Sunday, July 28, 2013

Grilled Calamari with a Red Pepper Sauce

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of cooking a three course meal for my parents.  The theme of the meal was two fold: (1) grilled dishes and (2) most of the ingredients were to come from the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  My first dish was Grilled Apricots, Burrata and Arugula Salad, which was very good.  The second dish was an appetizer: grilled calamari with a red pepper sauce.

This recipe is a simplified version of a recipe that I found on Saveur's website.  The reason that this recipe is "simplified" is the lack of access to certain ingredients, such as aji dolce peppers and sherry vinegar.  I decided that I would simply make my own red pepper sauce that would parallel a romesco sauce.  A romesco sauce is a Spanish sauce made with roasted peppers and almonds that is often served with seafood.  However, a romesco sauce is very versatile and it can be served with really any kind of meat, including beef, chicken and turkey.

This dish was the least faithful to my theme, because the key ingredients -- calamari, roasted peppers and almonds -- came from the grocery store rather than the West Side Market.  The reason is that, by the time I got to the seafood vendor, the calamari was picked over and what was left was really too small to grill.  I really wanted a nice combination of big bodies and tentacles.  I also had to get the peppers and almonds from the grocery store, although I could have bought some red peppers and roasted them on the grill and then pureed them.  Even though this aspect of my theme fell short, the dish itself still worked out very well.

One final note: the calamari should be grilled whole.  It is not worth the effort to grill calamari rings.  The reason is that the rings will cook too fast and spend only about a minute or two total on the grill.  I wanted to keep the calamari on the grill for as long as I could without overcooking it.  So, look for large bodies and good sized tentacles for this dish. After grilling the calamari, you could serve the bodies whole, which I did, or cut them into rings. 

Recipe adapted from Saveur
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of calamari, bodies and tentacles
1 jar of roasted red peppers
1/4 cup of sliced almonds, toasted
2 cloves of garlic, diced finely
2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 to 1/2 of olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

1.  Make the red pepper sauce.  Combine the red peppers, toasted almonds, flat leaf parsley, garlic, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper in a blender.  Blend the ingredients, and add the olive oil slowly in a stream.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Move the sauce into a small saucepan and heat the sauce.  Do not let the sauce come to a boil.

2.  Grill the calamari.  Thread the squid bodies on skewers, about two bodies per skewer.  Thread the tentacles on a separate skewer.  Baste the squid bodies and tentacles liberally with olive oil.  Heat a grill to medium heat (about 300 degrees Fahrenheit).  Place the skewers on the grill.  Grill the skewers about two minutes per side.

3.  Plate the dish.   Place a couple of squid bodies on a plate, with a couple of the tentacles.  Spoon the sauce over the squid. Serve immediately.


Saturday, July 27, 2013


The history of the India Pale Ale provides a rather interesting chapter in the story of beer.  There are many different websites that recount that history, and, I am loathe to add my blog to that list.  However, when I recently tried the Schlafly "English Style Export India Pale Ale," I felt that I should at least inquire into that history.  And, figure out just what is an English Style Export India Pale Ale. 

Well, first things first, an export India Pale Ale is an India Pale Ale.  In other words, it is a pale ale brewed in England that was destined for the subcontinent.  As the story goes, brewers -- such as George Hodgson's Bow Brewery confronted a problem.  The beer transported aboard the East India Trading Company's vessels often did not survive the voyage.   By not surviving the voyage, I mean it was spoiled by the time it reached the subcontinent.  At some point, the brewers figured out that the beer fared much better when a lot of hops were added to the brew.  Those hops helped to keep the beer from spoiling, which made it available to some very thirsty people in India.   

Thus, the use of those hops obviously means that they are the key to a good IPA.   Schlafly notes that, in brewing its English Style Export IPA, it used 100% English hops.  Those hops are East Kent Goldings, Pilgrim, Northdown, Target and Brambling Cross hops.  The brewers also used pale, caramel and biscuit malts, along with a London Ale yeast to brew this beer.

The combination of hops and malts produced an interesting beer.  The beer poured an orange color, with a good, thick foam, along with a fair amount of carbonation.  The brewers suggest a spicy, lemony flavor to their X IPA. The aromatic elements of the beer clearly feature that lemon and other citrus notes.  The beer seemed much lighter than one would expect for an IPA.

