I can recall with perfect clarity the first word I ever got wrong on a spelling test — bear. It was second grade, and I must have been a pretty good speller because I remember feeling startled to see the red mark on my paper. The thing is, I didn’t understand why it was wrong. I had to go ask Ms. Young why it was incorrect. Turns out I wrote my name, Baer, so it looked correct to me! Of course she meant the animal!
It should come as no surprise that my family has always collected anything with a bear. Most greeting cards have a bear. I have so many items of clothing and jewelry with a bear or reference to a bear I could wear a different one for weeks and weeks and not repeat — which I did at the end of one school year, much to the amusement of my students!
This also means, of course, that I will try pretty much any product with bear in the name, and that extends to some wonderful local offerings.
Not too far from the Berkshires, in Winooski, Vt., is Four Quarters Brewing. They have a wonderful brown ale called Great Bear (available at many local package stories) which is good for drinking and also fabulous in Welsh rarebit. And if you’re looking for snack food, the cheese sauce also works as a dip with pretzels or chips or even apple slices.
From Pittsfield we have Bear Butter, an enriched, high-protein almond butter. I thought it would be delicious in place of peanut butter in a satay marinade and sauce (but of course peanut butter also works). For great flexibility, this recipe can be adapted for meat-eaters, pescatarians, and vegans, too. The last time I made it with a variety of items so everyone could choose what they wanted, but don’t feel limited by my suggestions!
In Dalton there is Silver Bear Distillery, and among their products is a phenomenal raspberry liqueur. Many years ago, I used to make brownies with raspberry-flavored chocolate chips, but Hershey’s stopped making them. Instead of vanilla, I like to add a healthy dose of this liqueur to my brownie recipe. The pink swirl topping is optional, but fun when the brownies are raspberry flavored.
If you know of any other bear products, let me know so I can continue to celebrate my favorite animal!
Makes 6 toasts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup Great Bear beer, or other brown ale or porter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cheddar cheese, grated, divided
6 medium slices hearty bread
Chopped chives for garnish, if desired
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to foam. Add the flour and, whisking constantly, continue to cook until golden brown. Add the dry mustard and cayenne and stir to mix.
Add the beer and the Worchester sauce, and whisk until smooth. Continue cooking, whisking frequently, until thickened. Add the cream and 6 ounces of the cheese and mix until the cheese is fully melted. (If using this as a dip, add all the cheese and that’s it.)
Place the broiler rack about 6 inches from the heating element and preheat. Toast the bread until golden brown.
Arrange the toasts on a foil-lined half sheet pan. Divide the cheese sauce among the toasts, and scatter the remaining shredded cheese on top. Broil for 2-3 minutes until cheese is melted and cheese sauce is bubbly. Garnish with chives, if desired, and serve immediately.
16-20 brownies, depending on the cuts
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick margarine, melted and cooled
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup Silver Bear raspberry liqueur or other raspberry liqueur
Swirl Topping (optional):
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons Silver Bear raspberry liqueur or other raspberry liqueur
4-5 drops red gel food coloring (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Use parchment paper to line a brownie pan, preferably 7-by-11-inches or 9-by-9-inches. Spray with cooking spray and dust with flour. Combine all brownie batter ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread the batter in a prepared brownie pan.
Although this will probably make more than you need, it’s difficult to mix a smaller amount. Combine the swirl ingredients except for the food coloring in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and mix to combine well. Mix in the food coloring, if using, to desired color. Drizzle the swirl batter in lines across the top of the brownie batter. Drag a thin knife or small skewer through the swirl topping to make a design.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
SATAY SAUCE FOR BEAR-B-Q SKEWERS
Enough marinade and sauce to feed 4
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup Bear Butter, other almond butter, or peanut butter
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar, if not using Bear Butter
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek or other spicy condiment or to taste
Skewer ideas, cut into 1-inch strips where necessary:
boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
boneless sirloin, cut into strips
salmon fillet, skin removed, cut into strips
shrimp, medium to large, peeled
oyster mushroom, cut into strips
Special equipment: bamboo skewers if grilling
Combine all the ingredients except what goes on the skewers, and mix well using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender.
Reserve half of the mixture to serve with the skewers. Use the remaining sauce to marinate whatever you will put on the skewers, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to 4 hours.
If using skewers and grilling, soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. Thread the meat, seafood, or mushroom pieces onto the skewers, and grill about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until done. If not grilling, there is no need for skewers. Place the marinated items on a foil-lined half sheet pan and broil for about 5 minutes, turning and rearranging the pieces as needed so they all get some char.
Serve with the reserved satay sauce.