Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Perfect Crime

When two gypsies team up with an arrogant bastard, there is bound to be some criminal activity... better to view this project as a conspiracy rather than a collaboration. The strengths of all involved were utilized to break the laws of style guidelines... dark with deception, mysteriously smoked, unexplainably dry, and intriguingly hopped ... maybe it is best not to talk about it.  

If we did not talk about "The Perfect Crime," then I'd have one less blog post.  The conspirators are three of the most innovative breweries in the craft beer scene ... Stone Brewing, Stillwater Artisanal Ales and  Evil Twin.  I have reviewed beers produced by each individual brewer, such as Stone's Double Bastard, Stillwater's Eschatalogical Ale, and Evil Twin's Freudian Slip.  The Perfect Crime offers an opportunity to review the one collaboration of these three breweries.

The Perfect Crime is a rather unique beer.  It is a black smoked saison.  Those three words -- black ... smoked ... saison -- do not appear together very often in the beer world. Nevertheless, they work very well together.

This black smoked saison pours a dark brown, almost black color.  There is a decent foam that recedes to the edges of the glass.  According to the brewmasters, the first aromas are of dark roasted, mildly smoky malt, with the saison yeast fighting through with a fruitiness and spiciness that presents a nice side-by-side complement to the malts as the beer warms.  This description was fairly accurate, because I found that the smoked aromas were clearly present up front, but a little more fruit and spice behind that smoky barrier. 

When it comes to the taste, The Perfect Crime is described as having a light roast and blended smoky character, which is followed by that Belgian saison yeast, which adds fruit, pepper and spice flavors that outlast the smoke flavors.  The brewers suggest hints of citrus and bananas in the finish with a bitter hop aftertaste.  I could definitely sense the roast and smoky character, as well of some of that fruit, pepper and spice.  There was a bitterness in the finish, but I did not get the citrus or bananas in the finish. 

When it comes to food pairings, the brewers at Stone suggest coconut shrimp, deviled eggs, and smoked salmon blinis, along with Chinese chicken soup, caramelized fennel and apple flatbread, quail, roasted chicken and turkey.  If you wanted to pair the beer with cheeses, the brewmasters suggest triple crème Brie, Cowgirl Creamery Devil’s Gulch, Muenster, Morbier.

This beer was given to me to try, so I don't know if and where it is available.  Given it is a collaboration, it is most likely not being produced anymore.  Here is to hoping that another conspiracy is in the offing....

ENJOY!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thai Shrimp with Red Curry

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for Kaeng Kiao Wan Kung  or Thai Shrimp in Green Curry.  In that post, I noted my many efforts to make the dish, all of which technically failed due to my failure to procure one of the most vital ingredients of the dish ... green curry paste.  Whenever I was at the store, the shelves were stocked with red curry paste, but no green curry paste.  I would inevitably leave with a jar of red curry paste.  However, red curry paste does not make for a good Thai Shrimp in Green Curry.

Nevertheless, I used that paste and made Thai Shrimp in Red Curry.  This dish most resembled the curry dishes that I would order whenever we went out to eat at a Thai restaurant.  The aromas were very similar, as were the tastes.  The combination of the red curry paste, coconut milk, brown sugar, and, the fish sauce work very well with this dish.  This curry dish was a good consolation for all those times that I failed to find the green curry paste.

This leaves the question of the moment: which is better ... Thai Shrimp with Green Curry or Thai Shrimp with Red Curry?  I think it is a draw.  I have to admit that I just about love any curry that I eat.


THAI SHRIMP WITH RED CURRY
Recipe adopted from from Whats4Eats
Serves 4
Ingredients:
1 cup of coconut cream
2-3 tablespoons of red curry paste
3 cups of coconut milk
1/4 cup of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Shrimp, peeled and deveined -- 1 pound
1/2 cup of basil
3 kaffir lime leaves
2-3 serrano chiles, sliced into thin rounds

Directions:
1.  Simmer the cream and paste.  In a large saucepan or wok, simmer the coconut cream over low heat until most of the moisture boils away and the oil separates out. Stir in the curry paste and simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes. Do not allow to burn.

2.  Add the coconut milk. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

3.  Add the shrimp. Stir in the shrimp and simmer another 5 or 6 minutes, or until the shrimp is just cooked through. Adjust seasoning adding more fish sauce or sugar if you like and stir in the basil and lime leaves.

