Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rogue Ales Chipotle Ale

DARE. RISK. DREAM.  Those three words adorn the bottle of Rogue Ales' Chipotle Ale.  The first two words most likely refer, at least in one sense, to the specific Dare and Risk malts produced by Rogue Micro Barley Farm.  The last word, "Dream," refers to what I did after buying a bottle of the Chipotle Ale.  My mind focused on how great of a pairing I could achieve with this beer and a particular dish that I wanted to make.

Before I get to the food pairing, a little background about the beer.  Rogue Ales dedicated this beer to the Spanish author, Juan de la Cueva.  In 1575, de la Cueva wrote about a Mexican dish that combined seedless chipotles with ale.  Rogue likewise uses smoked Jalapeno peppers (or chipotle peppers) to spice an ale made with only eight ingredients: Great Western 2-Row Malts, Rogue Micro Barley Farm Dare and Risk Malts, Rogue Micro Hopyard Revolution and Rebel Hops, chipotle peppers, "free range coastal water" and Pacman Yeast.

The Chipotle Ale pours a nice amber color, a little darker than what is shown in the pictures.  The aromatic elements of this beer showcase the malts, wrapped with a little of the smokiness of the chipotle peppers.  The smoke and spice of the peppers are much more prominent in the taste of the beer.  The smoke is clear up front, with the spice lingering in the finish and the tongue.  The taste of the chipotle peppers provides body and substance to this beer  Basically, these peppers provide a whole new perspective to what would otherwise be an American Red Ale.  

When it comes to pairing this beer with food, Rogue Ales suggests that this beer would pair well with chicken and pork.  I paired this beer with the recipe for Mexican Roadside Chicken with Green Onions.  The smokiness of the beer provided an added feature to the chicken, which is grilled and basted with a wet rub of chiles, clove, cinnamon and oregano.  I should add that I really like to cook with this beer as well.  I find that it provides a good smoky and spicy kick to chili.  It also is useful for marinades for chicken, pork and even fish.

This beer is available in 22 ounce bottles for about $6.99 a bottle. The beer can be found at most beer stores that have a good selection of craft beers.  A great beer for use in cooking and, of course, drinking. 

ENJOY!

For more about the beer, check out Rogue Ales' website.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pollo a las Brasas con Cebollitas (Mexican Roadside Chicken with Green Onions)

I am fascinated by street food from different countries. Perhaps I have watched a few too many episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations or Bizarre Foods, following either Tony Bordain or Andrew Zimmern cruise the streets of some far away city, buying and trying a wide range of foods from street vendors.

A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for Pollo a las Brasas con Cebollitas or Mexican Roadside Chicken with Green Onions.  The recipe is based upon the chicken grilled at roadside or highway-side stands in the Mexican State of Sinaloa.  I tried to find some information about the place of grilled chicken in Sinaloan cuisine or its street food traditions, but I  was unsuccessful.  However, I did find that this recipe originated with Rick Bayless and his book, Mexican Everyday.  Being a fan of Bayless' show, Mexico - One Plate at a Time, which airs on PBS, I decided that I would make this dish.

There was another reason why I wanted to make this dish.  I recently bought a chipotle ale and was looking to pair this beer with a dish.  I thought that the smoky flavors of the beer would pair well with the flavors of the grilled chicken.  So this effort represents a unusual convergence of two interests, street food and beer pairing. 

In terms of the preparation for this dish, this recipe actually included a first for me.  It was the first time that a butterflied a whole chicken.  I bought a locally raised, organic chicken and, with a pair of food shears, I cut carefully around the backbone and then removed the keel bone.   I am not sure why I have not butterflied a whole chicken in the past, but this effort will definitely not be my last. 


POLLO A LAS BRASAS CON CEBOLLITAS
(Mexican Roadside Chicken with Green Onions)
Adapted from Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the Chicken and Onions):
1 three pound chicken
2 bunches of green onions or scallions
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
Olive oil for brushing the onions

Ingredients (for the Wet Rub):
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon of dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano
1 big pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, diced finely
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of orange juice

Directions:
1.  Prepare the chicken.  Begin by butterflying the chicken.  Place the chicken on its breasts.  With a pair of kitchen shears, cut alongside the backbone and then cut along the other side of the backbone.  Remove the backbone and then open the chicken like a book.  Proceed to remove the keel bone by making an incision through the thin membrane covering it.  Use your fingers to get underneath the bone and, using leverage, lift it out.  

2.  Prepare the wet rub.  Combine all of the ingredients for the rub and stir.  

3.  Marinate the chicken.  Heat a grill to about 350 degrees.  Place the chicken breast and skin side down.  Proceed to baste the exposed side of the chicken with the wet rub.  Flip over the chicken and baste the other side with the rub.

4.  Grill the chicken.  Cook the chicken at 350 degrees for about forty five minutes or until a thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the breast.  Remove the chicken from the heat and let it rest for about 10 or 15 minutes. 

5.  Grill the onions.  While the chicken is resting, brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt.  Place the onions on the grill.  Cook until the onions are tender and brown, about five minutes per side.  

6.  Finish the dish.  Cut the chicken into quarters, and serve with green onions.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seffa de Couscous

While walking the aisles of my local supermarket, I came across some bottles of rose water.  I began to think about the type of dishes that would use this ingredient. Thanks to the trusty Internet, I was able to find a handful of recipes.  One recipe stuck out from the rest ... Seffa de Couscous. 

The dish is a sweet couscous dish that is popular in Morocco and Algeria.  The ingredients for this dish -- dried apricots, figs, dates, and raisins, along with cardamom, cinnamon and rose water -- really seemed interesting.  So, I gathered all of the ingredients, headed home and began my work in the kitchen.

This is a really easy dish to make.  Most of the work is cutting and dicing the dried fruits.  After poaching the dried fruit in a couple cups of boiling water, just add the rose water and prepare the couscous in accordance with its instructions


SEFFA DE COUSCOUS
Adapted from Tobias Cooks
Serves 2-4

Ingredients:
1 cup of Moroccan couscous
1 small handful of raisins
4-6 dried figs, diced
4-6 dried apricots, diced
4-6 dried dates, diced
2 spoons of sugar
1 orange, cut into sections
1/4 cup of roasted almonds
2 black cardamom seeds
2 green cardamom seeds
Cinnamon, to taste
1 tablespoon of rose water 

Directions:
1.  Prepare the couscous.  Heat up 2 cups of water in a pot to a boil. Add the diced fruits and poach them for a few minutes in boiling water.  Add the sugar, cardamom and rose water.  Then add the couscous and cook according to the couscous instructions.  

2.  Toast the almonds.  Heat a pan over medium high heat.  Add the almonds to the pan and toast until they become fragrant. 

3.  Finish the dish.  Remove the cardamom seeds.  Plate the couscous in a bowl or on a plate.  Place the almonds on top and sprinkle some cinnamon over the couscous.

