Green Bay Cheddar Fondue with Soft Pretzels & Beer Sausage

Fondue is a amazing concept. I feel like I’ve said that already.

We don’t eat it frequently because we think of it as a special occasion dish, something for a crowd.

In reality, it’s so much less complicated than many recipes we make on a regular basis. And because the dippers are up to you, the whole process can be as simple as you want it to be. My whole point being, I think I’ll be making fondue more regularly, because I &^%*ing love it. And I can.

During our trip to Lexington, VA, I was brought along to a local country shop near the Natural Bridge landmark by my parents – they were right in thinking I would love it there. I walked out with a locally packaged version of HamBeen’s 15 Bean Soup, some blue raspberry jam, and most importantly – a just cut-off-the-wheel wedge of Wisconsin-sourced Hoop cheese.

I had big plans for this cheese. My boyfriend is a Packers fan – I mean it. All the TV yelling, furor over bad calls, and green and yellow trinkets in our living area. I’ve never seen anyone like something, so much.

The cheese’s meltability wasn’t the best – but all that meant was that we were going to have to eat the fondue screaming hot, to allow for the cheese solids to remain pull-able.

I had to bake soft pretzels to bring home this Bavarian-esque theme, along with beer-flavored sausages. Had to.

For the soft pretzels, having never made them before, I went with Alton Brown’s recipe. For some reason, I trust the guy on baking-related escapades like these. I am not a baker, so I rely heavily on well-tuned recipes when I do. They turned out great. Except, the portions of liquid to flour were a bit off, and I ended up adding about a half cup more flour than suggested. In the event anyone wants to make them, I’d recommend doing the same and it’s reflected in the recipe.

This recipe go-round was a fun test for me. First, making soft pretzels for the first time, which reminded me of the Amish store owners and bakers in Germantown, MD who can twist pretzel dough into shape in half a second and throw others into the baking soda water bath simultaneously with their other hand. Mine did not come out as uniformly as theirs. Next time, maybe.

The second lesson – a rule in melting down cheese. Not all cheese is going to get to that gooey state. There were several rounds and strategies used to melt the cheese that turned into the pot of scalding gold you see here.

Ultimately, know that the more notoriously meltable, softer cheeses – mozzarella, gruyere and processed stuff are your safest bet, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have your cheddar cheese and melt it too. 😊


Serves 4 to 6. Soft pretzel recipe makes 8 pretzels.

  • 1 lb. cheddar cheese, of your choosing, grated
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 / 4 bottle Heineken beer (3 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter, salted or unsalted
  • 4 beer-flavored sausages
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Coarse mustard, if desired

F o r  t h e  S o f t  P r e t z e l s ( a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  • 1 1 / 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1 / 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 1 / 4 cups flour
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 / 3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt or kosher salt, as needed
  • Vegetable oil, as needed


( S o f t  P r e t z e l  D i r e c t i o n s  a d a p a t e d  c / o  A l t o n  B r o w n )

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet. Brown the beer sausages on medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, turning often, until all sides are deep brown and the sausage is cooked through. Remove from the heat, and slice on the diagonal. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. Preheat oven to 450*. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Set aside.
  3. Combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water, the sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the mixture foams.
  4. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, then oil it well. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Bring the 10 cups water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large saute pan or a roasting pan (something wide and shallow is best).
  7. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, and, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place on a half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  8. One by one, place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return them to the sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, and sprinkle liberally with salt.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown in color, 12 to 14 minutes. Allow to cool.
  10. To make the fondue, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small skillet. Add the garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes or so. Add the heavy cream, beer and cheese, and allow to melt, stirring constantly. Allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. While the cheese is scalding hot, serve the fondue, and eat with the soft pretzels, beer sausage and coarse mustard.

Octopus & Red Chard Risotto

I’m fascinated by octopus. The appearance of tentacles appeals to me, and I think it makes octopus different from any other animals we eat.

I hear as creatures, they’re enigmatic and highly intelligent. Although their aptitude for solving puzzles has nothing to do with how they taste, their uniqueness makes me appreciative of the animal as a cooking ingredient.

I’ve wanted a pet octopus ever since seeing the old-school James Bond movie, Octopussy. But taking reality into consideration, I’m still weighing the pros and many cons of housing an active aquarium in my apartment. Maybe one day, when I don’t have a dog who would knock that tank over within minutes of it being installed.

During our family’s trip to Spain years ago, I remember being served a simple charred octopus – a preparation widely used there. I remember loving that. Here, I saute the octopus on its own, which releases juices from the meat. Those juices are used as a cooking liquid for the risotto in place of seafood stock midway through the cooking, and gives it a gorgeous warm color and infuses the grains of rice with unadulterated octopus flavor.