4.  Plate the dish.  Serve in individual bowls with steamed rice or rice noodles and garnish with the sliced chile pepper.

 ENJOY!

Friday, January 24, 2014

The 8th Wonder of the Trappist World

For many years, there were seven wonders of the trappist beer world (i.e., the world were the beers are made by or produced under the strict supervision of trappist monks). Six of them are found in Belgium: Chimay (Bières de Chimay), Orvan (Brasserie d'Orval), Rochefort (Brasserie de Rochefort), Westmalle (Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle), Westvleteren (Brouwerij Westvleteren) and Achel (Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis).  The seventh wonder is found in the Netherlands: La Trappe (Brouwerij de Koningshoeven).  It is one of my goals to try beers from each of the trappist breweries.  To date, I have tried and reviewed beers from three of the breweries: the Westmalle Tripel, the Orval Trappist Ale, and the La Trappe Quadrupel.  (I have had Chimay beers, but I have not done a review of any of those beers). 

As I struggle to achieve my goal of trying beers from the seven trappist breweries, more such breweries have emerged.  Indeed, there is now an eighth trappist brewery: Stift Engelszell.  (There is also a ninth and a tenth trappist brewery, including one in the United States.)  Unlike the older trappist breweries, which are found in either Belgium or the Netherlands, Gregorius brews its beer at the Engelzell Abbey, which is located near Engelharrzell and der Donau in northern Austria. It is the only trappist brewery in Austria. 

The abbey was founded in 1293, although it was dissolved by Emperor Joseph II in 1786.  German monks, who were expelled from Oelenbery Abbey in Alsace after World War I, re-founded the abbey in 1925. Having being originally established as a priory, Engelszell was elevated to an Abbey with Gregorius Eisvogel named as the abbot. In 1939, the Engelszell monks were evicted by the Gestapo (with four monks being sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp). 

Fast-forward over 70 years, and we come to the first beer to be produced by Stift Engelszell.  The beer is a dark ale brewed in the Belgian style, with an ABV of  9.7%.  The beer is named "Gregorius," which is a tribute to Abbott Gregorius Eisvogel who was at the Abbey for 25 years (1925-1950). The monks produce Gregorius with honey that is local to the monastery and a unique Alsacian wine yeast. 

The Gregorius pours a dark brown color, that is typical of the Belgian dark ale.  The aroma is malt driven, with bready tones that are accentuated by the alcohol and yeast.  Some dark fruit, perhaps some raisons or plums, are present in the aroma.  As for the flavor of the beer, there is a noticeable, sweet Belgian candy element to the beer.  The candy is complemented with a light chocolate taste and a little bit of bitterness on the finish, which reminds you that there is more to this beer than just malts.  

Although I could venture some food pairing for this beer, I think that the beer is best enjoyed on its own ... as, in my humble opinion, are most trappist beers. 

This beer was available in the Chicago area, which is where a bottle was picked up and given to me.  I have not seen it around where I live.  If you happen to come across a bottle, it is worth trying.

ENJOY!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The "Italian" Ribeye

Three words always appeal to me ... Bistecca alla Fiorentina.  Those three words speak of a recipe that is among my favorites.  One starts with a huge porterhouse steak.  The steak itself must be at least two pounds, but often times it will be larger.  Then there are the fresh herbs ... usually rosemary and thyme ... that are combined together with salt and black pepper to make a simple, but incredibly tasty rub.  After that rub is pressed into the meat, the steaks are left to rest, which allows the flavors to develop. After a couple hours, or overnight, then the steak is grilled over charcoals until it has a nice crust, while a pink to red interior.  

That recipe is one of my go-to recipes for my Steak Nights.  It is also perhaps my most favorite preparation of meat. While many steak lovers simply swear by salt and pepper, there is something about the addition of rosemary and thyme that transforms a piece of meat into something much more than a steak.

For this particular recipe, I decided to start with the "Fiorentina" and add more herbs to the rub.  In addition to rosemary and thyme, I added dried oregano, parsley and sage.  I also grinded the dry spices until they were a fine powder, and, rubbed that powder into the meat. (I used a little olive oil to help keep the powder on the meat).  The end result was a rub that incorporated some of the most basic, but most flavorful spices used in Italian cooking.