In this case, the appearance is not deceiving.  This IPA is a little bit lighter in body than other IPAs that I have tried.  This lightness, which translates into an easiness when it comes to drinking, is somewhat surprising.  The surprise comes from the fact that the beer has a heavy hop presence in its taste.  Those hops provide a citrus punch, which is to be expected from an IPA.

As for pairing this IPA, I think of grilled or roasted meats, such as grilled seafood or roasted chicken.  This is also a beer that would work well with any barbecue, whether you are smoking a pork shoulder or brisket, or having a more informal grilling session with hamburgers or hotdogs.

I have not seen this beer around where I live.  I was fortunate enough to have been given it as a present by some very good family friends.  I am grateful and thankful for their generosity.   What I can tell you is that if you are in the St. Louis area, where Schlafly is based, you should check out this beer.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Grilled Apricots, Burrata and Arugula Salad

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of cooking a multiple course dinner for my parents.  I wanted to prepare a three course meal focused upon the grill.  The three courses were a salad, an appetizer and a main course.  Moreover, I decided that I would strive to obtain all of the ingredients from the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  The combination of really fresh ingredients, the grill, and the opportunity to cook for my parents motivated me to create a great dining experience.

For the salad, I decided to go with a fruit that is in season ... apricots.  I found a recipe that combined grilled apricots with some of my favorite ingredients, such as burrata cheese and arugula.  The recipe also called for the use of radicchio, which, unlike the apricots, was not in season.  (Radicchio is a late winter, early spring vegetable, while apricots are an early summer fruit.) Given it was out of season, I had to get the radicchio from a local grocery store.  Finally, the recipe calls for the use of "country ham."  I omitted that ingredient from the salad because my beautiful Angel does not like to eat ham.  However, if you want to include it, use about 1/3 to 1/2 of a pound of prosciutto or iberico ham, rather than "country ham."  Personally, I would use prosciutto, because the use of arugula, burrata and radicchio (along with the balsamic vinegar) clearly suggests an Italian influence to this dish.

Overall, this dish is very delicious.  The grilling of the apricots softened them just a little, contributing a sweetness that, with the balsamic vinegar, offsets the tartness of the radicchio and the pepper of the arugula.  The burrata cheese added a luxuriousness to the dish that helped to elevate the dish.

Finally, I want to thank my beautiful Angel, Clare, who helped with the preparation of this dish while I frantically worked on the other course.  Together, we make a great cooking team!

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine
Serves 8

1 1/4 pounds apricots, halved and pitted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 small head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
5 ounces baby arugula
1/2 pound of burrata cheese, shredded or cubed
1 tablespoon, aged balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces shaved country ham or proscuitto

1.  Grill the apricots.  Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the apricots with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over high heat, cut sides down, just until lightly charred, 5 minutes. Let cool.

2.  Make the salad.  In a bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the 1/4 cup of oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss in the apricots, radicchio and arugula. Transfer to a platter and top with the burrata, ham and vinegar. Serve immediately. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Corne de Brume

Corne de Brume ... "Foghorn."  For those interested in history, the first automated, steam-powered foghorn was developed by Robert Foulis, a Scot who emigrated to St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.  According to Wikipedia, Foulis was listening to his daughter play the piano one night, when he realized that the lower notes were more clearly audible than the higher notes.  Foulis' invention was first installed in a lighthouse in 1859.

About 150 years later, there was the first beer named Foghorn or Corne de Brume.  The beer is named more for the murky environments in which vessels found themselves as they transported the dark beers, having long aged in oak barrels, during the long voyage on the cold and foggy waters of the North Atlantic.  It was not so much the low notes of the foghorn, blasting through the dark, foggy night.  It was more about that night itself. 

The Corne de Brume is brewed in the style of a Scotch Ale and it very much resembles the style.  The beer pours a very dark brown, almost as dark as the night. As the beer is poured, there is a thin, wavy foam, something similar to the clouds that sit high in the sky and pass occasionally by the sliver of the moon overhead.  

As for the aroma and taste, the brewers suggest that there are dark fruits and heady malts. There are some dark fruits in the aroma, such as raisins, plums and/or prunes.  The malts are also present in the aroma, as they have little competition from any hops.  The only challenge to the bready nature of the malts comes in the taste, when those raisins and plums make themselves more noticeable than the toasty, somewhat cereal elements provided by the malts. The taste also has a sweetness, reminiscent of caramel or molasses, but it stands behind the dark fruit in the beer.  Overall, the Corne de Brume provides an interesting and enjoyable example of a Scotch Ale. 