Saffron is a great addition here as well, as it is with pretty much any brothy seafood dish. The threads contribute to the reddish color of the risotto. It really doesn’t take more than a small pinch to get that familiar saffron-colored tinge.

I didn’t intend to put red chard in the risotto, but came across it in the produce aisle. It must be a beet-chard hybrid, because eaten raw the stalks had a strong beet flavor. The combination of the distinct tentacles and the bright red chard make for a visually appealing dish, that happens to taste phenomenal as well.

Upon receiving the wrapped octopus at the seafood stall, the purveyor said, “If you don’t mind me asking, what are you planning to do with this?”

I responded with an octopus risotto – one that I’ve never made before. It was a good question. And a question I’d like to be asked more frequently. What’s more fun than giving boneless, skinless chicken breasts a break for once, and cooking those odd bits?


Serves 2.

  • 3 / 4 lb. octopus tentacles, cut into 1 1 / 2 inch chunks
  • 1 1 / 2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 stick butter, salted or unsalted
  • 2 cups red chard, stems intact, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 cup parm reg, grated
  • 1 quart seafood stock
  • 1 pinch saffron, approximately 1 / 2 teaspoon
  • Olive oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Pepper, as needed


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sautee pan. Add the chard, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes on medium-low heat, adding the sherry midway through the cooking to allow the greens to braise. If the mixture gets too thick, add 1 / 4 water as needed. The chard is done when the stems are tender. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In another sautee pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add the octopus pieces, a large pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee the octopus for 5 to 7 minutes on medium heat, until the octopus is firm and cooked through. If the octopus is translucent in places, it is not fully cooked.
  3. Remove the octopus pieces to a separate bowl, and keep the juices that were released from the octopus for later, when it will be added to the risotto as cooking liquid.
  4. In the meantime, heat the seafood stock in a small saucepan, until just simmering. Keep on low heat throughout the cooking process.
  5. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the stick of butter until melted, and add the onion, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee until the onions are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute. Add the rice, and allow to toast slightly in the butter, onions and garlic, about 2 minutes. Add the first ladleful of seafood stock and stir until combined. When the mixture begins to get slightly sticky and dry, add another ladleful of stock.
  6. After 10 minutes, instead of the seafood stock, add the juices from the sautéed octopus. Stir. Add the saffron as well, along with a large pinch of salt, and pepper, as needed for taste. When the rice begins to get sticky again, continue to add the seafood stock. Cook for an additional 10 minutes with the seafood stock as a cooking liquid.
  7. Once the rice reaches a near al-dente consistency, add the octopus pieces, red chard from the sautee pan, juices and all, and the parm reg. Add an additional ladle of stock, as needed, to finish cooking.
  8. Serve hot immediately, topping with parm reg, if desired.

Cocktail Garnish Olive Tapenade

After I finish a jar of pickles, I keep the remaining pickle juice in the fridge. So I can drink it, pickling spices and all.

I’ve been all about anything salty, briny or vinegary ever since childhood. It started with a fondness for good old bottled Italian salad dressing you buy at the grocery store. Which I’d pour on everything.

I won’t go into detail about what some of those choice foods were. I will say that of all the foods, the least gross was cold, leftover spaghetti, which I would make soup out of.  My parents had to bring bottles of it with us in our luggage when we went on trips. It was that depraved.

As an adult, it manifests itself with a proclivity for pickled anything, especially McClure’s Pickles, and very dirty martinis.

The only other person I know who loves brine more is my larger-than-life Italian uncle Mark, who, while on vacation one time, ate somewhere around one-hundred martini olives in a night.

According to his account, it all happened when the bartender was more than happy to give him free bowls of garnish olives. Fast forward a few hours, and it was so bad that his mouth and eyes puffed up, sealed shut from the dangerously high level of sodium he had ingested.

What the fuck is wrong with you, Mark?

So compared to Mark, I don’t actually like brine that much. But it’s still a mainstay craving I must succumb to on a regular basis. This hors d’oeuvre was born of the cocktail garnishes that make the quintessential, timeless martini look, and taste, like a martini. That, mixed with a take on the traditional, Provencal olive tapenade.

You should you eat this alongside a martini, too.

Actually, don’t even bother eating this without a martini in hand.


Serves 2 – 4 as an appetizer.

  • 1 16 oz jar high-quality pimento-stuffed Manzanilla olives, drained & minced *
  • 1 / 2 16 oz jar cocktail onions, drained & minced (that much better if you can get your hands on a jar of Sable & Rosenfeld Vermouth Tipsy Onions)
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 pinch sugar

*Go beyond the traditional pimento-stuffed variety if you’d like – blue cheese-stuffed olives would be great, as would garlic-stuffed olives. Or goat cheese-stuffed olives. You see what I’m getting at.