ENJOY!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Panther Creek Cellars Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir (2006)

It was two years ago that I married by beautiful wife, Clare, who I call my Angel.  On our honeymoon, which I have talked briefly about in prior blog posts, we visited the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  We made our base McMinnvile, Oregon and, from that little town, toured about one dozen  vineyards and wineries throughout the northern part of the valley.

I learned a lot from our tours, but, the one thing that never occurred to me is that there are winemakers out there who produce wines without a vineyard.  Whenever I saw a wine, I simply assumed that the winemaker grew his or her own grapes.   This was an assumption that I harbored for most our tour, as we went from one winemaker to the next, each with its own  vineyard, whether just a couple of acres or hundreds of acres. However, the last winemaker we visited, Panther Creek Cellars, does not own its own vines.  Instead, Panther Creek purchases the grapes that it uses in its wines from other vineyards. With these grapes, Panther Creek is able to make some great Pinot Noir wines, like the Shea Valley Pinot Noir (2006).  

Panther Creek has a tasting room, which both Clare and I visited in McMinnville, Oregon.  My parents had recommended that we add Panther Creek to the list of vineyards and wineries.  We were able to taste about six wine and relax amongst dozens of barrels of aging Pinot Noir.  Like most Willamette vintners, Panther Creek produces a couple of white wines, like its Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, but it is really known for its red wines, with ten Pinot Noir wines. 

We both loved the wines and purchased a couple of bottles to take home with us.  One of the bottles that we bought was the Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir. The grapes used to produce this wine come from the Shea Vineyard, which is located in the Yamhill/Carlton District.  This appellation is a subdistrict of the Willamette Valley AVA, which was once known for orchards, livestock and wheat.  Now, it is known for its wine, with approximately sixty vineyards and winemakers producing some great Pinot Noirs, like the wine that we bought.

The Shea Vineyard (2006), which is produced from Dijon, Pommard and Wadenswil clones, pours a nice crimson to burgundy red, which is very nice in a Pinot Noir.  The winemaker says there are aromas of plum, blackberry, anise, leather and vanilla.  Apart from the leather (which I can never sense in a wine), I did get the blackberries, anise and even some vanilla.  The winemaker also notes that the wine has flavors of, in addition to blackberries, black cherry, cocoa, orange peel, black pepper, currants and earth.  I have to say that my palate is still developing and I did not get all of those flavors.  However, I did get blackberries and black cherries, with some spice, especially in the finish.  There was definitely some residual black pepper that stuck on the tongue long after the wine is gone.

This wine is available at the Panther Creek Tasting Room and online at the winery's website.  If it is still available, it sells for about $43 a bottle. 

ENJOY! 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dogfish Head's Robert Johnson's Hellhound on my Ale

Legend says that, at the stroke of midnight, Robert Johnson  went down to the crossroads at Highways 61 and 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Angry at God for the untimely death of his wife and unborn child, Robert Johnson called upon the devil and made an irrevocable pact ... in exchange for his soul, the devil would tune Johnson's guitar, enabling him to become one of the greatest blues artists.  Robert Johnson did, in fact, become one of the greats, but the devil cashed in the exchange.  Robert Johnson died at age 27.

Well, now there is a beer in honor of Robert Johnson, and it is courtesy of Dogfish Head.  The beer, Robert Johnson's Hellbound on my Ale, commemorates the Mississippi Delta blues legend's 100th birthdays with a lot of 100s.  As the beer recounts, the Hellhound on my Ale is an Imperial India Pale Ale, which is loaded with hops -- including the dry-hopping of the beer with 100% Centennial hops at a rate of 100 kilograms per 10 barrel brew length, all of which contributes to an IBU of 100 at the brewhouse.  The beer has a 10.0% ABV and is 10.0 SRM in color. 

The SRM is the Standard Reference Method, which is a means by which brewers measure the colors of their beers. The SRM is actually a range from 2 (which would be a pale lager) to 70 (which would be an imperial stout).  A 10.0 places the Hellhound on my Ale in the range of a pale ale.  

The beer appears a little darker than an average pale ale, much more like an Imperial India Pale Ale.  When pouring the beer, a nice, thin layer of foam tops the beer.  As the foam subsides, the aromatic elements become clear.  There is definitely a good, solid aroma of lemons, wrapped in hops.  The lemon aromas (and flavors) come from the use of dried lemon peel and flesh in the brewing process.  The lemons are in recognition of Robert Johnson's mentor, Blind Lemon Jefferson.  

Those lemons figure prominently throughout the taste of the beer.  In fact, the lemon flavor is so prominent that it seems to upstage the flavor of the hops.  While I might have an issue with that,  particularly given the Imperial IPA style (where hops are supposed to be the king), Dogfish Head actually  makes it work this beer.  When drinking the beer, the lemon flavor seems sweet at the front, and then turns citrusy and a bitter in the finish.  The flavors of the beer are an analogy to Robert Johnson's life, sweet up front, but a bitter end. 

This beer is a limited release and is available in stores now for about $11.99 a bottle.  I have been able to find it at a local Whole Foods store, but it should be available at other beer store that sell 22 ounce bottles of Dogfish Head beers. This is a great beer to sip while listening to some of Robert Johnson's greatest blues songs, like Crossroad Blues, Kindhearted Woman Blues, and, most appropriately for this blog, Come on in My Kitchen!

ENJOY!

For more about the Robert Johnson, check out Robert Johnson and the Crossroads Curse.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Imperial" King Salmon

I often joke that, after a stressful day at work, I relieve that stress through cooking.  I also note that people can tell how stressed out I was at work based upon what I make.  The more stressful of a day, the fancier the dish.  Well, after a few stressful days a while back, I unleashed my creative energies to make a dish that I ended up calling "Imperial" King Salmon.

The Chinook Salmon, which is known as King Salmon, is the largest species of salmon.  It has a special place in the tradition of many Native American tribes.  It also has its place in the early history of the United States when the Lewis and Clark expedition described -- and ate -- this fish during their exploration of the Pacific Northwest.  

This magnificent fish is the centerpiece of a truly original and, in some respects, crazy recipe.  The recipe starts with one pound of King Salmon.  Add one pound of lump blue crab imperial.  Put it all on a cedar plank and grill it.  The end result is an amazingly decadent dish. The crazy part is actually executing the recipe.  While there are many recipes for Plank King Salmon, there are no recipes for Planked Crab Imperial.   And, there are many recipes for crab imperial, but most of them involve placing the crab mixture into little ramekins, topped with bread crumbs, and baked for length of a reality show (minus the commercials). I decided to be daring and combine two dishes into one -- Plank King Salmon and Crab Imperial -- to create a Chef Bolek original recipe. 

Hence, the name, "Imperial" King Salmon, which suggests the richness of the dish.  This dish also reigns over many of the dishes that I've made recently.  It is a more lavish dish, because both King Salmon and lump blue crab are a bit pricey.   However, the dish is also rich in flavor.  Grilling the salmon and the crab on the cedar plank infuses all of the ingredients with the cedar flavor.  Both Clare and I really enjoyed this dish.