This beer could be paired with some cheeses, such as brie, gouda or Swiss.  However, I think it is best enjoyed on its own.

I bought this beer at a local beer store.  I do not remember what it cost, but I think that a 12 ounce bottle is about $4.99 to $6.99 a bottle.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cuban Style Barbecue Pork Shoulder

Every once in a while, a spark of culinary creativity ignites in my mind.  The fuel for that spark recently has come from a show called Barbecue Pitmasters, where three pit masters compete for a place in a large cooking competition and a equally large grand prize.  Every week, I watch these postmasters inject pork shoulders, beef briskets, turkeys and chickens with different combinations of liquid ingredients.  And, that got me to thinking.

I had been wanting to smoke a pork shoulder and I decided that I would try my hand at making an injection.  The pork shoulder I had in mind was a relatively small one, at about four and one-half pounds, but I thought I could make the injection and perhaps use the rest as a marinade.  The question turned to what could I use as an injection and a marinade.  One answer came immediately to mind ... a Cuban mojo.

Generally, in Cuban cuisine, a mojo is a sauce made with olive oil, garlic and citrus juice. It is often used as an accompaniment to starchy root vegetables, but it is also used as a marinade. The sauce is typically prepared in Cuba with sour oranges, but I have seen many a Cuban mojo recipe that also uses a combination of lemon juice and lime juice.  (This is done for those who may not have access to sour oranges.)  I have used some of those recipes in the past to make mojo marinades for Mahi-Mahi or Tuna.  A mojo is not just used as a marinade for fish, it can also be used to marinate other proteins, such as pork.  On this occasion, I did not use olive oil to make the mojo, because it did not make any sense to inject oil into the pork shoulder.  So, I substituted sherry vinegar, which along with the garlic, citrus juice (a combination of lemon and limes), and some spices, would become the mojo for the injection and the marinade. 

I also prepared a dry rub with spices that are available and used in Cuban cooking. These spices include cumin, coriander, red chiles, paprika and black pepper corns.  I applied that rub to the pork shoulder first and let the shoulder rest in the refrigerator for up to twenty-four hours.  I then injected the pork shoulder with the mojo and used the rest as a marinade for the meat.  The meat should marinate for at least four hours.  The citrus juice in the marinade will start "cooking" the meat, so I was a little hesitant to let it marinate for a long period of time.  At most, I would let it marinate overnight (but not a full day). 

Finally, there is the question of the wood to use during the smoke.  I decided to use pecan wood, but cherry or apple could work just as well.  The choice of wood should focus on something that will provide a delicate flavor but not something that would be too overwhelming.  It is important to ensure that the citrus flavors are able to shine through the smoke.

And, in the end, those citrus flavors from the lime juice and lemon juice are present in the flavor of the smoked pork shoulder.  Not only is the citrus flavor present, but so is some of the heat from the habanero and jalapeno.  I think for a recipe that I pretty much thought of out-of-the-blue, it worked out fairly well.  To be sure, there are probably tweaks that could make it better.  And, when I make it again, I will definitely add those improvements to this recipe.

A Chef Bolek Original
Serves many

Ingredients (for the dry rub):
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds, toasted
1 1/2 tablespoon of black peppercorns, toasted
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 tablespoon of red chile powder (like ancho chile or cayenne)
1 tablespoon of paprika

1 boston butt pork shoulder (about 4.5 pounds)
Pecan wood for smoking

Ingredients (for the mojo):
1 cup of lime juice
3 1/2 cups of orange juice
1/4 cup of garlic, finely diced
1/4 cup of sherry vinegar
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of ground cumin
1 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 habanero pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced

1.  Marinate the pork shoulder.  Combine all of the dry rub ingredients.  Apply the rub to all sides of the pork shoulder.  Reserve some of the dry rub for later.  Wrap and refrigerate for up to twenty-four hours.

2.  Prepare the mojo.  Prepare the mojo by combining all of the ingredients for that wet rub.  You can inject some of the mojo into the pork shoulder.  Place the pork shoulder in a large Ziploc bag and add the mojo until the shoulder is submerged.  Let the shoulder rest for at least four hours or overnight.  Reserve some of the mojo for use later.

