Category Archives: Cooking

Venison Shanks Ala Carbonadesque

This is less a recipe and more an insight into how I cook.

I decided last weekend to have a few friends over to celebrate the successful birth of my daughter (my main contribution to that was getting a wife with good child bearing hips and questionable taste in husbands).  I also decided to use up some of  those shanks I had in my freezer.

Now I’m pretty sure there’s really only way to cook shanks, braising. So, all I had to do was come up with a braising liquid. I decided the occasion called for something a bit more special than the usual pot roast preparation (as good as that is). I also happened to notice that a near by liquor store had <i>Rodenbach, </i> a Flemish Brown, on sale. Great, so I went to pick one up. They were out.

Well by this point I had my heart set on shanks braised in  some Oud Bruin. So I did the only reasonable thing, I got out a bottle of Left Hand’s Milk Stout and my bottle of balsamic vinegar  and started mixing. I chose milk stout because it was what I had in my fridge.  I would’ve used a Scottish Ale (medium strength, not a wee heavy or export strength) or even an Marzen if I had them. I was mainly looking to avoid too much hop presence (hops get too much pretty quick when you reduce the liquid for a sauce), and get some fruit flavors from the esters (I helped those flavors out a little later). I found that a 3:1 Ratio beer:vinegar was good enough for jazz.

So, after preheating the oven to 250 (since part of the point of braising is that the cooking liquid never gets hotter than whatever the boiling temperature is at your particular elevation {otherwise it stops being the cooking liquid and starts being the cooking steam} I don’t see the point in keeping the rest of the oven much hotter than that), I: seasoned the shanks with salt and pepper and put them (I had six) in a roasting pan just big enough to hold them all in a single layer; add a couple of diced onions; poured in 1 12 oz. bottle of milk stout and 1/2 C of balsamic vinegar, and enough home-made game stock to come half way up the meat; covered the whole thing with a double layer of tin-foil; and stuck it in the oven for the foreseeable future.

I checked the liquid a couple of times, and flipped the shanks over once or twice, and several (I think it was around 5 or 6) hours later pulled the whole thing out. I pulled the shanks out, covered them with foil, and set them aside. I then reduced the liquid to half of the original volume, and in a stroke of inspiration added about 1/4 c of our home-made choke cherry syrup. I also added a goodly quantity (I forgot to measure, sorry) of herbs de provence. The sauce was rich enough it didn’t need any extra fat, and I had plans for the left overs, that didn’t include gravy, so I didn’t thicken it with starch, it was just a classic reduction sauce.

I served the whole shebang with fresh green-beans and a basic brown-rice pilaf. Unfortunately the guy who was supposed to bring the  beer (New Glarus’s <i> Wisconsin Red, </i>a traditional Kriek that’s as hard to get outside of Wisconsin as it is delicious) had a sick kid, and didn’t want me to end up with a sick baby, so we a great Argentinian table wine instead.

Note: For Carbonade (the traditional Belgian Stew this was roughly based on) you can look here. I guess you could probably use my improvised Oud Bruin for that recipe as well, but if you do, I’ll be disappointed. If you’re o.k. with that (I usually am) knock yourself out.


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Oatmeal Stout Panna Cotta

Stolen from The Naked Pint, and delicious sounding.  If you can’t find an oatmeal stout, a chocolate or milk stout would work equally well. You’re going for roasty coffee\coco notes. I’d avoid Irish stouts as they tend to be a bit thin and may even be a little sour. If you can’t find creme fraiche, use sour cream. A metal mixing bowl placed over a pan of boiling water works for a double boiler.

1 1/2 tsp gelatin

2 Tbs cold water

1 1/4 cups Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout

3/4 C whole milk

3/4 C plus 1 C whipping cream

1 vanilla been, cut length wise and with the pulp scraped out or 1-2 Tsp vanilla extract.

2/3 C sugar

2/3 C plus 2 Tablespoons creme fraiche

In a double boiler  mix gelatin and water and set aside.

Over medium heat bring stout to a boil and reduce beer to a 3/4 C.

In a nother pot, combine milk 3/4 C cream, vanilla and sugar, bring to a boil.

Place water and gelatin over boiling water in lower half of double boiler, and stir the gelatin until dissolved. Whisk into cream mixture.

Whisk in stout, and then 2/3 C creme fraiche.

