Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Bunkhouse at Waredaca

One of the highlights of the craft beer scene in the Free State is the growth of "farm-to-brewery" movement.  I've written about this movement in a past blog post.  The movement grew out of a bill passed by the Maryland legislature that allows farms to brew beer on their premises and sell the beer on premises provided that the beer is brewed with ingredients grown on the farm.   Farmers began to grow hops on their farms, and, with those vines, came a host of new brewers, including Waredaca Brewing Company.

Waredaca has been known more for its horse farm.  The farm consists of about 220 acres of pastures, hills and woodland.  The farm also is the home of about 80 horses.  The drive up to the brewery takes one through those pastures where the horses roam to the brewery, which sits near a small pond or lake, and, which is near where the hop vines grow.  Once at the taproom, customers can try seven or eight beers, such as the Bunkhouse. 

The Bunkhouse is  Waredaca's saison or farmhouse ale.  The Beer Judge Certification Program defines the style as a pale, moderately bitter and moderately strength Belgian ale with a very dry finish.    The aroma and taste of a saison typically has a low fruit or spice, opening the way to the malt and the hops providing the character of the beer. 

To comply with the Maryland law, Waredaca brews the Bunkhouse with hops grown on the farm.  The brewers describe the beer as having an "expressive yeast" with a "super dry finish."  The beer pours a pale gold color, with a decent foam from the carbonation.  As the foam recedes, the combination of malts and hops provide a balanced aroma.  The aroma suggests a very drinkable beer, which is the case.   The Waredaca hops shine through in both the aroma and the taste.  The hops provide a moderate, piney bitterness that one would expect from a saison.  That bitterness is smoothed out by the malts, with a dry finish.  The beer has an ABV of 5.0%, which is standard for a saison.

The Bunkhouse is available at the Waredaca tap room, where you could get a pint for about $6.00 and sit out on the grounds.   You can do what we did and buy a crowler to take home and enjoy while the sun sets.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Carolina Chicken Bog

The story of chicken bog begins during the 1800s in Horry County, South Carolina. According to CraveFW, who recounted passages from a book on Southern barbecue written by Eric Spigner, Captain Henry Buck owned a plantation along the Wacamaw River, not too far from the Pee Dee River.  Buck owned 100 individuals as slaves; and, according to the accounts, he compensated these people for their work.  Buck also allowed these individuals to plant their own vegetables and raise their own livestock.  With that livestock, the made their own sausage, ham and bacon in a building that they used as a smokehouse. 

Two of the slaves were said to be extraordinary cooks.  These slaves -- Gibby and Pody -- boiled chicken, sausage and spices in a cast iron pot.  After the chicken was done, the cooks removed the meat and separated it from the bones.  They added rice to the pot.  Once the rice was done, the shredded chicken was returned to the pot.  The result was a delicious, moist dish of chicken bog. 

A classic South Carolina chicken bog is a simple dish to make.  The principal ingredients can largely be counted on one hand: chicken, smoked sausage, rice, salt and pepper.  With that handful, cooks have created a wide variety of chicken bog recipes.  I chose one from Cooks Country, which relies upon the main ingredients and makes a few adjustments. For example, the recipe calls for chicken thighs, which have more flavor and hold up to cooking better than chicken breasts.  The recipe also calls for the use of onion and garlic, along with chicken broth, which helps to develop a deeper, more flavorful cooking broth.  That depth is a good thing because, depending upon the smoked sausage you use, the smoke can often rival, if not overpower the chicken.

Other bog recipes use additional ingredients, such as fresh herbs, bell peppers and other vegetables. Some recipes go further, calling for the cook to add gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet to the pot. For this effort, however, I think simpler is better (and tastier) in this case.  

After all, simplicity is the key.  That is how the Gibby and Pody would have made it for their families back on that plantation.  I'll save the gizzards, cockscombs and chicken feet for the next time. 


CAROLINA CHICKEN BOG
Recipe from Cooks Country Eats Local, pp. 98-99
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
6 (5 to 7 ounce) bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces smoked kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups long grain white rice

Directions:
1.  Brown the chicken.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking.  Cook chicken, skin side down, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer chicken to plate.  Discard skin.

