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Hello Serious Eaters! My name is Morgan, I'm the recipe developer and blogger over at Host the Toast, an all-in-one entertaining resource with recipes and shopping for the tools you'll need to make and serve them. I'm excited beyond words to be here to share my recipes with all of you.
I'm going to come right out and say it: The things I'll be posting here, well, they're not going to be healthy. My recipes here will aim to make you drool and moan and want to do all sorts of inappropriate things to your screen. I'm all about taking the tried-and-true favorites and putting a spin on them to make them fresh, exciting, and ultra-delicious. What better time could there be for me to start sharing those here than Super Bowl season?
Doesn't it seem like the same snacks get all of the love this time of year? One of my go-to Game Day foods has always been potato skins. (Crispy, cheesy, and loaded up with toppings is how I describe almost all of my favorite party foods, in fact.) This time around, I've decided that for the ultimate championship game, we can settle for nothing less that the ultimate champion of skins—the MVP of football feasts. If we're truly bringing our appetizer A-game, we need to mix it up a bit by drafting some beer right into our recipes. Brew-loving brothers and sisters, if you're with me, allow me to introduce an ale-filled appetizer just in time for the Super Bowl: Bacon, Bratwurst, and Beer Cheese Potato Skins.
The most important part of the potato skin is the skin itself. If it's not slightly salty and seriously crispy, it's not going to be a good vehicle for all of your favorite toppings.
Potato skin perfection requires two things: baking them twice (once before and once after scooping out the insides), and brushing them with bacon grease both times. I've made plenty of potato skins with butter, canola oil, and olive oil in the past, but nothing comes close to the kind of smoky, crispy, meaty potato skins you get when you brush with bacon fat. The moisture and fat from the initial brush of bacon grease allows you to bake your potatoes without the skin drying out and becoming leathery. The second time around, the grease helps the potatoes to crisp up—the skin takes on its classic crunchy quality and the potato flesh turns golden-brown while remaining fluffy underneath.
Now, I'm not really sure if it's the football food-fanatic in me or the Germanic heritage that makes me automatically want to pair bacon-brushed potatoes with beer-simmered bratwurst, beer cheese, and beer-caramelized onions. Either way, nothing says party to me like beer + beer + beer.
We're going to make those our toppings, and while they may seem like they'll take a bit of effort, they really are quite simple to put together. With the onions, the natural sugars inside will caramelize when exposed to heat all on their own, but you're going to want to make sure you keep them over moderately low heat the whole time and stir every so often to make sure that those sugars don't burn. Don't turn the heat up to speed up the process—if you start your onions once you get your potatoes in the oven, they'll be done just at the right time.
Similarly, you're going to want to keep your temperature for your beer cheese down and take it slow. I use a classic cornstarch-thickened technique by tossing shredded cheddar cheese in cornstarch and slowly mixing it into hot beer. As long as you introduce the cornstarch-tossed cheddar a handful at a time and make sure it is entirely melted before adding more in, your cheese will be smooth and thick rather than lumpy and broken. (If you want it extra smooth and glossy, you can give it a spin with a hand blender or in a standing blender after the cheese has melted.)
For this recipe, I recommend using a lager, amber ale, or hefeweizen: something that doesn't overpower the other ingredients but doesn't fade into the background, either. I also recommend extra napkins. Lots and lots of extra napkins. You will be dripping beer cheese, I guarantee it.