"IMPERIAL" KING SALMON
A Chef Bolek Recipe
Serves 3-4

Ingredients (for the King Salmon):
1 to 1 1/4 pounds of King Salmon
1 pound of lump blue crab
1 lemon, juiced
Kosher Salt, to taste
Ground Pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Blue Crab Imperial):
1 pound of lump blue crab
1/4 large green pepper, diced finely
1 tablespoon of butter
1/2 shallot, diced finely
2 tablespoons of mustard
3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon of thyme

Directions: 
1.  Make the Crab Imperial.  Begin by making the Imperial.  Saute the green pepper in butter until translucent.  Transfer the green peppers to a bowl.  Add the crab in patches and mix.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Add the mustard and mayonnaise, continuing to mix the ingredients.  Add the crushed red pepper and thyme.  Continue to mix the ingredients.

2.  Prepare to grill the salmon.  Preheat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Soak the cedar plank for an hour.  Remove the plank from the water and place the salmon on the plank.  Cover the salmon with the crab mixture.

3.  Grill the salmon.  Grill the salmon for about 20 to 25 minutes.  The Imperial will begin to brown around the edges, which is good.   Remove and let sit for five minutes.


When you are ready to plate the dish, simply use a serrated knife to cut through the crab and the salmon carefully.  Then use a spatula to plate the the "Imperial" King Salmon. As you can see from the picture below, the end result is a juicy piece of salmon covered with a crab mixture that has a lot of good ingredients besides the crab, such as cracked black pepper and green pepper. 


In the end, a little craziness on my part has resulted in a dish that may become one of my specialties, or, at the very least, a dish for special occasions. I definitely intend to make this dish again whenever I see King Salmon in the stores. 

ENJOY!

For more about King Salmon or Chinook Salmon, check out Wikipedia

Thursday, May 19, 2011

National Geographic Live: Mini Micros, a World Tour of Small Breweries

After having recently toured the International Beer Fest in Cleveland, I prepared myself for another world tour ... a tasting of beers produced by mini-micro breweries from around the world.  This tour is the latest of a yearly beer tasting hosted by the National Geographic Live.  For many years, this event was hosted by Michael Jackson.  The writer, not the singer.  In beer circles, Michael Jackson was truly respected and celebrated for his efforts to spread the knowledge about beer and beer styles.  After his passing, the yearly tastings continued, hosted by Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery.  Both my beautiful wife, Clare, and I have attended the past three National Geographic Live beer tastings, all of which were hosted by Garrett.

With an incredible knowledge about both craft beer and food pairing, Garrett Oliver has opened our eyes to the craft beer movement.  He has introduced us to accomplishments of craft brewers in countries that we would never have thought would have a role in the movement.  During our first tasting, Garrett introduced us to the Italian craft brewers, such as Birrificio del Ducato, Birra Baladin, and Birrificio Grado Plato.  The next year, he introduced us to a wide range of barrel-aged beers, providing an informative discussion about the process of aging beers and the effects that different types of wood can have on the aroma and tast of a beer.  The third year, Garrett introduced us to Scandanavian craft brewers, such as Nogne O and Mikkeller.  Every time we attend the National Geographic Live beer tasting, and listen to Garrett's thoughts about the beers, we always leave knowing more about beer, along with how to better pair those beers with food.

This year, the focus is on "mini-micro" breweries.  "Mini-micro" is generally defined as those breweries who produce less than one thousand barrels a year. To give you some perspective, I did some research and found rough estimates showing the beer production of some weel established brewers, as well as some of my favorite brewers.  For example, the Boston Beer Company, which produces Sam Adams, produced more than 2,000,000 barrels of beer in 2010.   Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and New Belguim Brewing Company produced more than 500,000 barrels of beer that year.  Magic Hat Brewing produced more than 150,000 barrels.  Dogfish Head Ales produced more than 100,000 barrels during that year, as did Garrett's Brooklyn Brewery.  Rogue Ales produced more than 75,000 barrels during 2010.  Brewers such as Victory Brewing, Schlafly Beer and Flying Dog Ales produced more than 30,000 barrels that year. All of these numbers provide some interesting perspective.  So, when we talk about breweries that produce less than 1,000 barrels of beer in a year, we are talking about some very small producers.

If one were to ask, do you know of any "mini-micros" or really small breweries, the answer would most likely be "no," unless you read my last post when I reviewed the Lord Whimsey's Mild Pale Ale, which is brewed by Baying Hound Aleworks, a "nano-brewer" based in Rockville, MD.  I have to say that, off the top of my head, I could not name any other mini-micros or nano-breweries.  For that reason, I was very excited to be able to learn about some new breweries and taste their beers.  After all, given the size of their operations and output, the distribution of these beers is limited, at best.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Garrett brought 9 beers with him to the tasting this year.  Only one of which I had previously tried.  Here are some of my notes with respect to each beer. 

1.  Ca L'Arenys (Barcelona, Spain): Guineu Riner.  The first beer that we sampled is an interesting one produced by a woman brewmaster in Catalonia, Spain.  The beer is very much like a session beer, light in color with a nice foam and a low ABV.  A very low ABV, of only 2.6%.  Normally, one would  wonder about a beer with such a low alcohol content, until you think about the fact that, before we had water treatment, beer was used as a substitute for water.  People obviously could not be drinking beers of 5% or 10% while working.  So, brewers made beers with lower alcohol contents.  The aroma of this beer is very hoppy. and that hop aroma carries through to the taste of the beer.  The beer itself is very light and very clean. 
2. Professor Fritz Briem (Munich, Germany): Fritz Briem 1809 Berliner Weisse.  The second beer we tasted is made in the Berliner Weisse style, which can be best described as a sour ale.  Historically, this style was very popular in, as you can guess, Berlin.  The name 1809 is a reference to when Napoleon  Bonaparte first tasted the style of beer while in Berlin.  Napoleon described the Berliner Weisse as a Champagne of beers.  Theis sour ale lives up to its style.  The beer pours with a thin layer of foam, but with aromatic elements and tastes of sour apples.  The beer is fairly tart, as well assomewhat astringent and acidic.  The beer has an ABV of 5%.

3.  Brasserie de Cazeau (Templeuve, Belgium): Cazeau Elderflower Saison.  The third beer we tasted was a saispon produced by a farmhouse brewery in Belgium.  The beer was from the brewery's 2010 batch.  The brewer produces the beer using elderflowers from the farm, which are currently in bloom in Belgium. The flowers go straight into the beer.  After an initial fermentation, the beer goes through a refermentation in the bottle.  The beer pours a golden color, with an aroma of hops.  Somewhat surprisingly, the taste of the beer is somewhat bitter.  Of course, beers were produced with hops to achieve bitterness o help keep the beer from going bad.

