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Wednesday Food: Soft Pretzels

I went to a party this weekend in honor of a sport that sends this city (until recently) and this country (generally) into fits of panic and tension.  It’s not something that particularly electrifies my life, so I tried to find another way to get involved.  To escape the bewildered looks that followed my question of why the weighty people serve no purpose other than canceling each other out, I threw my hands up and attended to the snack supply.  Brats were on the grill and pork was in the smoker, so fresh soft pretzels were the perfect starter.

Having mastered yeast just last week I thought it appropriate to take my new skill for a ride.  Literally.  I made the dough the morning before the game, let it rise a while, packed it up, and cycled to the party.  It kept beautifully.  I left the big ball of dough covered and on top of the oven for most of the afternoon and fired off a batch when needed.  I can’t pinpoint what it is about pretzels that make people so happy—the sense of nostalgia?  the goofy shape?  the likeness to bread?—but there’s something magical about this food.  A simple dusting of course sea salt will suffice for topping but next time I’ll try grated asiago and sriracha or perhaps bacon and sage.

With the pretzels I served homemade beer mustard and rosemary onion confiturra.  Smuttynose Brewing is fresh on Chicago’s distribution roster so I incorporated their Robust Porter.  Somewhat mellow but full-bodied, it has roasted nut and chicory flavors that work well both in the mustard and for drinking.  And at a modest 5.7% abv it’s a lighter quencher for your winter stout craving.  The onion confiturra was good and went well with meat, but it would have benefited from a reduction in sugar and a deglazing of Smuttynose.

If you, like so many of your fellow countrymen (though not this one), will be gathering around the television for a climactic sporting event, this is your dish!

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January 26, 2011 - Posted by | Wednesday Food

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