How to Make Beer and Cheese Popcorn, Your New Favorite Snack
The snack comes courtesy of Slovenian restaurant Hiša Franko, which starred on "Chef's Table"
Located in the pristine Soca Valley close to the Italian border, Slovenian restaurant Hiša Franko has drawn enough critical acclaim to land on San Pellegrino’s list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants two years in a row, coming in at No. 38 in 2019.
Relying on local hunters and fishermen for its proteins and nearby shepherds and cheesemakers for its dairy offerings, Hiša Franko serves traceable cuisine that’s been fully sourced from the surrounding area. And when Chef Ana Roš — who runs the restaurant with her sommelier husband Valter Kramar and lives in a house attached to the eatery — says traceable, she means it.
“If you stand on top of a mountain [in the Julian Alps], you can see all the places where we source the products,” she tells InsideHook. “From our mountains, you can count the boats on the Gulf of Trieste and see all the valleys, meadows, forests and rivers.”
The menu at Hiša Franko, like the seasons, changes on a routine basis and a dish that was on the menu during one visit probably won’t be there the next time around.
“Not even the bread is the same,” Roš says. “We are a restaurant that keeps working hard every year on the evolution of the restaurant. We believe after two months that the recipes on the menu degrade and start going away. We start coming up with new ideas and then those old ones never come back. This is how life is.”
That being the case, Roš decided to capture some of the recipes she is no longer serving in a new book from Phaidon, Ana Roš: Sun and Rain, which also includes essays, recollections and photos.
“The whole book is kind of like a year of menus from the restaurant,” Roš says. “Nothing from before and nothing from the future is in the book. If you read the recipes closely, you can see there is a lot of small craziness and big stories. The whole book should be read as one single piece.”
Looking at it in that light, this recipe for beer and cheese popcorn should probably be viewed as just a chapter, albeit a sweet and savory one. When she came up with the recipe, Roš was thinking of her husband and the beer he brews and serves at his funky bar Hiša Polonka.
“Beer, cheese and junk food popcorn — all elements of this little brewery Valter has opened,” she says. “It’s light, but serious. A very deep, very flavorful snack that combines whatever is around Polonka. That is cheese, that is beer and that is, of course, the corn that we have all been raised on. I always combine sweetness with either saltiness, sourness or bitterness. The beauty of life is in contrast and this is how the dessert precisely is.”
Here’s a recipe for the cheesy, beery popcorn that serves six.
Ingredients: 40 g butter, 30 g glucose, 80 g sugar, 100 g walnuts, 120 ml milk, 240 ml cream, 6g glucose, 3g gelatine, 175 g white chocolate, 250 ml FEO beer, 2 gelatine leaves, 300 ml milk, 50 ml cream, 35g sugar, 100 g 3-year-old Tolminc cheese, 5g super neutrose, 160 ml beer, 30g glucose, 4g agar, 80g wild hops, 20 ml olive oil and 40 g corn grains.
Instructions: First, make the walnut crunch. In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the glucose and sugar. Stir until you get a caramel, then add the walnuts and stir constantly until it crystallizes. Spread out on a Silpat and let it cool down.
In a pan on medium heat, mix the milk, cream and glucose. Add the gelatine and stir to. dissolve it. Continue stirring until you reach 85°C (185°F). Take off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted. Let it cool down and then whip in a mixer at high speed.
To make the beer gel, heat the beer until 85°C (185°F), then add the gelatine and stir to dissolve. Heat for 2 more minutes, place in a plastic container and reserve in the refrigerator.
Next, make the cheese ice cream. Place the milk, cream, sugar and cheese in a Thermomix, blending for 6 minutes at 80°C (180°F). Add the super neutrose and blend for 1 more minute. Let the mixture cool down, and place in a Pacojet container. Freeze to be used before serving.
To make the beer chips, place all the ingredients in a mixer and blend for 3 minutes. Place the mixture in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture into a plastic container and let it cool down in the refrigerator for about1½ hours. Once the gelatine is ready, put it in a Thermomix and blend it until puréed. Spread the mixture on Silpats with 110 g on each one. Dry overnight at 65°C (150°F).
To prepare the wild hops, chop the stems in small pieces and reserve them in ice water.
To make the cheese popcorn, using a non-stick pan, heat the oil and add the corn grains. Cover the pan and let the popcorn puff. Dress it with caramelized corn and mix with salt. To plate, place the beer gel, then the walnut crunch, followed by white chocolate topped with chopped wild hops. Place the cheese ice cream and beer chips alongside.
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