Derby Day Beer Cheese
Louisville, Ky. is the place to be this weekend, when the 134th Kentucky Derby gets underway Saturday night. Having never watched the Derby nor ever stepped foot in "Loooolville," I asked Mister MA, a Kentucky boy, for advice on Derby party vittles.
Anything with bourbon was the short answer, and he coughed up Derby classics such as Benedictine, the cucumber-cream cheese spread, chocolate pecan pie and a Hot Brown, a turkey, bacon and tomato sandwich with a Mornay sauce.
I liked the idea of beer cheese, which cookbook writer Marion Flexner notes in her "Out of Kentucky Kitchens," was a bar staple "when free lunches were served in Kentucky saloons with every 5-cent glass of beer."
As I waded through a sea of online beer cheese recipes, I noticed several variations on the theme; some recipes called for both cheddar cheese and cream cheese; others included mayonnaise, celery salt, blue cheese and horseradish. Yikes. What was a Derby newbie to do?
I sought the cheesy counsel of my pal Pableaux Johnson, a die-hard Louisianan who recently relocated to Louisville to become the new food editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal. Despite his short tenure in Kentucky, Pableaux is quickly learning the culinary ropes in his new digs and of course, he had a beer cheese recipe handy.
The recipe, below, he says, "comes from Sherry Hurley, a Louisville caterer. It's rockin' with pretzels."
So I tried my hand at Miss Hurley's beer cheese, and I do declare, this is some fine eatin'. And yes, I would agree, it's a perfect match for a pretzel. One batch will make more than enough for your Derby shindig, and with plenty of leftovers for sandwiches next week.
Got a Derby treat to share -- or another beer cheese variation to tout? By all means, share your goodies in the comments area.
Miss Hurley's Kentucky Beer Cheese
3/4 bottle of flat beer of your liking (in Kentucky, that would be BBC Altbier)
16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated; use a combination of your favorites or one that always speaks to you
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 medium onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce of choice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (in Kentucky that would be Bourbon Barrel Aged) -- vegetarian Worcestershire would be fine here as would Pickapeppa sauce
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard (this is a KOD addition)
Pour a 12-ounce bottle of beer of your choosing into a glass and allow it to sit until it looses its effervescence. This could take up to an hour, but don't worry if you don't have that much time.
Combine all ingredients except beer in food processor and PULSE until slightly blended. Then turn processor ON and slowly pour beer through food chute. Mixture will be soft, but will harden in refrigerator.
Make one or two days ahead of time, as taste is better once flavors have time to blend. Serve in a ceramic crock or ramekin with pretzel rods, crackers, celery sticks, carrot sticks, and radishes. Act like you've lived in Kentucky all your life.
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