Aidan was very excited for Super Bowl. His parents were not.
Well, that wasn’t exactly true. They were not un-excited. They were decidedly neither excited nor unexcited. What they were, on that crisp and cold February morning, and what they had been for the last ten years were a pair of nuclear physicists. From Norway.
Mik and Norma appreciated much about their lives in America (they both loved Louis Armstrong, Red Vines and the films of Sandra Bullock) but they had never really warmed to American football. Or sports of any kind, really. They were invited once to a Super Bowl party at a work colleague’s and it was, in Norma’s words, an unmitigated disaster.
So when their six-year-old son fell hode over hæler for football, they were a bit surprised. Their home was filled to the brim with books. Mik’s affection for film meant their little boy could watch whatever he desired and Norma’s proclivity for both electronics and engineering led to a flurry of inventing on the weekends (the dog food dispenser! The Red Vine dispenser! Norma enjoyed the dispensing of things) – what else could a little boy wish for?
Football, apparently. So they obliged him. Of course they did. He was their Aidan, how could they not?
So, on Sunday, when Aidan awoke, his room was filled with football-shaped balloons. He jumped out of bed and ran to the dresser and excitedly removed his jersey from the drawer (he was a football player for Halloween and for every day after Halloween until the pants disintegrated in the wash. He was bereft at the loss of them.) and put it on. He ran downstairs and spent hours upon hours, watching pre-game footage on their vast television in the sitting room, leaping over Mik’s feet as he upgraded the software on the family laptops.
And when game time came around, Norma and Mik put on jerseys as well (also from the Halloween store. They were gray and lacked markings of any particular team. Norma believed this was more fair, since they did not show true allegiance to anyone.) and they brought in the buffalo wings and the chips and salsa, the bowls of popcorn and the crock pot full of chili con carne. Norma made pretzel rolls, warm from the oven.
And when the game started, they sat on either side of Aidan and ate and cheered. And even if his parents cheered at all the wrong times, it was still the best day Aidan had ever had.
IT’S GAME TIME!
I’m not going to pretend I care that much about football (I’m more of a baseball/hockey person, personally.) but oh, man do I love game food. Chili? Yes, I will have two bowls. Chips and things to dip the chips into? OKAY. Wings? Yes, yes, and yes. Sign here, I want all the wings. Beer? Check. Brightly hued cheese products? Need I go on?
So for this year’s game day, we offer you a delectable combination of game day treats: pretzels, beer and cheese. Together. Specifically, warm, toasty, homemade pretzel rolls with beer cheese sauce.
Don’t stop here though- don’t just tear into these warm, salty morsels and dip. Think BIGGER: sandwiches! Crack open a roll, put it in a bowl, sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with a ladle of chili (it’s like a loaded baked potato but bread instead! This might be the smartest thing I’ve ever uttered. I can’t even go on. There’s nowhere to go from here but down…)
Pretzel Rolls With Beer Cheese Sauce
For the Pretzels
1 Cup of warm water
2 and 1/4 Teaspoons of active dry yeast (or one packet)
2 and 3/4 Cups of bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
1 TBsp of granulated sugar
1 Teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top of the pretzels
6 Cups of water
1/4 Cup of baking soda
For the beer cheese sauce:
4 TBsp of unsalted butter
1/2 Cup of yellow onion, chopped
1 Bay Leaf
4 TBsps of all-purpose flour
2 Cups of beer
1 Cup of heavy cream
1/2 Teaspoon of whole black peppercorns
1/4 Teaspoon of ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg
2-3 Cups of good, sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pretzels:
1. In the bowl of your standing mixture, fitted with dough hook, combine the warm water and the yeast. Let sit until bubbling, about five minutes.
2. Meanwhile, coat a large mixing bowl with a thin layer of vegetable oil and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and one teaspoon of salt.
4. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and, using the dough hook, mix the dough on low until it is just combined.
5. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and knead until elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes or so.
6. Roll the dough into a ball and lightly roll the dough in the pre-oiled bowl to completely coat. Cover with a light cloth and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, coat the paper with vegetable oil, and set aside.
8. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it on a floured, dry surface just until it becomes smooth.
9. Divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and form into oblong rolls (roundish). Place the rolls on the baking sheet and slash a diagonal X shape across the top of each.
10. Cover with a light cloth and let the dough rise again in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 15 to 20 minutes.
11. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
12. Once the rolls have risen, stir the baking soda into the boiling water (the water will foam up slightly- so be very careful.)
13. Boil two or three rolls for 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt and repeat with the remaining rolls.
14. Once all the rolls are ready, place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.
For the beer cheese sauce:
15. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
16. Add the chopped onion and bay leaf and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
17. Add a pinch of salt and the flour, stirring to coat the onions completely, and cook, stirring constantly for about 3-4 minutes.
18. Slowly add the beer to the roux, whisking constantly.
19. Next, slowly add the heavy cream, again, whisking constantly and breaking up any clumps of flour that may have formed.
20. Bring the mixture to a gently simmer, and add the peppercorns, cloves, and nutmeg, and cook, whisking occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
21. Here’s the tricky part: Using a small slotted spoon, remove the peppercorns and bay leaf from the mixture. (Leave a couple of peppercorns in? Just be sure you remember this when you take a bite!)
22. Remove the sauce from the heat and slowly whisk in the grated cheese, adjusted the amount of cheese to your desired taste and thickness.