Fancy people beer cheese nachos

Did you know Martha Stewart puts beer in her nacho cheese sauce? I didn’t know she partied like that. Even my mom likes Martha Stewart. I just remembered her mostly for being a felon on house arrest, and less for her recipes and general domestication guidelines. Perhaps its because her conviction and sentencing happened in 2004, at the beginning of my feral late teens. I didn’t think about cooking much in 2004. I thought about banging twenty-somethings and sleeping through high school and my idealism reigned superior to others’ views on the world. Everything was an injustice. Martha Stewart was just somewhere in the line of Big Names Who Do Stupid Shit, But Not as Stupid as George Bush, who was elected that year for the second time. I was sixteen.

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So when I googled “nacho cheese sauce recipe,” and Martha Stewart popped up as one of the top ten results, I took the bait. Wasn’t she also famous for cooking or doilies or something? I’d also seen a lost-to-memory article of about a million and five ways to use cauliflower in every day dishes that a friend had sent me this morning, and an idea was born.

I roasted the cauliflower while I prepared the rest at 400F on a cookie sheet, about 5-10 minutes and flipping over for another 5-10 minutes. I assembled as I went: blue corn chips on the plate. When the cauliflower was done, I just added that to the stack.

The cheese sauce recipe I modified quite a bit, since I wasn’t feeding a house full of ten people and this was a main dish for one person. I added about a tablespoon of olive oil to the saucepan, and heated it to medium. I added the teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of chili powder, and a half-teaspoon of cayenne as the directions called for, but left out the jalapenos and onions (those will come later). Then, I added about a third of the only gluten-free beer I had on hand — a Pilsner, not a Lager, but who cares? I saved the rest of the beer for sipping on. I added about 3/4 of a carton of heavy whipping cream and then, later than the directions call for, added about three tablespoons of gluten-free flour and whisked it together.

It was fun to watch the carbonation leave the beer! I felt like I’d been let in on an adult cooking secret. I cooked those things together for about three minutes on medium high, just until the sauce thickened and I kept stirring. I brought the temperature down to medium-low, and added about two and a half cups of shredded cheddar cheese slowly. I didn’t want the whole mess to clump up and to have to start over, so I waited for each handful of cheese to melt and integrate before stirring in the next. I completely skipped adding in a second kind of cheese, or any tomatoes.

Finally, I poured the cheese over the cauliflower and chips, tossed on some pickled jalapenos and pickled onions, some leftover black beans, topped with a big dollop of sour cream and a pile of delicious cilantro, and voila! See? The whole thing took me maybe 15 minutes to make, which was great — I had to head out the door shortly after I inhaled this delicious meal.

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This is definitely one of those meals I’ll end up repeating, over and over again. I love nachos, and my favorites always include the best cheese sauces and lots of guacamole or sour cream. At heart, I’m a three-year-old, and I just like dipping and condiments. I’d never considered throwing beer into the mix, and had no idea how to make a cheese sauce. Upon tasting the whole thing, I decided the recipe I’d altered could stand on its own for beer cheese soup — which I tucked away for a party about a week later.

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Chocolate-covered strawberries

When I drunkenly asked a coworker what I should bring to celebrate Benjamin Franklin’s birthday a week prior, I figured she’d ask for one of the store-bought cakes I usually buy, brownies, or cookies. Instead, she immediately popped out with “chocolate covered fruit!” in total excitement. I agreed, and decided I’d take up the challenge anyway. After all, I have mastered some new challenges already, and knew I’d have plenty of time to learn.

So I procrastinated until about five hours before work before even looking up a recipe. How in the world DO you make chocolate-covered strawberries, anyway? Was this going to be my first cheat at the spirit (but not the law) of restaurant abstinence, where I dip over to a local chocolaterie and beg them to expensively do it for me at the last minute? I didn’t even own a double-why-did-they-stack-the-pots(?).

Through patience, YouTube, Google, and about an hour of searching for the one double-boiler Bed Bath and Beyond does carry, I figured it out. As it turns out, dipping strawberries isn’t hard all.

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I emptied three 10oz bags of chocolate chips into the double boiler, and set that sucker to heat up on medium-high. While the chips melted, I washed the strawberries. One blogger advised that the strawberries needed to be very dry, and suddenly I found myself with wet strawberries and melted chocolate. Unsure whether that chocolate would get too hot or change consistency, I decided to go for drying them more quickly…with my blow dryer. What? It makes my hair dry faster, too. It was a stroke of kitchen-genius.

Just as I was blow-drying strawberries, my pal Chad arrived. We’d agreed to hang out, and he sacrificed his time to taste my strawberries. While I ate my real dinner, he even dipped about half of them and didn’t roll his eyes where I could see them when I showed him my picky, perfectionistic ways of dipping. Dip, let it run, tap the extra off on the sides, and turn it upside down before putting it on the parchment paper, okay?

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In a little less than an hour, we’d covered four pounds of strawberries in three-and-a-half pounds of chocolate. I just kept adding chocolate to the boiler until I’d finished all of the berries. Each parchment paper-covered cookie sheet sat in the fridge for about 15 minutes. For the white chocolate decorating, I bought Hershey’s vanilla chips, and heated about four ounces of them in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until the stuff was molten. I used a fork to drizzle, quickly moving back and forth over the berries.

As we enjoyed tasting and talking, we popped open a bottle of wine. Despite my lack of posting about it here, I actually drink a fair amount of red wine — usually blends, merlots, cabs, and pinots. Because we’d had a terrible bottle of shitty red zinfandel aptly named “Poizon” before, I’d bought this bottle for us to drink this time:

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So here’s to Benjamin Franklin’s 309th birthday, and more hundred dollar bills in the coming year!