Good morning from snowy Chattanooga, Tennessee!
Okay, not really. The inch of snow that we got on Tuesday has pretty much completely melted and the temperature is going to be in the fifties today….though I can look out the window and see snow in the yard across the street. That was quite an adventure, though. If you live in the U.S. and you ever, ever watch the news I am sure you have seen reports about “Snowmageddon” in Atlanta. While Chattanooga didn’t experience nearly the paralyzation that Atlanta did, our forecasters more or less didn’t see it coming and it all happened very quickly.
Driving to work at 7:30 I heard the first I’d heard about snow-flurries, which I assumed (as did everyone else) would amount to nothing more than something fun for the kids to look at through the gigantic window in my classroom. By 10:45 the school had dissolved into a mass-dismissal and I got a text from Philip warning me to be careful driving home because our road was bad. A normally fifteen-minute drive took me more than thirty, though my (not very busy) street was the only problem….getting a five-speed up an icy hill is not a lot of fun, and if you do this you will want to bash in the little warning light on your dash that tells you that the road is icy and you are skidding. Oh, really? I hadn’t noticed. All is well, though, and I was lucky….and, compared to our neighbors in Atlanta, so was everyone else in Chattanooga, even the ones who got stuck for hours in traffic. I didn’t see reports of anyone in the CHA area stuck in their cars overnight.
You guys, the South is not used to this cold! I saw a video of Jon Stewart poking fun at us and implying that we should have known to get snow tires. Why would I buy snow tires for an event that takes place once every three years if that? Can you even buy snow tires in the South? I have literally never driven on a truly icy road until this past Tuesday. I’m in my mid-thirties (and yes, I do have overprotective parents and an overprotective husband…but still). My point is, this just doesn’t happen here.
Though I’ll admit that I’ll never understand our crazed grocery store runs for milk and bread when there’s a snowflake in the forecast, nothing annoys me more than when everyone rolls their eyes at the obviously moronic Southerners who aren’t prepared for winter weather conditions….but here, winter weather conditions usually involve temperatures above freezing. I roll my eyes at people in the North who think that 85 degrees is hot. So we’re even? Let’s just agree to stop making fun of each other for not knowing how to deal with weather conditions that we aren’t used to. And that easy beer-cheese soup is an excellent decision whether the temperature is 40 degrees or below freezing. Because either way, I’m cold (I think my age must be getting to me….this winter I have complained about being cold more than I think I ever have in the past).
This meal of easy beer-cheese soup and rosemary-parmesan pretzel bites was a good idea, a Saturday afternoon baking project plus an easy Saturday night dinner. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make this vegetarian, and if you don’t like bitter flavors don’t use a deep IPA like I did (Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, if you must know). Leave out the rosemary and parmesan from the pretzels if you want. Whatever. This easy beer-cheese soup is your meal!
If you need something hot and comforting, try this easy beer-cheese soup! The pretzel bites are on point too.
Pretzels from Chattavore: whole wheat mini-pretzels
Yield: 4 servings of soup, 32 pretzel bites
The recipe for the soup is adapted from Cook Without a Book: Meatless Meals by Pam Anderson . The pretzels are adapted from Good Eats: The Later Years by Alton Brown .
1 hr, 50 Total Time:
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)
- 1 Large or 2 small onions (diced)
- 1 clove garlic (minced-I use a garlic press)
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth (I like Kitchen Basics unsalted boxed broths)
- 12oz beer, whatever you have or like (1 bottle or can)
- 1/2 cup salsa verde (whatever "heat" level you like)
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian if you want to make the soup completely vegetarian-regular contains anchovies)
- 8oz extra-sharp cheddar (grated)
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 3/4 cups warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoon yeast (I like SAF Instant Yeast)
- 11oz all-purpose flour
- 1oz unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (2 tablespoons)
- 1oz grated parmesan cheese
- 6 cups water
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1 Large egg yolk (beaten with 1 tablespoon water)
- coarse salt
- To make the pretzels: Combine the warm water, the sugar, and the teaspoon of salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let sit for five minutes.
- Add the flour, the butter, the rosemary, and the parmesan and mix to combine with a wooden spoon (add water, just a tiny bit at a time, if you need to). Use the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer to knead the dough at medium speed for 4-5 minutes. Alternately, need by hand for 5 or 6 minutes on a floured surface. Oil the bowl and put the dough in. Cover and let rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Bring the 6 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in a wide, shallow pan (I used a 12-inch sauté pan). Meanwhile, knead the dough briefly then divide into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope and cut each rope into eight pieces.
- Drop each piece of dough into the boiling water for about thirty seconds (I did about eight at a time). Use a slotted spoon to remove from the water to the prepared sheet pan.
- Brush the pretzel bites with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until light golden brown. Eat within 24 hours.
- To make the soup: Preheat the oil in a large soup pot (I used my 6-quart Dutch oven for this) over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and cook until translucent, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about thirty seconds.
- Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to combine. Cook for about a minute, then gradually add the broth, then the beer, taking care to do this slowly and whisk carefully to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about eight minutes.
- Stir the salsa verde and Worcestershire sauce into the liquid, then add the cheese a handful at a time, stirring to combine. Make sure each handful fully dissolves into the soup before adding the next handful.
- Once all of the cheese has been incorporated, stir in the evaporated milk. Cook for a minute to combine the flavors. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.
The total prep time includes time for the pretzel dough to rise and bake time for the pretzels.