  1. Blend all the ingredients by hand in a bowl, mixing well.*
  2. Serve chilled or at room temperature, smothered on slices of fresh baguette or Carr’s Table Water Crackers.

*For a finer texture, mix all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you reach desired consistency.

Jägermeister & Guinness-Poached Blood Bangers & Mash

I’ve been working on-site for a client in downtown Manhattan. We have an apartment through Airb&b overlooking Times Square that they’re paying for. It’s really, really cool.

Except for the work part.

Work culminates each day with a zombie walk to the nearest Irish pub like a moth to a lightbulb, where I will always order a Guinness.

I didn’t realize how many Irish pubs were in Manhattan – they’re on every block.

Whenever I’m at one of these places, my mind goes to Archer.  When he chugs directly from the Jägermeister shot dispenser machine slurring one liner insults at Pam or Cheryl / Carol, when they get hammered at happy hour a dinky Irish pub near the ISIS office, all following a funeral of one of their brutally-murdered colleagues.

You’ll always see the go-to Irish pub grub when you walk into these places – Boiled Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes, Shepherd’s Pie, Fish and Chips. And I smother on that Colman’s Mustard like there is no tomorrow.

This recipe is a twist on Bangers and Mash. The blood sausage, replacing more traditional pork or beef sausage gives it a heartier (read: bloodier) edge that makes this a good cold-weather dish.

Look no further than Lucky Peach’s “A Guide to Blood Sausages of the World,” to understand why blood sausage is such a ubiquitous dish outside the U.S. – hint, it’s generally categorized as a poor-man’s food, like so many of the delicious foods of the world.

In terms of the type of blood sausage you can or should use for this recipe, I can only say, treat yourself. As in, get the best quality available to you. Which, by the way, will not be an expensive product if you go to a good butcher. Realistically, I’d recommend calling your butcher to see 1) if they have blood sausage available 2) if not, whether they can place an order for you ahead of time, and if all else fails 3) order the blood sausage online. If you have a choice, French Boudin Noir has particularly good flavor.

The only real prerequisite for this recipe is that the sausage has a substantive casing so it survives the poaching process, and is shaped into a sausage form to retain that good old “bangers and mash” presentation. This recipe calls for an entirely optional sauce derived from a reduction of the poaching liquid, because I can’t leave well enough alone.


Serves 2 – 4, depending on appetites. But really, I have to ask. If you had left over mash, would that be the worst thing in the world?

  • 4 – 6 blood sausages of your choosing, in their casings

F o r  t h e  P o a c h i n g  L i q u i d  &  S a u c e

  • 4 12 oz bottles Guinness Extra Stout
  • 1 / 3 cup Jägermeister liquor
  • 1 / 4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 / 2 medium white onion, skin removed
  • 10 clove buds
  • 5 star anise

F o r  t h e  M a s h

  • 2 1 / 2 lb medium Yukon gold potatoes, or 2 1 / 2 lb equivalent of another potato, peeled and large-diced
  • 1 – 2 cups of the cooking liquid from the boiled potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons course ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups Dubliner Cheese by Kerrygold, shredded
  • 6 tablespoons Kerrygold butter, melted
  • 1 / 2 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chives, minced
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

O p t i o n a l

  • Serve with Colman’s Mustard and / or the reduced sauce from the poaching liquid, instructions below


  1. Put 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of boiling water. Throw in the large-diced potatoes. Cook until a knife slides easily into the center of the vegetable, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Be sure to reserve two cups of the cooking liquid before draining. Once the potatoes are tender, drain in a colander and cover with a clean dish towel to allow them to steam for an additional 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut an onion in half, removing all the onion skins, and stud the onion with the clove buds.
  3. Put the onion half and all the poaching ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring the liquid to a temperature just under a simmer, about 180* F. Drop in the blood sausages, making sure to keep the liquid at a stable temperature. You do not want to boil the sausages.
  4. Allow the sausages to poach for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Skim off any fat or impurities that rise to the surface. The sausage is done when it reaches 160* F internally.
  5. After 45 minutes and when the sausages reach an internal temperature of 160* F, remove them to a clean plate and cover with foil.
  6. To finish the mash, throw the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add all the mash ingredients, the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, reserving 1 tablespoon of the chives for garnish. Mix with a hand mixer or potato masher.*

*One note on mixing – a hand mixer will give you a smoother consistency that gives the mash a more elegant mouth-feel. If the mixture is too dry or thick, continue to add the cooking liquid to thin it out, until you reach desired consistency.

  1. Heap as much mash as you want on serving plates. Cut each banger in half diagonally, if only plating one. If plating two bangers per plate, lay one on top of the other cross-wise. Sprinkle the dishes with the remaining chives. Serve with Colman’s Mustard, if desired.

