There are two types of people in this world; people who understand the power of homemade chex mix and people who buy that devil-trash ready-made stuff in a bag.
I, all-knowing of these critical matters, fall into the former category of people who make their own chex mix. I’m not going to pretend that it’s complicated or anything, but I am going to say that the recipe on the side of the box that your grandma used to use doesn’t cut it anymore. No my friends, like all good things that run in generational cycles of popularity, chex mix is on round three. Maybe four, but who is counting. Most people eating chex mix are half-drunk so I don’t really trust their math anyway.
And. Actually. According to my childhood neighbor Charlene Roberson, historically speaking, chex mix came to popularity as a party food because it goes so great with booze. Cocktails in particular. Hostesses would serve chex mix at the beginning of the party because it was so salty and crunchy and delicious and that would get people to drink more and the drinking would get people to mingle and the mingling would make for a good party. So that just makes good sense. Granted, Charlene Roberson facilitated my first experience with alcohol and what led to a mighty rainbow of vomit sprayed across her garage door, but, that is a story for another time. I digress. Bottom line, I owe the woman a great debt as she shared her secret recipe for twice toasted chex mix with me when I first learning to cook, and it has been a favorite ever since.
Just to clarify, for the two of you who have never had it before, let me tell you, as a snack species, homemade chez mix is delicious. Especially in the dead of winter when there is nothing to do but watch television and drink. If you are going to somebody’s house for the Superbowl, bring this chex mix and you will be the most popular person in the room. If you are staying home to watch Downton Abbey by yourself, that’s cool too. Make chex mix and you’ll love yourself for investing time into this special treat. I don’t why that is, but it is. I don’t make the rules. I just know a good thing when I see it/taste it/crunch it/rub it all over my face/OH MY GOD IT’S SO GOOD.
This recipe is an amped up version of the classic. If you are a hipster or trying to impress someone, I suggest adding bacon grease and wasabi but this is America and I’m keeping this mainstream, just the way Mrs. Roberson liked it – extra Rosemary and seasoning, with the cooking in two phases. She used to say that was the secret, “Toast up the cereal beforehand, then season, then toast again.” I have tried both ways, and the lady knew what she was talking about. Try it yourself!
PART ONE: Dry Stuff
9 cups Chex cereal or similar (I mix about 6 cups corn chex with 3 cups wheat, but you can use whatever you want. If you stick to rice based cereal it’s easy to keep this recipe gluten free)
1 cup mixed nuts (I like to use salted nuts but it’s a matter of preference)
2 cups small pretzels
1 cup Gardetto’s garlic rye chips*
* Gardetto’s garlic rye chips are the quintessence of what I call Old Man Food and you may or may not be familiar with their tasty crunch. You are more likely to find them in the snack aisle at a 7-11 than a grocery store but that’s something you’ll have to take up with the management. If, and only if, you cannot fine Gardettos rye chips 1. I feel sorry for you and 2. You can substitute bagel chips or some sort of pumpernickel chip, but really, Gardetto’s is the thing you want. Some people even make do with Cheezeits, and we all hold it against them. The seasoning on the Gardetto’s are what make this recipe taste retro and manly, so I suggest some investigating before surrendering to the dark side aka: goldfish.
Mix all the dry stuff together and spread on two cookie sheets. Bake at 300F for 15 minutes. You would be crazy to do this without lining the cookie pans with parchment paper, but feel free to try it.
PART TWO: Wet Stuff
One stick of melted butter
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. Sesame oil
2 Tbsp. Rosemary
1 Tbsp Seasoning salt (I like Lawry’s)
1 Tbsp. Black pepper
1 Tsp. sugar
1 Tsp. finely minced garlic (double that if you serving amongst friends)
*Like it hot and spicy? Add a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce.
While the dry stuff is in the oven, mix all the wet stuff together in the largest bowl you can get your hands on.
PART THREE: The Secret
Remove the dry goods now in oven and throw them into the bowl with the wet stuff. Toss around thoroughly and then spread the newly wet n’ wild cereal and stuff back on the parchment lined cookie sheets. Lower oven to 250F and roast for a good 45 minutes. This process could actually run anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the weather and how dry/absorbent your cereal is, so check often, but 45 is a good estimate. The cereal will look brown and toasty – that’s how you know it’s done.
If you like it warm, you can eat it 10 minutes out of the oven, but be sure to let it cool 100% before putting in an airtight container. If you seal it off when it’s warm it’ll get soggy and all your beautiful twice-toasted tastiness will be gone.
THE SECRET: The secret is in the pre-toasting. Those first 15 minutes at a high temp dry out the cereal thereby making it extra absorbent when it comes to soaking up all the flavorful spicy dressing in Part Two. It makes a big difference. The final result is extra crispy and every single piece is packed with buttery deliciousness. I dare you to make a batch and taste test it side-by-side with a bag of that readymade stuff. You will be shocked. No need to send me a thank you note, the buttery crunch in my heart is thanks enough.