So, what makes a great bar snack???
The answer is different if you own the bar, or are drinking at the bar. Bar owners want to provide gratis items that have just a little extra hint of spice, heat and salt (actually, more than just a hint). Something that will make you thirsty. From the lowly popcorn to goldfish to chicken wings; bar snacks are designed to satisfy the munch craving that comes with drinking. And it is no accident that these foods make you want to continue drinking. Those free items add a lot of income to the owner.
The bar patron is looking for something salty to compliment an adult beverage. A great snack has a little fattiness. Bars are all about being just a little naughty. You've already decided to have an adult beverage, not a big leap to jump on something a little indulgent. But, not too fatty. A crunchy snack goes better than a soft one.
Salty, fatty, crunchy... and one more thing... Next time you reach for that bowl of CornNuts, think about all the patrons that reached for that self same bowl after a trip to the water closet. According to a poll published in the NY Times (so it must be true), 1 in 10 women (and sadly, 1 in 4 men) do not wash up after doing what comes naturally in bar restrooms. So, in addition to salty, fatty and crunchy, let's add personal. Something that you are grabbing that is uniquely your own.
Let's get that mental image out of our heads and continue on to these little gems...
According to Bobby Flay, in his MESA GRILL COOKBOOK, these pretzels were designed with their crunchy exterior, with salt and spicy jalapeño pepper filling are meant to be a perfect accompaniment to cocktails --- and especially those featuring tequila (but they taste great with a little rum as well)!
The crunchy exterior is coated with a bit of kosher salt. But the interior has a rich chewy center highlighted by pureed garlic, minced peppers and a hint of brown sugar to add the rich fattiness of a great bar snack.
And let's not lose the fact that these are served in a tall glass or vase. So unless someone rudely sorts through the bunch to find the perfect one, they are indeed personal. Hand touched by no one but you and the people governed by health codes (let me live in my fantasy world about how clean they are).
These are the pretzels that are served at Mesa Grill. The recipe is included in the MESA GRILL COOKBOOK, at the end of the "Drinks" chapter. A fitting place for a great Bar Snack!
Here's what Bobby says to do...
1/4 cup Yellow Cornmeal
3/4 cup warm Water
1/4 ounce fresh Yeast
2 teaspoons light Brown Sugar
1 large Egg
1 head roasted Garlic, peeled and pureed
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
3 to 4 cups All-Purpose Flour
3 Poblano Chiles, roasted peeled and seeded, finely diced
Jalapeno Chili Powder
- Line baking sheets with Parchment Paper, sprinkle Cornmeal on the sheets.
- Combine the Water and Yeast in a large bowl and mix with your fingertips until the yeast is dissolved. Whisk in the sugar, egg and garlic until combined. Add 2 teaspoons salt, the pepper, 3 cups flour and poblanos and mix until combined. You may need extra flour to get a dough ball.
- Knead the dough until the dough is smooth and evenly hydrated. Place the dough ball in a large bowl. grease the ball with some oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove from the bowl and divide in half. On a floured work surface, roll each half out onto a 12 X 12 square about 1 inch thick. Cut each square into 10 even strips. Hold the dough at each end, stretching it to the length of the baking sheet. Space the pretzels inch apart. Let rest for 30 minutes. Season the tops (I did an egg wash to keep the seasonings to stick) with Kosher salt and Pepper Spice.
- Bake until crisp and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, remove and cool on baking rack.
Wow oh wow, these were amazing. Soft in the center, crispy like a pretzel in the center, and that fabulous kiss of garlic throughout is very unexpected. the pepper spice makes these qualify as terrific bar snacks! I LOVED EM!
Here are a few photos to give you a better idea of what I did...
In the book, there is a terrific section on techniques that will make you a better Tex-Mex (Southwest Cuisine) cook. Included is a section on roasting peppers and garlic.
Add the seeded, skinned peppers and the roasted Garlic in a mini chopper or food processor.
I did add an "Ancient Sweet Pepper" to the mix. I just thought the color contrast would add more "pepper" look.
Recipe #2 from the book. Great to cook from, great to inspire (and even better to eat from!)
Bobby is a winner!