Strain and put in serving bowls, chill for 6 hours.

Whip remaining cream and creme fraiche into soft peaks.

Top panna cotta with whipped cream.


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Book review and appologies

After a month or so vacation, all of which I’m going to blame on the recent birth of my second child (which happened roughly a week ago), I’m back. With a book review.

<i> The Naked Pint </i> may or may not be worth reading. It’s aimed mainly at women folk, which the publisher sort of lets you figure out on your own. I  got the feeling the authors were out to jam in every joke they’ve ever thought of about any given topic they cover. If there’s a sentence without a punchline shoehorned in that book,  It’s hiding somewhere in the copyright information.

That said, they actually do know their stuff beer wise, and most of the jokes are actually amusing. The course they’ve outlined for introducing yourself to different styles does make sense. It starts off with those styles best suited to modern American taste, and works it’s way towards the “serious” styles. Also, if you’re the kind of person that likes to have handy dandy lists of beers around, they’ve got you covered.  They also have some delicious looking recipes in the back that I’ll share at some point.

So all and all, I’d give this book a resounding “it was o.k.” I’m not sure I’ll read it cover to cover again, but I’ll probably check out their recommendations before heading to the local dealer of vice.

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Sourdough Rye

Now, I want everyone to think of rye bread. Think of all the things that go with it: caraway, maybe a nice roast beef sandwich with hot mustard and horseradish, maybe a Reuben on a marbled loaf with the light and dark swirling around each other, definitely a pickle spear.  Got it? Good.

This is different. This has a nice subtle rye flavor (no caraway to get in the way), plus a nice bit of tang from the sourdough starter, and a complex sweetness from the beer.  It’s my variation on a traditional bread made in Normandy (you know, France). The original recipe (in Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the LeBrea Bakery) uses hard cider. Well, one day I wanted to make the bread, but the liquor store nearby was out of cider, but not Maredsous Tripel. I’m sure any Tripel or Golden Strong would do just as well.

I need to make a couple of disclaimers before we get started. The first is, I have no idea what condition your sourdough starter is in. So, I can only guess at how much flour you’ll need. If you’ve got a particularly wet starter, you’ll need more flour.

Which brings me to the second; I have no idea what condition your sourdough starter is in. Lots of things are going to have an impact on how sour your bread is. Here’s a quick list of the ones you can easily control: how wet the starter is. A thinner soupy starter is going to have more tang than a thicker starter; how long ago you’ve fed the starter, the longer between the last time you fed the starter and when you started this bread, the more sour your bread will be. Here’s a somewhat longer list of things you can’t: Where you live, different regions have different wild thingies floating around, how warm it is outside, how humid it is, the nearest High Jewish Holiday; etc.; etc.; etc.

Without getting into too much detail about sourdough, on which several books have been written. Let me just say, you should at the very least feed your sourdough the day before starting the bread, and then once more 4-6 hours before. It gets the yeast out of hibernation mode and into eating\burping\reproducing mode. It also makes sure you have enough starter to set some aside (which you’ll want to do before adding anything other than flour and water).

O.k. on to the recipe. Which takes two days, this first day you’re making what’s known as a sponge.

Day one:

1 C water (room temp)

1 Tbsp Molasses

1 1/2 C starter

3/4 C Flour

1 C Rye Flour

Mix it all together, cover, and let sit overnight (if it’s a particularly hot day, move it to the fridge about halfway through).

Day two:

Sponge from Day 1

1 C Water (room temp.)

1 C Tripel or Golden Strong (room temp.)

6-7  C flour

3/4 C Rye flour

1 Tbsp Kosher Salt.

Mix together everything except salt. Let sit for 20 min. Add Salt and kneed for 8-10 min (be careful, you can actually over kneed rye breads do to the lower gluten content). The dough will be soft and sticky. Let rise in a oiled bowl until almost doubled, about 2 hours (again, be careful breads made with rye are not as forgiving as those with wheat). Deflate dough and divide into 2 equal portions.