4.  Brasserie de Blaugies (Blaugies, Belgium): Blaugies Saison D'Epeautre.  The next beer we tried was a more traditional saison.  Rather than using elderflowers, Brasserie de Blaugies uses spelt, a species of wheat.  This brewery, which is owned and operated by two schoolteachers in Belgium produced a very good saison. The beer has a lot of carbonation and pours a golden color.  The flavors of this beer suggest banana and clove, along with some yeast, which is from the Dupont brewery in Belgium.  This beer has an ABV of 6%.

5. Bierbrowerij Emelisse (Kamperland, Netherlands): Emilisse Winterbrew (2009).  The Emilesse is a winterbier, with an ABV of 8.5% from a brewpub in the Netherlands.  We only had one  12 ounce bottle to share amongst ten people, so I did not get a very big sample.  Still, I was able to see an amber colored beer, and get the aromas of bourbon and caramel from the beer.  From the little sample, I was able to taste the caramel, as well as a little toffee, Belgian candy, and yeast.  Garrett suggested that there was also some  flavors of dates, but I could not get that from my sample.

6. Glazen Toren (Erpe-Mere, Belgium): Cuvee Angelique.  Our sixth beer is from a brewer that I have heard of, but never tried before.  The brewer is Glazen Toren, which is located in Belgium.  We sampled the Cuvee Anglique, which is a stronger version of a dubbel, also known as a Speciale Belge.  The beer has an ABV of 8% with a lot of carbonation.  The taste of the beer is sweet up front, with the flavors of bread, most likely from the biscuit malts.  Other flavors include caramel, as well as some fruit flavors, most likely from the yeasts.

7. Renaissance Brewing Company (Marlborough, New Zealand): Renaissance MPA.  The MPA or Marlborough Pale Ale is an Imperial IPA produced by the Renaissance Brewing Company.  The brewer uses Rakau hops, which  are indigenous to New Zealand, and which provide some unique flavors, at least for me when it comes to an Imperial IPA.  The  Rakau hops contribute flavors of mango and papaya to the beer, which are a good complement to the traditional hop flavors of citrus and pine, both of which are also present in this beer.  The beer is relatively dry, with some minerality, and has an ABV is 8.5%.

8. Kern River Brewing (Kernville, California): Just Outstanding IPA. The next beer that we sampled is an India Pale Ale, and the only American beer presented in this beer tasting.  The beer comes from a brewpub located in Kernville, California.  The brewer used Simcoe hops and Amarillo hops.  I also learned that Simcoe hops, according to Garrett, contributes orange flavors to the beer.  In addition to the citrus flavors, the beer has a strong bitter flavor that is reminiscent of pine and, even a little, sap. In contrast to these strong, bitter flavors, the body of the beer is actually light in body and dry. The beer has an ABV of 7.0%.
9. BFM Brasserie Montagnes de Franches (Saignelegier, Switzerland): Cuvee Alex La Rouge.  The final beer we tasted is the only  beer that I had previously tried.  If I recall, I had this beer at Birch and Barley and I remember this because of the name.  The beer is in the style of a Jurassian Imperial Stout.  The brewer produced the bear with hops, barley malts, roasted barley, sugar, yeast, Sarawak peppers, Russian tea and bourbon vanilla.  The pepper really comes through in the beer, providing a slight burn on the tongue as you drink it.  The vanilla flavors, as well as some tea flavors, are also present in the beer.  The beer is a little sour and dry.  The beer has an ABV of 10.276%. 

This was a great beer tasting.  (By the way, I did not drink one bottle of each beer, there was usually one to three bottles [depending upon the size of the bottle] for a table of ten people, which made for about tastings of about two ounces for each beer).   If I had to choose which one I liked the most, I would say that it is a tie between the Blaugies Saison d'Epeautre and the Cuvee Alex Le Rouge, with the latter having the edge.  The Saison d' Epeautre had some really interesting banana and clove flavors, which were more reminiscent of a hefeweizen (probably due to the use of spelt), while the Sarawak pepper in the Cuvee Alex Le Rouge was really good.  The spice was just enough to provide complexity to the imperial stout.

Perhaps the best part of the evening was the host.  As usual, Garrett did a great job explaining each of the beers, providing tidbits about the brewing processes and some notes about the brewers themselves.  Garrett also provided some interesting anecdotes about his experiences traveling the world in connection with craft beers, along with stories about craft brewers and distributors. 

Finally, these beers were provided by Shelton Brothers, B. United International and 12 Percent Imports.  I note this because, in order to find these beers, given their limited production, it may be necessary to play "detective" and follow the importer/distributor to see where the beers are sold.  In the end, it is a worthwhile endeavor for most, if not all these beers. 

ENJOY!

For more about the volume of beer production discussed in this post, check out Beer News.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baying Hound Aleworks Lord Wimsey's Mild Pale Ale

The craft beer movement has been very successful, with many brewers like Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head growing rapidly in response to the popularity of their beers.  In response to the growth of these craft brewers, there is a growing movement of "nano-breweries."  A nano-brewery is a craft brewer who makes the conscious decision to remain small.

One self-described nano-brewery is Baying Hound Aleworks, which is located in Rockville, Maryland. I recently purchased a bottle of Baying Hound Aleworks' Lord Wimsey Mild Pale Ale.  In terms of style, a mild pale ale (also referred to as a pale mild ale) is an English beer that is usually amber in color and whose flavor is dominated by malts rather than hops, as in other Pale Ales.  These beers are generally low in ABV, usually 3% to 4%.  Beers made in the style of a mild pale ale or a pale mild ale are far less common than pale ales, India pale ales and American pale ales. 

The Lord Wimsey Mild Pale Ale pours amber in color with a thin level of off-white foam.  The beer is a little cloudy, which is a result of the secondary fermentation that takes place in the bottle.  The aromatic elements of this beer feature malts and yeast, which is also the result of that secondary fermentation.  The taste of this beer, like a mild pale ale, is malt-first and hops-second, which provides a different aspect to a mild pale ale.  Still, unlike other mild pale ales, the Lord Wimsey does have more of a hop flavor in the taste of the beer, and that hop taste is in the finish, following the malts as you drink the beer. 

According to the label, the name, Lord Wimsey, is "a tribute to Dorothy L. Sayers' fictional detective and Wimsey the Bloodhound's namesake."  The brewer adds, "both the sleuth and the hound possess a nose for getting to the bottom of things."  Needless to say, I got to the bottom of the beer, which is a good example of a mild pale ale.  

The beer is available at beer stores in the Washington, D.C. area.  It sells for about $4.99 a bottle.  

ENJOY!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Radicchio Grigliata (Grilled Radicchio)

While reading a past issue of  La Cucina Italiana, I came across a recipe for grilled radicchio.  With white spines and red leaves, radicchio is a leaf chicory with a bitter taste.  There are a few types of radicchio.  One type is Radicchio di Chiogga, which is a round, grapefruit size of head of leafy radicchio.  Another type is Radicchio di Treviso, which resembles Belgian endive.  The former (di Chiogga) is the most common type of radicchio in the United States, while the latter (di Treviso) has its own protected status, commonly referred to as "IGP" or Indicazione Geografica Protetta.  (The "IGP" is the protected status provided by the European Union to an agricultural product or food stuff that is of a certain quality or reputation within a particular geographic region.)

