cheese from CHOW. He uses Wisconsin cheddar, Comte and Gouda as well as white wine to make a delicious-sounding American cheese approximation (see video below.) Good, geeky, kitchen fun!
Related: In Praise of American Cheese
(Image: Dana Velden)