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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Elfin Shenanigans... Snacks, Leftovers & Stuff

A few nights ago, we had a few friends over to share a little holiday cheer. After a full night of merry making, we tucked the nutcrackers into their silver tree branches and unplugged the Christmas Disco Seal before dragging our tired butts to bed.

Early the next morning, (still tightly bound in my red and green elf tights) I was back in the kitchen scrubbing  cabernet sauvignon splatters from every kitchen appliance. It was hysterical. 

When everything was clean and back in order, I scrounged for something simple  to cook for dinner. With small snippets of leftover party snacks dotting every inch of refrigerater space, things looked bleak until I found a small tub of Dad's Favorites Beer Cheese tucked under a glistening halved pomegranate in the vegetable bin. In a split hangover-induced second, it dawned on me that beer cheese would make a great filling for grilled cheese sandwiches.

I'm a firm believer that a little hair of the dog soothes a weary hangover, so Michael and I chugged a few margaritas as an elixir to ours.  Emboldened by the power of tequila on a quiet Sunday afternoon, I threw together a couple of ordinary white bread sandwich loaves for our grilled beer cheese sandwiches.

Thankfully, my 18 year old KitchenAid stand mixer did most of the work.
I proofed 1 tablespoon of yeast with 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees) 1 tablespoon sugar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of the mixer. When it bubbled and foamed, I added 3 1/2 cups bread flour, attached the dough hook, and blended the mixture on low speed until it was fully incorporated.  After adding an additional 3 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup warm water,  I cranked the speed to medium and let it rip for 10 minutes before turning the dough out on a floured cutting board.

I gave the plump dough a few pats, tucked it into a ball, and dropped it into an oiled bowl (covered) to rise and double in size before slicing it in half with a bench scraper.  I folded the halves in rectangles, pinched the seams, snuggled them into 2 buttered loaf pans, and let them rest for a second rise.

After 45 minutes, I slit the tops of the loaves, brushed them with egg wash, and slid them into a 350 degree oven to bake  until golden brown.

Once the loaves cooled completely on a wire rack, I sliced enough pieces for Michael to make killer grilled beer cheese sandwiches flecked with baby arugula and biting minced shallots. Jacked up comfort food. The  buttered crunchy grilled white bread oozed with spicy beer cheese. While the slightly wilted baby arugula provided fresh peppery bitterness, tiny shallots added subtle bursts of wetness. Elevated grilled cheese. Fabulous.

A couple of nights later, Michael's sister stopped by with a friend. We needed snacks, so I sliced the remaining bread into very thin batons, trimmed the crusts, brushed them olive oil, and baked  the crostini until they were golden brown.  After they cooled, I topped them with sliced brie, caramelized pears, and toasted pecans before sliding them back into the oven to melt the brie.  I finished the crostini  with sliced fresh Red Barlett pears, chives, and served them with clusters of globe grapes. Smalls bites of crunchy bread, gooey mild cheese, sticky caramelized pears, toasted pecans, and  moist  fresh pears. Crazy good. Repurposed  party leftovers. Heaven.

                Happy  Holidays!

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