I go to Johnnie MacCracken's pub a lot. Those who follow me on Twitter know this, and those who know me peronally realize that if I have a bad day, I will probably be at the pub in downtown Marietta, GA. I spent lots - like occasional 12 hour days - there during the Thrashers' re-location drama. Nothing makes me feel better than their outstanding beer menu. Killkenny, Belhaven, Magners (cider's lethal, BTW - don't let anyone tell you otherwise), O'Hara's... it's amazing. The food there is also out of this world. For as much as the atmosphere and great waitresses/bartenders encourage you to drink, you have to have something good to soak up the beer.
While I'm partial to their Irish Breakfast to absorb stuff, I do realize that blood sausage isn't everyone's bag. Other than eggs, rashers of bacon, and sausage to eat before having a drink or two, what works well? Dough. And what's the ubiquitous dough you get at a hockey game? PRETZELS. We'd fight over the soft ones in the Thrashers' press box, and on the concourse nothing was better than a Wetzel's Pretzel. I might legit miss that as much as my team. MacCracken's has hand made soft pretzels as well, but with a twist - with saurkraut and spicy mustard. Wouldn't it be awesome to serve these on Saturday nights when friends are over to watch a game? Of course it would be.
Soft Pretzels (serves six - in theory)
1 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp baking soda
1 cup hot water (as hot as your tap can get)
DIRECTIONS: Dissolve yeast into water with a pinch of sugar, let stand 10 minutes, until the mixture is creamy colored. Mix the yeast mixture with flour, sugar, salt and canola oil, and knead until combined (a few minutes, not even 5). Let the dough rise in a greased bowl until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. When the dough has risen, pinch off a handful and roll it out into a long strand. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough, about 6 times. Once all the strands are rolled out, pick up the first one and stretch it out again (the gluten will have relaxed and it should stretch further now). Twist it into a pretzel shape and place it on a baking sheet lined with silipat or cooking spray. Repeat with the rest of the strands.
Dissolve baking soda into hot water and stir until dissolved. Quickly dip each rolled pretzel into the mixture and place it back on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all the pretzels with sea salt, to your preference. Bake for about 8 minutes, until pretzels have browned.
Ok, for the good stuff to put on the pretzels - saurkraut. As it came up tonight with my friend Ally of Hey Y'all Hockey, you do not eat it out of the jar. No. Sure, it's a topping, but don't you want to make the topping as good as possible too? Saurkraut needs to be heated. You can spread a sheet of tinfoil on a grill and grill it until toasty, or you can get a greased cast iron skillet and sautee it until it gets a little brown and crunchy. Serve on a plate with a pretzel and your favorite spicy mustard. Dijon's good, but if you really want to blow the top of your head off, Coleman's English Mustard'd do the trick. Cut a piece of pretzel, put kraut on top, dip into mustard, and enjoy with your favorite adult beverage.