After having read the recipe, I decided to make grilled radicchio as a side.  So, I picked up a couple of tuna kabobs and a couple of heads of radicchio from a local supermarket.  I went home and planned how I would prepare the radicchio.  The recipe called for the use of Radicchio di Treviso; however, I had Radicchio di Chiogga.  This required some alterations in terms of how I was going to grill this vegetable.

Traditionally, grilled radicchio is prepared by brushing the leaves with olive oil and then placed onto the grill for about twenty-five to thirty minutes, which would result in brown leaves and tender spines.  I wanted to retain some of the red color in the leaves, along with some of the crunch of the spines.  So, I decided to modify the recipe a little by shortening the grilling time and by placing the radicchio onto the grill without bathing the leaves in oil.  (This helps to prevent flareups from the dripping oil that would simply scorch the leaves.)  I saved the oil for another use, namely as an impromptu dressing by whisking lemon juice with the olive oil and adding a very little pinch of crushed red pepper.  I then drizzled the lemon and olive oil over the leaves just before serving.

In the end, the radicchio retained much of its redness, with browning along the edges.  The dressing provided a nice citrus note, which contrasted with the radicchio's bitterness.  If you do not like bitter vegetables, consider doubling the amount of the lemon-olive oil dressing.



RADICCHIO GRIGLIATA (GRILLED RADICCHIO)
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana, May 2010, page 47
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 heads of radicchio, halved
2 lemons, juiced
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil 
1 very small pinch of red pepper flakes

Directions:
1. Clean the radicchio.  Wash the heads of radicchio.  Use one lemon half and rub down the edges of the radicchio that were cut.

2.  Prepare the dressing.  Whisk the olive oil into the lemon juice.  Add salt and ground pepper to taste.  The add the red pepper, continuing to whisk the ingredients.

3.  Grill the radicchio.  Oil the grate well with extra virgin olive oil.  Place the halved heads of radicchio on the grill.  Cook for about eight to ten minutes.  Flip the radicchio and continue to grill for about eight to ten more minutes.  Remove from the heat and peel the leaves from the core.

4.  Plate the dish.  Place the leaves on a dish and drizzle the dressing over them.  Plate whatever meat or fish you will be serving in the center of the radicchio.

ENJOY!

For more information about radicchio, check out Wikipedia

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The International Beer Fest: The End

The International Beer Fest is over.  At least for me.  While I had a great time and enjoyed the opportunity to try a lot of different beers, I did not get the chance to try everything that I wanted.  One reason was that there was not enough time.  The other reason was that there was not enough beer.

Quite a few of the beers that I really wanted to try, such as the Rochefort 10 and the Brew Dog Isle of Arran, were already gone by the time that I got to them.  Other beers, such as the Market Garden Test Beer and the Birrificio Montegiocio Draco were available only at sessions other than the one that I was at.  The latter point was a little disappointing because, if I had known the sessions that these beers were available, I would have planned to attend those sessions.  Still, in the end, I had a lot of fun and the opportunity to try a lot of great beers.

I took a lot of notes for the beers that I sampled.  Unfortunately, at this point, it is kind of hard to translate a lot of what I wrote, especially as the day wore on.  Still, I will do my best.  Here are some of the highlights:

1.  Rogue Ales: Chatoe Rogue Oregasicale. This is described as an American-Style Strong Pale Ale.  The beer has a strong smoky aroma, reminiscent of a rauchbier.  The aromatic elements speak strongly of barbecue and earth, along with some wood, either oak or cedar.  The taste of the beer likewise speaks of smoked meat, earth and some spice.

2. The Brew Kettle: White Labs Challenge: Alt Monster Double Hopped. From the perspective of style and taste, this is truly a special beer.  The aromatic elements are full of malts, with some hops.   There was also some caramel, which followed through to the taste of the beer.  This beer was one of my favorites from the session.

3.  Willoughby Brewing Company: White Labs Challenge Hopnotic Double Red Rye IPA. This beer was a nice gold in color, and very hoppy to the nose.  The beer has a slight astringency to it, due to the hops used.  However, the rye helped to round out the hops making this beer very drinkable.

4.  Hoppin' Frog: Barrel Aged B.O.R.I.S. Stout. An amazing beer.  The aromatic elements of this beer clearly tell the story of the beer.  The aromas speak of bourbon, chocolate and even a little cherry.  The beer is very smooth and full bodied, almost like a digestif rather than a beer.

5. Fort Collins Brewing Company: Z-Lager.  This beer was done in the style of a Bamberg Marzen Rauchbier.  The smoke flavors in both the aroma and taste were clearly present, although a little less than in some of the other beers I tasted.  A good beer.

6. Pizza Port Brewing: Tarantula Black IPA. This beer is a great example of a relatively new style.  The beer was pitch black in color, with aromatic elements that were dominated by hops.  The beer has a clear hoppy taste, with citrus notes.

7. Heavy Seas: Cabernet Barrel Aged Barley Wine (2010)Something about a beer aged in Cabernet barrels intrigues me.  This beer was amber in color, with a strong malt aroma.  The beer tasted like it had been aged in barrels -- as it was -- without the tastes you normally associate with barrel-aged beers, like bourbon or oak.

8. Aecht Schlerkla: Marzen. This is a mix between a Marzen and a Rauchbier.  This beer smells and tastes like smoked or cured meat, most notably bacon.  I really wanted to try the Oak Smoked Dopple Bock, but this beer was a good substitute.

9.  La Chouffe: Blonde Ale. The Belgians make some great beers and this is one of them.  This beer is brewed with coriander, which is present in both the aromatic elements and the taste.  The aroma and taste of the hops also contribute to the flavor of the beer.

10.  Brouwerij Van Steenberge: Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour. The Flemish sour style of beer is a great style because it is so different than the ales and lagers that predominate the beer scene.  This beer is brewed especially for Monk's Cafe, a Belgian Beer Bar in Philadelphia (which Clare and I have been to on a couple of occasions).  The taste of the beer prominently features sour apples with some cherries and a bit of sweetness in the finish.

11. Lagerheads Brewing Company: Tyranny American-Style Pale Ale.  This beer is very hoppy, both in terms of aroma and taste.  The beer pours a nice golden color, which is on target for this type of beer and the flavors of the beer include citrus and a little pine.  The nice thing about this beer is the clean finish.

12. La Trappe: Quadrupel.  This is a trappist beer produced by and/or under the supervision of monks at a monastery in the Netherlands.  This beer was excellent.  The nose was full of bananas and cloves.  The bananas also figure prominently in the taste of the beer, along with some melon and yeast flavorsl.

I had a few additional beers, such as the Southern Tier Cuvee 2, the Stone Brewing Company 10-10-10 Vertical Epic, the Brouwerij Three Musketeers Obscura, and the Alesmith Grand Cru, all of which were very good. 