O p t i o n a l

  1. Once sausages are done, drain poaching liquid through a colander or sieve into a glass bowl.
  2. Take 2 cups of the poaching liquid and pour into a sauté pan heated on medium-high. Reduce the liquid down for 10 to 15 minutes, until approximately half of the liquid remains. The sauce should be thick, but still pour-able.
  3. This step is important – taste the sauce for seasonings. It should be highly flavorful and will likely need to be heavily salted. Add as must salt as needed to taste.
  4. Pour as much sauce as you’d like on top of the bangers and mash, and sprinkle with chives.

Pearl Diver’s Oysters

There are few food-related experiences more blissful than slurping a clean, ice-cold oyster.

Oysters have that mysterious, pearl-producing, hand-collected by island-dwelling natives who dive to the ocean floor holding their breath for 1 hour underwater-thing going on. All the best foods are the ones that play hard-to-get, or make you wait literally years for them. Think about it.

This led me to confirm whether or not there are people who still pearl dive, and yes there are, but it’s less risky nowadays. Lame. I guess not everyone can be as badass as that guy Kino from The Pearl.  Remember that book?

Speaking of badass, let’s learn how to properly shuck an oyster together, which you will need to do for this recipe. I found this video helpful as a shucking amateur. You will need to buy an oyster knife too, so add one to your cart in your next Amazon order.


In terms of sourcing the oysters, you either 1) have a dedicated fish market that you know supplies superbly fresh oysters on a regular basis 2) only have access to a hit-or-miss market that may or may not stock satisfactory shellfish 3) are willing, financially or otherwise, to order oysters online.

I fall somewhere between camps 1 and 2 – so I elected to buy them at a good local seafood market. One note on ordering oysters online. It’s unexpectedly highly recommended over taking a risk of purchasing or storing the sub-par stuff.

I will not pretend to preach expertise on different varietals of oysters, ever.

There are upwards of 150 distinct types harvested in North America alone distinguished by where they are sourced on a highly local level. This recipe calls for the variety or varieties you prefer, with a huge emphasis on whatever is freshest available to you.

And of course, get a bunch of types too, if you’d like. If you’re limited to U.S. varieties, on average, West coast oysters tend to be smaller and sweeter, while East coast oysters tend to be larger and slightly brinier (and dare I say, funkier).

So here’s a homage to the sinisterly delicious oyster.

Us devotees thank you for existing.


Serves 2 – 4 as an appetizer, depending on appetites.

  • 1 – 2 dozen fresh oysters in their shell, variety of your choosing *
  • 3 fresh sea scallops, or 6 fresh bay scallops
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized shallot, minced
  • 10-12 sprigs of fresh dill, minced
  • 2-3 large lemons (enough to produce 4 tablespoons of juice, saving enough lemon fruit to squeeze 1 – 2 tablespoons of juice for finishing)
  • 1 / 4 cup high-quality, very dry Champagne or Pinot Grigio
  • 1 / 4 tsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red, white wine or champagne vinegar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of Maldon salt or another good-quality finishing salt

*Adjust according to the size of the oysters – the oyster estimate is based off of a “medium” sized oyster, or an oyster with a shell approximately 2 and ½ inches in diameter.

O p t i o n a l

  • 1 / 2 lb cup uncooked pearl couscous
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted or salted butter


  1. Shuck the oysters carefully, and place the meat in a small bowl. Pour any excess liquid from the oysters into a separate small bowl. Reserve half the oyster shells for plating the final dish.
  2. Cut each oyster in half crosswise. Small dice the fresh scallops in a similar size to the fresh oysters and add to the bowl with the oysters. Put the shellfish meat in the fridge.
  3. In a small sauté pan, heat the oil, and add the minced shallot, sautéing on medium-low heat for 5 or so minutes until heavily reduced and the shallot is transparent, making sure that the shallot does not brown.
  4. Add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice to the pan, the 1 / 4 cup Champagne or Pinot Grigio, the reserved liquid from the oysters, a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 / 4 teaspoon of sugar.
  5. Simmer for 7-9 minutes longer on low heat, allowing the liquid to reduce by about half.
  6. Off the heat, take half of the minced dill and add it to the vinaigrette.
  7. Allow the vinaigrette to cool, about 10 minutes.
  8. Once cooled, pour the vinaigrette over the raw oysters and scallops. Mix well.
  9. Place the mixture in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill. After ten minutes, remove the shellfish mixture, stir, and return to the fridge to chill for an additional 10 minutes.
  10. In the meantime, take the reserved oyster shells and place them on a bed of crushed ice, preferably in a wide, shallow metal pan, such as a paella serving dish.
  11. Take 1 tablespoon of the combined shellfish mixture and place in each of the reserved oyster shells. Sprinkle the shells with the remaining dill, lemon juice, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
  12. Serve with cooked pearl couscous mixed with melted butter on the side, if desired as a palate cleanser.