2.  Continue cooking.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot and return to medium heat.  Add sausage and onion and cook until onion is translucent and sausage begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add broth, chicken, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken is tender about 30  minutes. 

3.  Cook the rice.  Remove chicken from pot and set aside.  Stir rice into pot, cover and continue to cook over low heat until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  

4.  Finish the dish.  Shred chicken into bite size pieces, discard bones.  Gently fold shredded chicken into rice mixture.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes.  Serve immediately.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

O.T.W.O.A.

The message is clear on the can: "[a]nd so it was written ... According to the Mayan and Hopi Calendars, the 'transition from one world age to another' will happen on December 21, 2012."  Well, that was over four years ago and, if I am not mistaken, I am currently typing this blog post.  So much for the transition that the Mayans and Hopi predicted.  

Nevertheless, the brewers at DC Brau paid homage to that single date with Imperial India Pale Ale called On the Wings of Armageddon or O.T.W.O.A.   It is a single hop Imperial IPA brewed with Falconers Flight hops.  These hops are known for floral, citrus and tropical fruit elements, with an emphasis on lemon and grapefruit flavors. These characteristics of this hop varietal are matched with Pale, Cara-60, and CaraPils malts and malted wheat.  This blend of a single hop with these malts provide a very hop-forward beer that has a good malt backbone.  

The O.T.W.O.A. pours a hazy, orange color.  The haze of the beer is capped by a light foam, which dissolves into thin strings resembling a galaxy.  (The Mayans and Hopi always looked to the stars.)  The aromatic elements highlight the features of the Falconers Flight hops, particularly the citrus notes.  The brewers also note there are elements of white grapes, grapefruit, light bread and biscuit notes.  I get the grapefruit (as that is citrus), as well as the bread and biscuit notes from the malts.  As with any Imperial IPA, the taste of this beer is hop-centric.  There is a significant lemon and grapefruit presence, but some piney notes. The ABV of 9.2% is present with some subtle boozy tones, but it is not overwhelming.  Just a reminder that this is a beer to be sipped and enjoyed slowly.  

I am a big fan of DC Brau beers.  After all, I have reviewed five of them in the past.  I have to say that, of all the DC Brau beers that I have tried, On the Wings of Armageddon is the best beer that the brewers make.  It is so good that it is worth the $14.99 to $19.99 that you have to pay for a six pack. 

ENJOY!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Crab Flake Salad

If you took the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C., you would have had the opportunity to have a special experience on one of the Martha Washington dining cars, with the wooden interiors, white table cloths and the very fancy china.  The surroundings would have raised expectations about the offerings on the menu.  Guests would have expected fine cuisine, whether it was an appetizer, salad or main course.

That is what I thought when I saw the recipe for Crab Flake Salad in the book Dining on the B&O.  The recipe calls for an equal amount of "large crab meat flakes" and "small diced hearts of celery."  It also calls for "a creamy mayonnaise made with lemon juice instead of vinegar, with a garnish of quartered hard boiled eggs.    Although the recipe appears in Dining on the B&O, it originated in the quintessential cookbook, The Edgewater Beach Hotel Salad Book.  

Despite this pedigree, there was something about a "creamy mayonnaise" with lemon juice that did not seem appealing. It is probably because I am not a very big fan of mayonnaise.  The question became, however, what to substitute for mayonnaise.  I decided to draw from another crab recipe, the West Indies Salad (which is one of my favorite lump crab recipes).  The West Indies Salad uses vinegar, rather than mayonnaise.  In my humble opinion, vinegar works much better with crab meat than mayonnaise, and, it is probably healthier too.  I also decided to use finely diced onions, which are used in West Indies Salad, along with the finely diced celery used in the Crab Flake Salad.

The end result is Chef Bolek's interpretation of the B&O's Crab Flake Salad, which I have to say was very, very good.  The celery actually added an additional flavor that is not in the West Indies Salad, and the use of the vinegar kept the salad lighter and provided a good, sharp taste to contrast with the sweetness of the crab meat. 