In the end, I had a great time.  It was great to hang out with my parents and my wife and try some new beers for the first time.  As for my tweeting and blogging, that has been an experience unto itself.  I have learned that it gets harder to take notes about beers as time goes on and I drink beers of different styles and tastes.  I have also learned that I need watch my handwriting when I take notes.  I never realized how bad my handwriting can get, notwithstanding the fact that I am sampling beers.

And, before I end this post, I just want to thank my mother for serving as the designated driver.  I really appreciate that she was willing to sit at the Convention Center and ensure that we had a safe and fun time.

Well, until next time ...

ENJOY!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The International Beer Fest: The Beginning

To date, I have done a lot of recipes and reviews on my blog.  A few months back, I also did a series of posts about my experience as a Guest Chef at Rag's Italian Bistro in Birmingham, Alabama.  That opportunity opened the doors to blogging about my food-related experiences outside of my own kitchen.  I always keep that idea in the back of my mind, waiting for the next opportunity to blog about my experiences with food and/or drink.  Well, the next experience has arrived and it is the International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio.

For me, the words "Beer Fest" conjure up the movie Beerfest.  The movie is about two brothers, who inherit the German restaurant Schnitzengiggle, and, go to Munich to fulfill a family tradition.  When they are in Munich, they stumble upon a secret, International beer competition.  After being humiliated by the German team, the two brothers form their own team and begin to prepare for the next beer fest.  When Team USA returns, with a lineup including the two brothers, Barry, Fink and Landfill, they compete only to face a rematch with the German team for the coveted title of the competition. The climax of the movie is when Team USA and the German team face-off in a team competition known as ... das Boot!  Each team member has to drink an entire 2 liter beer out of a glass boot without spilling any of it and, I'll leave it at that. 

The International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio is a different type of competition.  There will be nearly two hundred brewers from across the United States and around the world.  Those brewers have brought with them approximately eight hundred beers to sample.  And one Chef Bolek.

Well, actually, there will be four of us.  I am going to be joined by my beautiful wife, Clare, and my  amazing parents for the Beer Fest.  We purchased 3 VIP tickets, which provide each of us with forty tickets, each of which is good for a two-ounce pour, and access to the VIP Brewers' Lounge, where there will be tappings of rare and limited edition beers. The tickets are good for one four hour session.
Choosing forty beers out of nearly eight hundred during a four hour session requires some thought.  Those who follow this blog know that I especially love out-of-the ordinary craft beers, such as New Holland Brewing's El Mole Ocho, brewed with ingredients used in a mole sauce, L'Abri de Tempete's Corps Mort, brewed with smoked grains previously used to smoke herring, and one of my all-time favorites, Birrificio del Ducato's Nuova Mattina, which is brewed with ginger, coriander, green pepper and chamomile. 

So the planning began in advance.  I wanted to have a strategy that would be more than just be wandering aimlessly around the convention center.  After much thought, I arrived at an overall strategy that consisted of three overarching objectives: (1) focus on the breweries whose beers I cannot get around where I live; (2) choose the special beers rather than the year-round offerings; and (3) try different styles to ensure that, by the end of the session, I had not simply drank India Pale Ales and Belgian Tripels. 

To add to the experience, I hope to be "blogging" during the Beer Fest.  I will not be posting directly to this blog, but I will be tweeting my experiences using the ChefBolek twitter handle @ChefBolek, which you can follow with the Twitter widget on the right hand side of the blog.  This will be the first time that I have ever made a concerted effort to provide "real time" tweeting  and I hope that I can do it for as long as the battery in my cell phone will hold out.  After the festival, I will post my thoughts about the beers that I tried and about the whole experience at the International Beer Fest.  So, with that, please ...

STAY TUNED!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grilled Halibut Steak with an Avocado, Habanero and Mango Salsa

I love to cook and eat halibut.  The best halibut to buy is wild-caught Pacific halibut, which also goes by the name "Alaskan halibut," because it is the most sustainable.  Atlantic halibut or Pacific halibut caught using means such as gillnets and bottom trawlers are not as sustainable because the fishing methods result in a lot of bycatch.  Recently, Pacific halibuts steaks have been available around where I live, so I got the idea of buying one (which was almost a pound) and taking it home to grill. 

Before grilling the fish, I decided to use a very simple marinade of olive oil (which would help with the grilling of the fish) and lemon, along wtih some salt and ground black pepper.  I decided to leave the skin on the steak, which made it (slightly) easier when the time came to turn or flip the steak.  Once the steak is finished, I removed the skin and took a cleaver to cut through the bone in order to create two smaller steaks to serve to Clare and myself.

I made this dish without any guidance from a recipe, so it is a little rough around the edges. I plan on making this dish again, and, in future efforts, I will probably tweak both the marinade and the salsa.  

GRILLED HALIBUT STEAK WITH AN AVOCADO, HABANERO
AND MANGO SALSA
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 pound of halibut steak
1 avocado, diced
1 mango, diced
1/4 Vidalia onion, diced
1 habanero pepper, diced
1 lemon, juiced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper to taste

Directions:
1.  Marinate the halibut.  Whisk the lemon juice and the olive oil.  After seasoning the steak with salt and pepper, place the halibut steak in a ziplock bag and pour the lemon juice and the olive oil into the bag. Let the steak marinate for about thirty minutes in the refrigerator.

2.  Prepare the salsa. While the steak is marinating, add the diced avocado, mango, onion and pepper in a bowl.  Mix the contents thoroughly.  Add some salt and ground pepper.  Continue to mix.  Set aside.

3.  Grill the fish.  Heat the grill on medium high.  Oil the grates with some olive oil to make sure that the fish does not stick.  Add the steak and let it cook for about three to four minutes, then turn it ninety degrees and let it cook for about three or four minutes.  Flip the steak and repeat, grilling for three or four minutes and then turning it ninety degrees to cook for three or four minutes.  Let the steak continue to cook until finished, probably a couple of minutes at most.  The total cooking time should be about sixteen to twenty minutes.  You will know when the fish is about finished because, despite the skin, the fish will begin to flake. 

4.  Finish the dish.  After removing the fish from the heat, let it sit for a minute.   Remove the skin and take a cleaver or large knife and cut through the backbone to create 2 separate steaks.  Plate each steak on a plate and spoon some of the salsa over the steak.

ENJOY! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Smoked Mussel Salad

Recently, both Clare and I were shopping at a relatively new grocery store when we encountered smoked mussels for the first time.  Having worked as a cook in a seafood restaurant, where I steamed many a bucket of mussels, I am quite familiar with this particular species of bivalves.  Yet, neither Clare nor I ever tasted smoked mussels.   There was a little demonstration booth set up in the store where customers could try smoked mussels, along with other smoked seafood, such as smoked salmon and halibut.  Both Clare and I tried a couple and moved on.  However, we found ourselves going back to the booth for me to try some more and to buy a package of smoked mussels to eat at home. 

