Saturday, February 21, 2015

Beer Cheese & Mac

This week is Lehigh Valley Beer Week 2015, where a number of restaurants and local craft breweries band together to do tap takeovers, food pairings, parades, and learning events. Over the past couple of years I've really grown to love beer and my tastes have changed. It's been fun and exciting. (If you're on Untappd, find me!) So Beer Week was extra fun for us this week.

We went to dinner at the Trapp Door GastroPub on Tuesday. They were having a tap takeover from Ithaca Beer. My gentleman got a flight of several beers, and I had a red rye IPA. It was delicious and we met one of the guys from the company. Um can I also just reiterate how great Trapp Door is? We like their brunch.
trapp door

Wednesday we had reservations at the Spinnerstown Hotel, which is oddly closer to us than we thought. They were having a special "Sours & IPAs Night," adding a bunch of rare sours and IPAs to their already hugely extensive beer list. We had a GREAT dinner - their food is amazing, and we have to go back, especially when their outdoor porch is open in the summer - and managed to get some rare beer before they ran out. We both had a glass of Pliny the Elder, which was so wonderful but I'll never have it again because it's never on the East coast. My gentleman also had a flight of sours, which was funny to watch. I am so not into sours. Here's my Pliny:
spinnerstown

There are a few other events we're hoping to hit, but with more snow on the way today, it's unclear if we're going to make it.

Last night, I decided to participate in beer week at home by trying this recipe for beer macaroni and cheese.

I have to deviate for a second. So, I don't watch much Food Network anymore because I can't stand Guy Fieri, but I do watch Chopped and I do watch the occasional show that actually involves cooking (Pioneer Woman, Giada, Southern at Heart). I've been watching a lot of Southern at Heart. The chef is Damaris Phillips, and I am a little bit in love with her.

So I watched her make this macaroni & cheese recipe the other day and it seemed thoroughly appropriate for a homemade Beer Week meal. It calls for Amber Ale, so I rifled through our refrigerator and found a Sam Adams Irish Red. It worked very well. There are a LOT of cheeses in this recipe. A LOT. It is VERY HEAVY. The harissa is not too spicy and just adds a little extra kick. You could probably toss in a tiny bit of sriracha instead, if you can't find harissa. Make sure you season it well with the salt and pepper because it does need that extra level of seasoning.

I really liked this a lot and am looking forward to seeing how it reheats today. My gentleman wasn't as much of a fan, largely because he felt it was "too boozy." That's fine. I don't care. It was good. Happy Beer Week! :)

mac
I only put panko on half, because Gentleman doesn't like crunchy toppings on his macaroni & I promised in my 10 Year Post I wouldn't subject people to things they hate!

mac

Beer Cheese & Mac
Food Network: Southern At Heart

16 ounces shell pasta noodles, such as conchiglie
8 ounces amber beer
8 ounces half-and-half
16 ounces cream cheese
3 tablespoons wet harissa
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
6 ounces smoked gouda, shredded (about 2 cups)
2 ounces super-aged gouda, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente according the package direction.

Combine the beer, half-and-half and cream cheese in a large saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, whisking, until the cream cheese is melted and well incorporated, about 5 minutes.

Add the harissa and mustard powder to the saucepan. Season with salt and pepper and whisk to incorporate. Stir in the Cheddar and smoked gouda and cook, stirring, over low heat until all the cheese is melted.

Add the pasta and toss to combine. Pour into an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine the super-aged gouda, breadcrumbs and oil in a small bowl and sprinkle over the top of the pasta. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

Yield: 6-8 servings

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