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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Bluebeard’s Cellar

Whenever I mention that I have beer in my cellar, people generally just make up excuses to stop talking to me.  Unlike when my mom suddenly remembers that she promised a friend she’d help them sort their button collection, I can pretend that people actually made it past those words word of this paragraph without walking away.

Now, those lucky few who I imagine are reading this may be asking themselves, “aside from the fact that beer geeks feel compelled to try and prove to everyone they know that beer is as sophisticated a booze as wine, why would anyone cellar beer”

The simple answer is: It changes the flavor. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. The key is not just spending a year throwing away money by picking beers where that change is a good thing. Generally, that means a big complex beer. Bottle Conditioning (having yeast in the bottle) is also a big plus. Oh, and most beers funky and\or Belgian get funkier and Belgianier.

So without further ado, here is what’s in my cellar.

1.2007 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port casks.

2.Boulevard Brewing Company Harvest Dance

3. Boulevard Brewing Company Chocolate Ale

4. Great Divide Hades Tripel

5. Widmere Brothers w’11 KGB Imperial Stout.

 

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One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Lee Hooker

 

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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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Chiliski

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.

Notes:

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.

Chiliski,

ingredients

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.

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Sunday Morning

Allow me to present the Man in Black doing his version of Kris Kristofferson’s great song: Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, and the inspiration for this weeks recipe.

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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.

Notes:

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.

 

 

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