Shape into boules (round loaf). Here is a video on how to do that. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and let rise for 1-2 hours. Slash your bread with a sharp knife (there’s a variety of patterns you can do, but a simple # will do the trick). Put bread in oven (if you’ve got a baking stone, by all means use it, if not a cookie sheet with parchment paper and a dusting of semolina or corn meal works fine). Place on middle shelf in the oven and bake for 20-35 min. rotating halfway through if necessary. The crust should be pretty dark and the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Put on a baking rack to cool, and let cool ALL THE WAY (it’ll effect the texture otherwise)





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Or rather Chili. Aside from roasting large hunks of venison, this is my favorite dish to cook, and the one I’m most proud of.

Now I realize that there’s something about stews that makes rabid traditionalists of us all. From Cassoulet to Goulash to Gumbo, there’s only one right way to make the stew, and it just so happens to be the way the person you’re talking to does it.  This is where I’m more open minded than most, I make no claim to authenticity, or even exclusivity. This just happens to be the way I like my chili. You can feel free to disagree; I’m sure whatever heathen idols you worship will take pity on your soul.


This is less a recipe and more of a process. I hardly ever measure my ingredients, and generally pick my peppers based on what looks good at the market. The whole point in my opinion is to build complexity and flavor at every step. For more information on my general stewing procedure, (and an evangelical exposition on good ingredients in general, and the good news of bacon grease in particular) check out my Beef Carbonade  recipe Here.

I know many of you are probably used to seeing ground meat in your chili. I use stew meat, it holds up to prolonged cooking much better.

If you don’t happen to have Venison and Antelope on hand, I guess you could use beef.

I like sweet Malty beers with and my chili, Scottish ales, Oktoberfests\Marzens,  and dupplebocks all make the list.

About the peppers: Use whatever kind you want, I like a variety in both bell and chili and generally cut them into different sized pieces so I can tell them apart;  the hotter the pepper the smaller the piece.

If you’re using really hot peppers, wear gloves and wash your hand 3 or 4 times before touching anything… sensitive.

About the spices: This is a pretty mild mix heat wise, partially because of me not using any hot fresh peppers.  My personal experience is that chili powder adds heat to the beginning of  the bite, and cayenne adds it towards the end. I like a balanced heat, but since most chili powders are a spice mix rather than just powdered chili, be aware that adding it will add other flavors.

To serve this I make rice and beans to mix in (I skip the beans), top with a boatload of cheese, and sour cream to cut the heat.  Oh and corn bread.



Bacon Grease

1 lb. venison (I like Mule-deer for stew)

1lb Pronghorn Antelope

2-3 Bell peppers

2-3 chili peppers

10-12 fluid oz. beer

1 onion (diced)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

2 tsp Chili powder

1 tsp cayanne

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cummin

1/4 tsp ginger

2 tsp Brown Sugar

2 Tsp Molasses

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 spoonful coco powder

Preheat oven to 250

In a large dutch oven, heat fat and brown meat over high heat. You’ll probably need to do several batches, you want plenty of space between the pieces. Also, by brown I mean the kind of brown you want the outside of your steak; you’re looking to create new flavors by taking advantage of the Maillard reaction.

Set meat and any juices aside, add fat if necessary and turn down heat.

Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, add bell peppers saute for a few min. more, add chili peppers and saute for another 2-3 min. Add meat back into pan.

Add beer. You want the beer to come up about 2/3rds of the way to 3/4 of the way up the meat and veggies. If you need more liquid, stock is always better than water; water dilutes flavors, stock adds them.

Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven for 45 min-hour. Remove from oven and taste broth. Stir in spices except for coco powder.

I like to add the heat I want, and then adjust the other spices accordingly. You could make a pretty convincing argument for doing it the other way around. Replace lid, return to oven.  I usually cook it for another 2-3 hours, adjusting the spices every 45. min or so, but really it’s done as soon as the meat is cooked and tender, generally an hour later. Once you’re done cooking the chili stir in coco powder.

Let cool and put it in the fridge overnight one-three days.

Reheat, top, and enjoy.


Filed under Cooking, Food, Misc.

The Beer I Had For Breakfast (wasn’t bad)

Now, I’ll be the first to admit: When I’m making breakfast I generally skip over the shelf of my fridge dedicated to holding beer. However, I love waffles. Especially Sourdough waffles. What I don’t like nearly as much is remembering to feed the sourdough the night before I want the waffles. These are (at least in my opinion) a good standby option for those days when my (or in all honesty,  most likely my wife’s) ambition is greater in the morning than my memory was the night before. This is my adaptation of a recipe in The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger.  According to her, the use of beer in pancakes was pretty common in pioneer cookbooks.