As we were driving home, my thoughts turned to how could I incorporate smoked mussels into a dish.  I quickly decided to use them in a salad.  Not just any salad, but a salad that also incorporates flavors that complement the smokiness of the mussels.  The salad would include roasted peppers and roasted garlic, both of which provide roasted flavors that work well with the mussels.  I also added fresh Vidalia onions (which can be substituted with sweet onions) to provide a little crunch to what are otherwise soft ingredients.   Add a little cilantro, salt and pepper and the dish is complete. 

SMOKED MUSSEL SALAD
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
1 package of smoked mussels
1 red sweet pepper, roasted, diced
1 orange sweet pepper, roasted, diced
1 yellow sweet pepper, roasted, diced
2 cloves of roasted garlic
1/4 Vidalia onion, diced finely
1 teaspoon of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
Ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1.  Roast the peppers.  Roast the peppers using the gas elements of your stove.  Blacken all sides of the pepper.  Let it cool and then pull off the blackened skin under running water. 

2.  Roast the garlic.  Roast the garlic by cutting a head of garlic horizontally.  Put it in a sheet of foil, salt and pepper it, and sprinkle some olive oil.  Bake in a 450 degree oven for about fifteen minutes.

3.  Prepare the salad.  Once you have all the roasted components, dice them finely.  Add the diced onion and the mussels.  Mix thoroughly and serve immediately. 

ENJOY!

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Top Five Weirdest Foods that I've Eaten ... to Date

I thought I would take a break from the recipes and reviews to reminisce about the one other aspect of my hobby that is often neglected in this blog ... eating.  As I have always told Clare, I am willing to try something once.  Well, actually, twice.  I'll try something once to see if I like it and I'll have it again to confirm my initial impression.  I got that view of eating from Andrew Zimmern, who made a passing reference to trying everything at least twice in one of his episodes of Bizarre Foods.

So, I got to thinking lately about the really weird things that I've eaten, and, I could come up with five things.  So, here is my rundown of the five weirdest things that I have eaten ... to this date:

(5)  Pig Trotters at Nick's Italian Cafe: During our honeymoon, both Clare and I had dinner at Nick's Italian Cafe in McMinnville, Oregon.  We ordered a special dinner with multiple courses.  My appetizer included Pig Trotters, which, as the name implies, is prepared using pigs' feet.  This dish was very good and, from what I could recall, fairly fatty.  For me, it was more reminscent of pork belly than pigs' feet.


(4)  Lamb Heart at Home: For one of my challenges during the Around the World in 80 Dishes, I made sauteed lamb heart.  I found the lamb heart by accident one day while perusing the meat section at my local Whole Foods.  I bought the heart and prepared it according to a Libyan recipe that used spice mixes such as bzaar and hararat.  This is the only dish in this "countdown" that I made myself.  Although it may sound weird or gross, the fact of the matter is that the heart tasted like lamb.  The texture was a little different.  I expected it to be a little tougher than it was.  All in all, considering this was the first time that I ever cooked with heart, or any offal for that matter, I have to say that it was good. 


(3) Grasshopper Taco at Oyamel: Clare and I met a friend for dinner at Oyamel, one of the restaurants owned by Jose Andres, a famous chef who rose to prominence from the D.C. area.  Oyamel had a lot of interesting tacos, such as pork belly and beef tongue.  But, the one taco I wanted to try was the grasshopper taco.  This taco is based upon a Oaxacan recipe.  The picture is not too good because it was dark in the restaurant.  That was a good thing for both Clare and our friend, both of whom were completely grossed out by the sight fo the taco.  As for the taste and texture, I still cannot really identify the taste of grasshopper, but the texture was definitely just cartilage.

(2) Blowfish Porridge in Fugu Broth at Sushi Taro: This dish was my most recent attempt at eating something weird.  The whole time, all that Clare and I could think about was the Simpson's episode when Homer ate the blowfish.  In actuality, the blowfish had the texture and taste of a flaky white fish.  I got much more in terms of taste from the other ingredients in the porridge, such as the dill, seaweed and egg, than I did from the blowfish.


(1) Veal Sweetbreads at AMP 150: Actually, I've had sweetbreads twice, once fried and once grilled.  I have to say that I liked the grilled sweetbreads much more than the fried (although both were good).  The sweetbreads have a very different texture, which is a little hard to explain.  The taste of the sweetbreads was mild, leaving me to focus more on the texture. 

Well, that is it for this little break in the recipes and reviews.  Hopefully, I have not grossed you out too much.   Until next time ...

ENJOY!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bodega Luigi Bosca Malbec (2007)

When I review wines, I have mentioned the fact that I do not buy wines for the label, but for the grape or the terroir.  Well, recently, I bought a wine because of the label.  There was no swirl of colors or eye-catching images.  What caught my eye was the word "Malbec," along with the phrases "single vineyard," and "Denominacion de Origen Controlada Lujan de Cuyo." 

Malbec is one of the six grapes that can be used in the blending of Bordeaux wine.  However, Malbec is becoming increasingly popular not because of its use in Bordeaux, but in the production of Malbec wines in Argentina.  Indeed, Malbec is considered by many as the wine of Argentina.

The phrase "single vineyard" means that all of the grapes used to produce the wine come from one vineyard, as opposed to several vineyards.  Many winemakers produce wines with grapes from more than one vineyard.  However, after learning about Oregonian Pinot Noirs, many of which are single vineyard wines, I have learned about how much better a wine can be when all of the grapes come from a particular vineyard. 

And, as for the phrase, "Denominacion de Origen Controlada Lujan de Cuyo," it is the similar to the designations of Denominazione di Origine Controllata in Italy or the American Viticultural Area in the United States.  According to the winemaker, the D.O.C. Lujan de Cuyo was created in 1989 to protect and regulate the Malbec wines produced in the region.  The winemaker claims that the D.O.C. protocol is the "most demanding" in the world, although I had some difficulty finding the requirements of the D.O.C. as it pertains to the growing of the grapes and producing the wine. 

Luigi Bosco produces this wine with Malbec grapes from its La Linde vineyard, which is located in the Vistalba estate outside of Mendoza, Argentina. The wine is aged for fourteen months in French oak barrels and then another year in the bottle. 

The wine pours a deep purple in color.  According to the winemaker, the wine displays ripe cherries and plums, along with mocha and blackberries.  For me, the aromatic elements of the wine are full of earth and spice, with some cherries and plums in the background.  The wine is very fruit forward, with the cherries, blackberries and dark cherries overtaking the earth and spice, which follow through in the finish.

The winemaker suggests pairing this wine with red meat, as well as partridge, quail or turkey.  Another suggest is pairing this wine with hard cheese, such as Sardo or Reggianito, two hard Argentinian cheese.  These may be hard to find in the United States, so you can substitute with cheese such as Pecorino, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Grada Padano.  I paired this particular wine with the dish Nicaraguan-Style Churrasco, which was a good pairing.  The fruit in the wine's flavor helped to round out the vinegar and garlic flavors of the Nicaraguan chimichurri sauce. 