CRAB FLAKE SALAD
Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 33-34
Serves several

Ingredients:
1 pound of jumbo lump crab, picked
1 heart of celery, diced finely
1 sweet onion, diced finely
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Cracked black pepper
Sea salt

Directions:
1.  Marinate the crab.  Line the bottom of the bowl or dish with half of the diced onion and celery.  Add the crab meat.  Spread the remaining onion and celery over the crab meat.  Add the cider vinegar to the water and then add the oil, whisking it all together.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and vegetables.  Drizzle the mixture over the crab meat and onions.  Let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. 

2.  Prepare the salad. Gently mix the salad.  Place some lettuce leaves on a plate and spoon the salad over it.  Serve with crackers. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A New Project in the Bluegrass State

Whenever we travel, my beautiful Angel, Clare and I like to check out the local scene.   We look for interesting things to do, cool restaurants to try, and, of course, a brewery or brewpub to check out.  Recently, we made a trip to the Bluegrass State to visit with close friends who live in Louisville.  

We arrived the day before and decided to check out the town, with one of the stops being, of course, at a local brewery or brewpub.  We have been to Louisville in the past, and, I have been to Bluegrass Brewing and Against the Grain, both of which are very good.  But, this time, we wante to try something different.   I asked Google for the nearest breweries or brewpubs, and, it responded, "Holsopple Brewing."

Holsopple Brewing opened in February 2017 in the Lyndon neighborhood, which is not too far from Shelbyville Road and I-264.  The brewery's owners -- Sam Gambrill and Kristy Holsopple -- opened the brewery with a tap room that features 8 drafts.  When we visited the tap room, we were greeted with beers that spanned different brewing styles from the classic pale ale and single-hop india pale ales, to a lager, pilsner and even a dunkel.   The tap room also had games and crayons, providing some kid-friendly activities while the parents sample the beers. 

Clare and I tried a few of the beers.  Clare ordered the Hefeweizen, which was a good effort at the beer.  I tried the Project Alpha "B" IPA, which I believe is one of their efforts to brew a single hop India Pale Ale.   I also tried their Paula Pilsner, which was a very crisp and clean pilsner.  It was a good contrast to the hoppy Project Alpha B IPA.

The Project Alpha beer is the second in a single hop IPA experiment of the brewers, with the goal being 26 different single hop IPAs.  From what I could tell, the Project Alpha B IPA is brewed with cascade hops.  As you can see from the picture to the right, the beer pours a orange color with a thick foam covering the surface.  The aromatic elements feature the hops, with the citrus notes, but also a fair aroma from the malts.  This balance carries through to the taste, with the result being a good balance between the hops and the malts.   This balance helps make this beer a little more approachable to people who are usually turned off by very hoppy IPAs.  

Overall, our visit to Holsopple Brewing was a good one, especially given this brewery has been only open for a few months.  If you happen to live in Derby City, you should check it out.  When we make our way back to Louisville, we will definitely make another stop to see how the brewers and the beers have evolved.  Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chicken Maryland

Little did I know, but Chicken Maryland is quite the recipe.  The recipe was born as the Old Line State's answer to traditional southern fried chicken.  Where cooks throughout the American south fried chicken in pots full of oil, lard or shortening, cooks in Maryland pan-fried the chicken. They then finished the dish by adding cream to the pan to create a white sauce that would be poured over the crispy chicken.  This recipe is much like Maryland, something that draws from tradition, but is still unique in its own right. 

If that were the end of the story, a Chicken Maryland recipe might not be that interesting.  However, Chicken Maryland made its way into the news, with the first reference to the recipe or dish appearing in a newspaper in 1886.  Several years later, the recipe began to appear in cookbooks.  And, not just any cookbooks.  The recipe appeared in Fannie Farmer's The Boston Cooking School Cook Book in 1896.  Decades later, a recipe for Chicken a la Maryland in the iconic French cookbook, Ma Cuisine written by August Escoffier.  The dish became so popular that it even appeared on the dinner menu of the Titanic, although I don't know if any of the passengers enjoyed the dish because that menu was for the day the ship sank.  Despite the tragic end of the Titanic, the recipe for Chicken Maryland continued to live.  The dish appeared on the menu for guests  who traveled on the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited from Washington, D.C. to Chicago. 