Apologies to those of you without waffle irons, my suggestion is get married and put one on your registry.


I’d try and stay with sweeter beers for this, a good English Brown (particularly New Castle) or perhaps a good wheat beer might be the way to go (although I imagine you’d loose quite a bit of the clove\banana phenols)  Also, feel free to substitute in a cup or so of whole-wheat flour if you’re so inclined.

I have no idea how many waffles this will make you, it’s entirely dependent on the size of your waffle iron, this makes us about 8 cups of batter.

I’ve found the best method for keeping the waffles warm is to stick them in an oven on the lowest temperature setting directly on the rack.

Beer Waffles

3 C unbleached flour.

1/4 C dark brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 12 oz. beers

1/4 C milk

2 eggs

8 Tbsps (one stick) melted butter

1 Tbsp lemon juice

4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together dry ingredients and, in another bowl, the liquids.  Let sit in fridge anywhere from 30 min. to over night.

Preheat waffle iron to medium-high (or whatever the manufacturer says to do), spray it with veggie\canola oil spray, or brush on butter or cooking oil. Cook for 4-5 or until that ubiquitous and yummy state known as “Golden Brown” is reached.




Filed under Cooking, Food, History

Ingredients matter

First, let’s all pretend today’s Monday and that I remembered to post this on the right day. For those of you who can’t bend your perception of reality to suite my whim, I pity you.

Today’s recipe is the classic Flemmish stew “Beef Carbonade.”   This is a very simple recipe. There’s nothing flashy about it, basically you cook some meat in some beer. That means there’s nothing for substandard ingredients to hide behind.

Which is the point of today’s rant monologue. Somewhere along the line we in America bought into the idea that luxury and good living were defined by the quantity of what we own, not the quality. We’ve let ourselves believe that it doesn’t matter if the socks fall apart after 2 months, we got a good a good deal because they came in a pack of 30 pairs. We’ve also let ourselves be told that it doesn’t matter if the chicken we eat has no flavor, or that our beef no longer tastes like beef, we get meat at every meal.

My advice to you is ask yourself, is it really worth removing everything enjoyable about meals just to increase their size? If you answer yes, please  don’t make the following recipe, you’ll be disappointed.

With all that out of the way, some notes on the recipe:

I cook stew in the oven. It keeps the temperature more constant, and requires less stirring.

I like the chuck for stews, but pretty much any fairly lean, tough, flavorful  cut will do. Think of each piece of stew as a mini pot roast.

If you don’t have bacon grease on hand, why not? Keep a glass  jar in your fridge, whenever you make bacon, strain the grease into the jar. Use the grease for sauteing onions,  frying eggs, etc.

And when possible, I do leave stews to sit for a day. It’s worth it.

Beef Carbonade

3 tbsp of bacon grease.

2 lbs beef cut into into large cubes

3-4 medium onions, sliced

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 cups Flander’s Red or Brown beers

1/2 Cup stock

Bouquet Garni

Oven 350

Season the beef generously with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides in a dash of oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot or casserole. When the meat is browned, take it out of the pot and set it aside, then deglaze the pot by adding a splash of stock and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the broth and bits to the beef.

Put the onions in the pot and fry them gently in the bacon fat until they start to turn soft and golden, which will take about 15 minutes. After the onions have been cooking for a few minutes, sprinkle over the brown sugar, which will help them caramelize slightly.

Once the onions are cooked, sprinkle the flour over them and stir it in (a lot of recipes call for tossing the beef cubes in flour before browning them, but I’ve found that you wind up just browning the flour instead of the meat when you do this). Then add the beef and any accumulated juices to the onions in the pot.

Turn up the heat slightly, and pour in the bottle of ale. It will go all fizzy for a few seconds, but then it will calm down. Add enough stock to cover the meat and onions, along with the bouquet garni.

Bring this to a simmer, then cover and place in the oven. Let it cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender. Let stew cool, place in fridge, wait a day, then eat.

I’ve seen a couple more or less traditional recipes that call for a Tbsp. or two of mustard or vinegar to be added, or even gingerbread with mustard slathered on it to be placed on top of the stew while it was cooking. Someday when I’m feeling more adventurous I’ll give that one a go, and report back.

The primary basis for my recipe came from here.




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