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My Great American Road Trip – West Virginia, Wisconsin

November 24, 2020

I’m so behind in my writing, but not in my cooking. I finished my last three states in mid-October, but haven’t managed to sit down to write them out. Work has started, that’s part of it. And also I’ve been a bit sad. Coronapression? Depression-19? Anyway – I’ve been struggling a bit. Like all of us, but it hit me this past month. Nothing clinical or serious, just generic malaise. It’s been a long pandemic and I feel far from home, and not yet able to make Miami home.

I’m better though. For starters the election went my way, and even better, I was invited to a wonderful, socially distant party to watch the country turn blue.

As we move into Thanksgiving week and the most wonderful time of the year, I can’t help myself from getting happier. Even while I’m alone, even thought it won’t be a white one for me this year, I love this season.

West Virginia surprised me when I went looking for it’s iconic food. Pepperoni Rolls led every list. Wikipedia says it’s the food most associated with the state. So pepperoni rolls it was.

For the dough you heat up a cup and a half of milk, 3 tablespoons of butter til the butter is melted and the milk is just past warm. Then you whisk in 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons yeast. Then leave that for 7 minutes or so for the yeast to “activate” – get foamy. In a separate bowl add 3 and a half cups flour and one egg. Mix those and add them to the yeast mixture. Incorporate – a new word for me, food-wise – the mix, it will be loose. Then cover and let rest in a warm place for a couple hours or so to til it doubles in size. Then you punch it down and knead a bit and let it rise again. Luckily, I live in Florida and my balcony is a warm place for dough to rise.

Once it’s all risen, you divide it into eight pieces and roll each out to a flat disk on which you place three or four pieces of pepperoni and sprinkle with a little mozzarella.

You roll them out up like a burrito and line them on cookie sheet for about 30 minutes for them to rise one more time. Then you cook them at 350 for about 30 minutes. I served mine with a side of spicy tomato sauce and a beer.

They were good snack food, but sort of boring in the end.

The next day, with a bunch of pepperoni rolls left over, I was trying to think of a fun way to eat them, which led me to my research for Wisconsin!

I’ve only been to Wisconsin once with, you guessed it, the Boston Pops. We had a day off in the lovely college town of Appleton. It remains my favorite day of any tour I’ve ever been on. In large part because of my exhilarating trip with my tour bestie Amanda to the Houdini Museum. While there, Amanda and I took the opportunity to perform some magic for none other than Santa Claus (he was under cover as a civilian by day, but by night he spread holiday cheer at our Pops concerts.)

Here we are for your viewing pleasure. You can’t see Santa, but that’s his voice. I will never not be proud of this!

On on particular night out with the Pops Dream Team (minus Amanda, alas)

We discovered the bizarre and irresistible beer cheese made from Wisconsin’s two favorite things. Turns out, they can even take it further and before I knew it, I was making beer cheese soup.

Beer cheese soup is easy. First you make stock – chop up carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and heat it up in a stock pot. Add in a bit of cayenne, salt, pepper and pinch of hot sauce. Plus 3 cups of chicken stock. Let it simmer til the veggies are soft.

In another pot warm up a third of a cup butter and whisk in a third of cup flour til golden brown (a roux!) Then add in four cups of milk. When it is all warm, but not scalded, remove from the heat and cut in the cheese. (HA! Cut the cheese).

When the cheese is melted, combine the two pots, add a beer and let it all simmer together. Then blend it til smooth.

It was delicious for about four spoonfuls. It was even better served with some pepperoni rolls.

But in the end, it the pepperoni rolls and soup may just have been the trigger for my depression!

Wyoming though, that was great. I’ll tell you about that soon.

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