For this recipe, I found a two-pound ribeye, which keeps with the classic Fiorentina-style steak ... a massive hunk of meat rubbed with herbs.  The only deviation is that it was cooked under the broiler.  It was simply too darn cold outside to start a charcoal fire, let alone cook the ribeye. 


THE "ITALIAN" RIBEYE
A Chef Bolek Original
Serves Several

Ingredients:
1 very large, very thick ribeye (about 2 to 3 pounds)
2 teaspoons of dried thyme
2 teaspoons of dried parsley
1 teaspoon of dried sage
1 teaspoon of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Marinate the ribeye.  Salt and pepper all sides of the ribeye several hours before adding the spice rub.  Prepare the rub by combining all of the dried ingredients (thyme, parsley, sage, rosemary, oregano, and crushed red pepper).  Grind in a spice grinder until it is very fine and powdery.  Apply some olive oil on each side of the ribeye and then rub the spice mixture into the meat.  Refrigerate the ribeye for at least a couple of hours, if not overnight.

2.  Grill/broil the ribeye.  Heat the charcoal in a grill (or heat a gas grill) to high.  Add the steak, cook over direct heat for about five minutes on each side, for about fifteen minutes until you reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Alternatively, grill the ribeye over high heat, turning so that every side of the ribeye faces the heat for at least four to five minutes each (less time on small sides), until you get an internal temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is medium rare.  Remove and let rest for ten minutes.  Slice and serve.

ENJOY!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Kaeng Kiao Wan Kung (Thai Shrimp in Green Curry Sauce)

This particular recipe -- Kaeng Kiao Wan Kung (Thai Shrimp in Green Curry Sauce) -- has a little backstory to it.  I found this recipe on one of the websites that I regularly visit (Whats4Eats) several months back.  This recipe was high on the priority list of things to make for my beautiful Angel, because I thought she would really like it.  I tried to make it several times; however, each time failed.  It was not because I screwed up the recipe.  Each meal turned out well and we enjoyed the food.  

The meal failed because every time I made the dish, I made with red curry paste.  What was supposed to be Thai Shrimp in Gren Curry Sauce ended up being Thai Shrimp in Red Curry Sauce.  (Don't ask me how that translates in Thai.)  The reason was simple: every time I went to a particular grocery store after work, I would go to the Asian foods section.  As I stood before the shelves, basket in hand, my eyes always fixated on the one gap -- the one open space -- on the shelves. Sure enough, the little tag read "Green Curry Paste."  There were lots of jars of red curry paste, but no jars of green curry paste.  I would reach to the back of the shelf, hoping that there was a stray jar of green curry paste.  Each time, I left ... with a jar of red curry paste.

However, on one occasion, I checked that shelf and there it was ... green curry paste.  A bottle of water, green chilies, onions, lemon grass, galangal, garlic, sugar, salt and tamarind.  All of those ingredients pureed into the one paste I needed to make Kaeng Kiao Wan Kung.  I purchased a jar and a pound of the larges shrimp I could find.  I headed home to make the dish for Clare.

Overall, the dish turned out well, although the green curry sauce did not end up as green as I thought it would.  The lack of a greenish hue is most likely due to the color of the green curry paste that I used.  Still, we both really enjoyed this dish.  It is simple to make and has those Thai flavors that appeal to both of us.


KAENG KIAO WAN KUNG 
(THAI SHRIMP IN GREEN CURRY SAUCE)
Recipe from Whats4Eats
Serves 4


Ingredients:
1 cup of coconut cream
2-3 tablespoons of green curry paste
3 cups of coconut milk
1/4 cup of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 pound of shrimp, peeled and deveined
Shrimp, peeled and deveined -- 1 pound
1/2 cup of basil
3 kaffir lime leaves
2-3 serrano chiles, sliced into thin rounds

Directions:

1.  Simmer the cream and paste.  In a large saucepan or wok, simmer the coconut cream over low heat until most of the moisture boils away and the oil separates out. Stir in the curry paste and simmer for another 2 or 3 minutes. Do not allow to burn.

2.  Add the coconut milk. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce and sugar. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

3.  Add the shrimp. Stir in the shrimp and simmer another 5 or 6 minutes, or until the shrimp is just cooked through. Adjust seasoning adding more fish sauce or sugar if you like and stir in the basil and lime leaves.

4.  Plate the dish.  Serve in individual bowls with steamed rice or rice noodles and garnish with the sliced chile pepper.

 ENJOY!
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