This is a very good Malbec wine, perhaps one of the best Argentinian Malbecs that I have had to date.  This wine is available at Whole Foods Market for about $19.99 a bottle. 

ENJOY!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier

The Weihenstephan Brewery lays claim to the title of "The World's Oldest Brewery."  About one thousand years ago, in 1040 A.D., the brewery was a monastery brewery of the Benedictine monks and the Royal Brewery of Bavaria.  Today, Weihenstephan is the brewery of the Free State of Bavaria, located in the city of Freising.

The Hefe Weissbier is commonly referred to as a Hefeweizen.  Brewers traditionally brewed this style of beer in the summertime, although these beers are now produced throughout the year.  These beers are brewed with top fermenting yeast (which is required in Bavaria). Hefe Weissbiers or Hefeweizens are produced using wheat.  By German law, at least fifty percent of the grist must be wheat, although some brewers use up to seventy percent.  The rest is usually Pilsner malt.  Brewers usually use a small amount of noble hops for bitterness, but you usually cannot tell because of the fruit flavors in the beer.  

In addition to all of the foregoing, Weihenstephaner also brews its Hefe Weissbier in accordance with the Reinheitsgebot or the Purity Law of 1516.  This law limits the ingredients to water, barley (or wheat in the case of Hefeweizen beers), hops and yeast. 

Weihenstephan's Weissbier pours a cloudy, yellowish, banana-like color, which is appropriate given what is to come when you smell and drink this beer.   The beer also produces a lot of foam, that remains with the beer for quite a while.  The flavors of bananas are in both the nose and the taste of the beer, along with some clove.  The taste of the beer also heavily emphasizes banana, with clove and even a little vanilla.

This beer is generally available at most beer stores and grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.  At $2.99 a bottle, it is perhaps the cheapest price you will find for a great beer. 

ENJOY!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lomo de Res (Cuban Style Ribeye Steak)

I am fascinated by Caribbean food, from Cuba to Trinidad and everywhere in between.  I think it is the flavors, all of the different spices used by cooks to make some amazing dishes.  In anticipation of a steak night a couple weeks back, I quickly scoured the Internet to try to find a steak or beef recipe from the Caribbean.

Nothing jumped out at me, at least initially.  I continued to search for something that would be quick, flavorful and easy to make.  Eventually I came across a recipe from Allrecipes.com for Lomo de Res or Cuban Style Ribeye Steaks.  The key to this recipe is the rub.  The original recipe called for the use of salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.  That was a little mild for me, so I added cumin powder and adobo powder.  Other spices, such as cayenne pepper or chile pepper could be used, but I decided not to add heat and stick to just flavor. 

The steak is marinated for a brief time in lime juice and beer.  I would strongly suggest using a pilsner beer with this recipe.  For one thing, pilsner beers are more common in Latin America.  This style of beer also works well because it will add a little of flavor without altering the flavors of the rub. 

LOMO DE RES (CUBAN STYLE RIBEYE STEAK)
Adapted from Allrecipes.com
Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 grass-fed, ribeye steaks
1/2 onion, sliced
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon of adobo powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 cup of beer
1/2 cup of lime juice

Directions:
1.  Prepare the rub.  Mix the garlic, adobo, cumin, pepper and salt together and rub the seasoning blend on the ribeye. 

2.  Marinate the ribeye.  Place the ribeye in a Ziploc bag, with the onions.  Add the lime juice and beer.  Seal the bag and refrigerate for about thirty minutes, but no longer than one hour.  

3.  Grill the ribeye.  Heat a grill on medium high heat or use the broiler in the stove.  Grill or broil the steaks to your desired degree of doneness.  (I prefer medium rare to medium.)  Remove the steak from the heat and let it rest for at least five minutes before serving. 

ENJOY!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nicaraguan-Style Churrasco

I was searching for a good beef recipe and I came across one recipe for Nicaraguan-style Churrasco.  For most people, the word "Churrasco" conjures images of Brazilian or Argentinian barbecue, with "gauchos" walking around with endless skewers of meat.  That, of course, is sort of an Americanized version of Churrasco brought to life as "Brazilian barbecue."  More to the point, however, the cuisine of many Latin American countries include Churrasco, usually with their own twists.  There are versions of Churrasco in Ecuador, Paraguay, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Generally, Churrasco is grilled meat and, in Latin America, the meat is beef.  (Interestingly, there is a version in Portugal -- Frango de Churrasco --  that involves chicken.)  In Nicaragua, Churrasco is typically cuts from a beef tenderloin, topped with a chimichurri sauce.  The recipe I found calls for a five pound tenderloin.  While I love meat and can eat a lot of it, five pounds is a little to much for me.  I was planning for a steak night, not Man v. Food.  So, as I was standing at the meat counter at my local grocery store, I decided to go with a grass-fed, bone-in ribeye.  People who follow this blog know my love for grass-fed beef.  In the end, while the Churrasco may be Nicaraguan in style, the cut of beef is all Chef Bolek. 

I made a couple of revisions based on the comments left by people about the recipe.  The original recipe calls for the use of jalapeno peppers and oregano in making the chimichurri sauce, but a comment left from someone from Managua said that, in Nicaragua, they do not use those ingredients.  Instead, he said that Nicaraguans just use olive oil, salt, garlic, vinegar and parsley.  So, I followed the comment when making the chimichurri.  In the end, the chimichurri has a nice garlic flavor to it (which you could reduce by leaving out one or two cloves) and is a perfect complement to the grilled meat.


NICARAGUAN-STYLE CHURRASCO
Adapted from Food Network
Serves 2

Ingredients (for the Beef):
1 1.5 to 2 pound bone in ribeye steak
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Ingredients (for the Chimichurri):
6 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup of curly parsley
1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
Ground pepper to taste.

Directions:
1.  Preheat the grill.  Preheat the grill on medium-high heat.

2.  Make the chimichurri sauce.  Combine the garlic, flat leaf parsley, curly leaf parsley, salt and some black pepper in a food processor.  Process the garlic and parsley, adding first the vinegar and then the oil.  Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings (salt and/or pepper) as desired.

3.  Grill the ribeye.  Lightly oil the grill grates and add the ribeye.  Cook for about four to five minutes and turn ninety degrees.  Cook for another four to five minutes.  Flip the steak.  Cook for an additional five minutes and turn ninety degrees.  Continue to cook for a few more minutes.

4.  Plate the ribeye.  Cut the meat into strips.  Plate with the bone and spoon the chimichurri sauce over the meat.  Pour the remaining sauce into ramekins for guests.

The cooking times are for one steak and should produce an end result between medium rare and medium. If you use two three-quarter to one-pound steaks, simply cut the cooking times in half (about two to two and a half minutes for each step).

Overall, this is a great dish and I particularly like the simplified version of the chimichurri sauce.  I need to work on the sauce a little, which is okay for me because that means I'll be having steak again.  I may use that five pound tenderloin and invite a bunch of people over as guests to share in the experience.

ENJOY!

For more about Churrasco, check out Wikipedia.
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