Chicken Maryland's travel through time has given rise to many different variations to Maryland's take on southern Fried Chicken.  For example, Auguste Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland featured a side of fried bananas.  The bananas were perhaps a nod to the fact that the largest city in Maryland, Baltimore, was once a key port for the import of bananas from Latin America.  By contrast, the chefs and cooks on the B&O left the bananas off the plate and served the Chicken Maryland with its version of a corn fritter.

For this recipe, I blended the B&O's recipe for Chicken Maryland and Escoffier's version of Chicken a la Maryland.  The former recipe uses whole chickens, spatchcocked, with each serving being half a chicken, while the latter recipe allows for the use of chicken breasts.   I decided to use boneless, skinless breasts because I felt that they would be easier to work with on a frying pan.  I then decided to '86 the frying pan and to just bake the chicken.  This made the recipe healthier.  After getting the chicken ready, I turned to Escoffier's recipe for a bechamel sauce that could be poured over the chicken.  Finally, I decided to serve the dish in the style of the B&O cooks, with a corn fritter as a side.  The two recipes helped to produce a dish that is perhaps one of the best ones that I have made in a long time.    

CHICKEN MARYLAND
Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 71-72
and the Spruce
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
2 chickens, spatchcocked and split
     (or use boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1 egg beaten
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bread crumbs, as needed
Butter, melted as needed
Bacon, 2 slices per servings
Bechamel or cream sauce, 2-3 serving,
Corn Fritters, 1 per serving

Ingredients (for the bechamel or cream sauce):
2 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

Ingredients (for the corn fritters):
15 ounces of corn, frozen, canned or fresh
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3/8 cup flour

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chicken. If you are using whole chickens, cut the chickens into portions.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip the chicken in the beaten eggs and then the breadcrumbs.  Arrange in baking pans with 2 slices of bacon.  Brush the chicken with butter.

2.  Bake the chicken.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.

3.  Prepare the bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour until it forms a smooth paste. Continue whisking, cook for about 2 minutes, and then gradually – 1/3 cup at a time - add the milk. Continue whisking and cook until the sauce is completely heated through, smooth, and thickened. Remove from the heat and season with the salt and nutmeg.

4.  Prepare the fritters.  Pound the corn, mix with the flour, butter, eggs, salt and pepper.  Heat butter or oil on medium high in a pan.  Ladle the mixture into the pan and do not overcrowd.  Fry for about 5 minutes and flip.  Fry until the fritter is brown.

5.  Finish the dish.  Plate one of the chicken breasts to one side of the dish, ensuring that the bacon remains crossed over the chicken.  Plate the corn fritter next to the chicken.  Pour the bechamel sauce over the chicken breast and the bacon.    

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Crime

Beers brewed with peppers are quaint.  And I have tried many in my time.  Some draw inspiration from Oaxacan Moles, such as New Holland's El Mole Ocho or Ska Brewing's Mole Stout, which inevitably include the use of chiles like ancho peppers.   Other brewers just brew beers with chiles, like Rogue's Chipotle Ale.  With these beers, it is more about the heat, rather than the style.  

While I love Mole beers, I have to say I am also a big fan of the chile beers as well.  That is what drew me to Stone Brewing's Crime, a supped up version of its Arrogant Bastard.  The Crime is a blend of the Arrogant Bastard and the Oaked Arrogant Bastard, both of which are aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and then finished with jalapeno, serrano other chile peppers.  The brewers produced this beer for, in their words, "those who adore both pain and pleasure (but mostly pain), those who should know better and those who don't know better."  They continue, "[t]he result is something unsuitable for the faint of heart, mind or palate."

Well, I am certainly not one who is faint of heart, mind or palate, especially when it comes to chiles.  I have over a dozen different types of peppers and chiles in my spice drawer and pantry, covering the entire range of the Scoville scale.  So, I'm game for this beer.

