Beer Cheese Spread: a recipe & story
Growing up, we never threw food away. When you have a mother that has escaped North Korea during the Korean War and lived through some very lean times, you learn quickly that nothing gets thrown out.
Of course having a Korean mother also means that you ate a lot of Korean food. Every day. EVERY DINNER. EVERY DAY. And when you are a precocious young girl who wants spaghetti on Prince Spaghetti Day and pizza every other day, you get what you ask for, but with an unfortunate twist.
I remember the first time I had spaghetti made by my mother. She boiled the spaghetti noodles, she drained the water and then walked over to the fridge. She picked up a bottle and proceeded to open it and pour it over the steaming noodles.
It was ketchup.
(on hot spaghetti)
To my mother, it looked anatomically correct - noodles and red sauce. She didn't initially understand that the sauce should be hot and that it was not ketchup. There was no google and if you didn't have it in a cookbook at home, you had to wing. it. I don't remember actually eating this meal or how that went down but at some point my mother understood that spaghetti sauce was hot and cooked on the stove. Progress!
From this point, every time my mother made spaghetti sauce it was slightly different and dependent on what was leftover in the house. As I got older I would find things like leftover vegetables (zucchini in the summer was pretty popular) to parts of my alphabet soup that I didn't finish for lunch (I still tried to find the letters to spell my name). But, as long as I was getting spaghetti and not rice and kimchi, it was a win for me.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
One of these Prince spaghetti days my mother put a plate of spaghetti in front of me and I sniffed it cautiously. It was not the requisite bright red of a nice marinara sauce. It was more like a muted orange. (The alert siren went off in my head).
Me: "Mom, what is in the sauce?"
Mom: "What do you mean? It's the same sauce that I always make."
(This is a blatant lie because nothing was ever consistent about the sauce. The only consistency was its inconsistency.)
Me: "What did you put in the sauce today?"
Mom: "The same ingredients I always use! Just eat it!"
Hmm... shot down. I slowly twirled my spaghetti around my fork. I put it in my mouth and chewed slowly and thought about what was in the fridge that day and what ingredients were possibly hidden in the sauce. And then it hit me.
Me: "Where is the cheese that was in the fridge?"
Mom (totally deadpan and without missing a beat): I put it in the sauce."
(This then made sense as to why the sauce was an orange color vs. bright red.)
But then it hit me like a Mack truck - we were not just talking about any kind of cheese.
Me: IS THE FUZZY CHEESE IN THIS SPAGHETTI SAUCE?"
Yes, it turns out the fuzzy cheese was now dissolved into the spaghetti sauce. My mother insisted that she washed off the fuzz but I STILL remember it has this off taste which now I equate with fuzzy cheese mold. Not that I eat fuzzy cheese mold but it smells the same. Trust me - it is not a good taste). Again, I don't remember how the rest of this meal worked out but I can't imagine it was a bed of roses.
I probably should thank my mother for helping me to develop my palate or at the very least a strong stomach. She didn't plan to do this but it just happened to be a weird benefit to not getting food poisoning. I did learn some practical advice in the kitchen like saving bits of stale bread and making them into bread crumbs and saving clean used aluminum foil to scrub a baking pan.
But I never wash or use moldy cheese.(And I think I never will!)
BEER CHEESE SPREAD
This is a great spread to make with leftover (and non-fuzzy!!) bits of cheese and if you have it, leftover beer. If you don't like beer, you can use wine too. And if you don't have any leftover beer or wine, then this is great excuse to open a bottle, isn't it? This is also a great spread to make ahead of time as it will give the flavors time to meld together and intensify.
16 ounces of cheese. (I like using a combination of extra sharp cheddar and cream cheese)
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 Tablespoons horseradish sauce or prepared mustard
salt (to taste)
pepper (I like using Chipotle pepper)
2/3 c. beer or wine
Optional: onion powder
Take the cheese and cut into little cubes. Place the cubes into a food processor and pulse until the cheese is into very small pieces.
Add the minced garlic, horseradish or mustard and beer/wine. Blend together until smooth. Add salt, pepper and optional onion powder to taste.
Take the spread and put it into a jar or container and cover and put in the fridge until ready to serve.
Note: I think Weck jars are beautiful and practical to use, Just take the top off and serve. They come in many different shapes and sizes.