I bought a bottle of Stone's Crime, 2015 version. According to the brewers, the beer is "hoppy with lots of oak and malt."  I would agree with that assessment.  The hops are clearly present up front, competing with the peppers' piquancy.  The malts are present as well, but they definitely play a second fiddle.  This role is not only secondary to the hops and the peppers, but also the bourbon.  

As for the finish, the brewers note that there is a "[l]ong finish [that] reveals oak, vanilla, bourbon and malt that produce caramel flavors with peppers adding a pleasant tamarind, subtle tropical fruit flavors and significant heat."   Once again, the brewers are mostly on target.  There was definitely oak and bourbon, but I could also sense the vanilla.  These elements came together, and I somewhat sensed the a caramel flavor with a tamarind note.  I did not sense any tropical fruit flavors though.  There was, however, a good sting from the peppers.  Much of that heat was felt on the back of the palate and throat as the beer went down.  

Overall, this is a great beer and a good companion to Stone's Punishment, which I previously reviewed.  In some respects, this beer is better than Punishment because the chiles do not completely overwhelm the other aromatic and flavor elements.   Definitely worth a try.

ENJOY!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

B&O Egg Sandwich

It is just an egg sandwich.  That is what my beautiful Angel and I kept saying to ourselves as we were preparing that dish for our Wine Club.  It is just an egg sandwich.  But it is a pretty damn good egg sandwich.  Why? Because it proves that you can make a very good dish with a very simple recipe.

This particular recipe originated in Grafton, West Virginia.  According to Dining on the B&O Railroad, the authors visited a signal tower and spoke with the railroader who worked there. The author asked the employee about his favorite food, which was an egg sandwich that he had every day for lunch.  The recipe is basically an egg between two pieces of toast with a dollop of Miracle Whip.   A simple recipe that brought a lot of satisfaction to a worker, day after day, year after year.  A very good dish that is the product of a very simple recipe.

The railroader's egg sandwich was not an official recipe of the B&O Railroad, although a fried egg sandwich did appear on a menu in the railroad's dining car on March 17, 1960.  The author of Dining on the B&O did not have the recipe and I could not find it.  And, while the railroader's recipe was very good for him, both by beautiful Angel and I wanted to make a couple of changes to make this recipe even better, but still very simple.

First, I decided to '86 the Miracle Whip and add some lettuce and a tomato.  I have never been a big fan of mayonnaise or Miracle Whip.  I rather dispense with that and add something that is a little healthier, like a slice of tomato and some lettuce.

Second, my beautiful Angel suggested that we sprinkle some Old Bay on the egg, giving a nod to Maryland.  This is after all a B&O Egg Sandwich and that "B" stands for Baltimore.  I thought that was a great idea.

Finally, we decided to present the sandwich as an open faced sandwich.  By getting rid of the extra piece of bread, we opened the sandwich to a far more pleasant presentation.

With these three changes, we gave this recipe our own touch.  In the end, at least in my humble opinion, this is a far better sandwich.   I have included the original recipe, with our changes listed as options.  Feel free to try both versions  Either way, a simple recipe produces a very tasty sandwich. 


B&O EGG SANDWICH
Recipe adapted from Dining on the B&O, pp. 28-29
Serves 1

Ingredients:
1 or 2 eggs
1 or 2 slices of toast
1-2 tablespoons butter
Kraft Miracle Whip, optional
1 tomato slice, optional
Lettuce, optional
Old Bay, optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Prepare the egg.  Melt 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in an 8 inch non-stick omelet pan or skillet over medium heat.  Break open eggs into pan and immediately reduce heat to low. Cook slowly until the eggs are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken, but not hard.  Break open the yolks and flip over for 15 seconds until cook.  Do not salt the eggs before or during cooking.  Salt can cause the eggs to become tough during cooking so for best results, salt eggs only after cooking.

2.  Finish the dish.  Toast the bread, place eggs on toast and spread Miracle whip (optional) on one slice of toast.  Salt and pepper to taste.

ENJOY!
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