3.  Smoke the pork shoulder.  Bring the smoker to about 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Add a couple pieces of pecan wood.  Place the shoulder in the smoker.   The shoulder should be smoked for about 1 1/2 hours for each pound of pork and until the temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit (for slicing) or at least 195 degrees for pulling.  After four hours, I sometimes wrap the shoulder to help maintain its moisture and ensure that it does not get too much smoke.

4.  Finish the dish.  After the shoulder reaches the desired temperature, remove it and, if you have not already wrapped it, wrap the shoulder in foil and let it rest for at least 30 minutes, if not 1 hour.  After it has rested, you can pull, chop or slice it however you want.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Official Beer of Monticello

Thomas Jefferson ... President and brewer. The third President once wrote to Joseph Coppinger on April 25, 1815: "I am lately become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of instruction to one of my people by an English brewer of the first order."  That English brewer was Captain Joseph Miller, who had been detailed in Albemarle County, Virginia during the War of 1812. Captain Miller trained one of Jefferson's slaves, Peter Hemmings (who was also the brother to Sally Hemmings), in the art of malting and brewing.  With that training, Hemmings oversee the production of more than one hundred gallons of ales every spring and fall.  

By the fall of 1814, there was a brewery at Monticello and President Jefferson even began malting his own grain rather than purchasing it from his neighbors.  That grain, along with the other ingredients -- such as barley, wheat and corn -- came from the gardens of Monticello. The beers were more akin to session beers, lightly hopped with low alcohol content.  Those beers were "table liquor," which was served with dinner.  (Wine and/or Madeira was served after the meal.)

A picture from the beer cellar at Monticello.
In 2011, Starr Hill Brewing brewed the Monticello Reserve Ale, which has become the official beer of Monticello.  The Starr Hill brewmasters produced the ale in the style of the beers that were made at Monticello.  This is quite the feat, given the apparent lack of a recipe. According to the Monticello Foundation, former governor James Barbour wrote President Jefferson about the beer served at Monticello: "Some years past I recollect to have drunk some ale at Monticello which I understood was of your own brewing. The manner of doing which you had obtained by a recipe from some intelligent Briton. . . . You will oblige me much by furnishing me with a copy of the recipe as soon as your convenience will permit."  Jefferson responded, "I have no reciept [sic] for brewing and I much doubt the operations of malting and brewing could be successfully performed from a reciept."  Undaunted, the Starr Hill brewers produced the Reserve Ale using the same ingredients that Captain Miller and Peter Hemmings would have used back in the early nineteenth century. 

The Monticello Reserve Ale pours a yellowish gold color, with a very thin and light foam.  The aroma is rather light and a little hard to detect.  Nevertheless, there were some hints of the wheat and lemon.  As for the taste, the wheat leaves its mark, with flavors of bread and grass.  A very light citrus note is also present in the taste of the beer.  

As I drank this beer, writing down my impressions, I also looked at what other people wrote on websites such as Beer Advocate and Rate Beer.  I was surprised at some of the negative reactions, especially on Rate Beer.  Every beer has some reviews that express disappointment, but one reviewer went so far as to say the beer was a "drain pour."  I have to say that the reviewer missed the whole point of the beer, which is to recreate a beer based upon what Thomas Jefferson probably drank during his dinners.  Given that perspective, the beer provides an interesting look at brewing over two hundred years ago and I really liked the beer.

As for pairing this beer, its easy-drinking and light body allow the Monticello Reserve Ale to be paired with just about anything.  However, if you want to continue the historical angle, you should consider pairing the beer with Bouilli (Beef Pot Roast) and Mashed Potatoes and Macaroni and Spinach Bake, both of which are recipes that were served at Monticello.  (Check out The Founding Foodies for the recipes.)


For more information about the brewing of beer at Monticello, check out the Monticello Foundation.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Batali-Style Turkey Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata

One of my favorite Mario Batali recipes is his Chicken Thighs with Snap Peas and Agliata.  I have made this recipe a couple of times, and, each time it produces very tasty chicken thighs that are a hit with guests.  Recently, I decided to make this dish using turkey thighs rather than chicken thighs.

In theory, turkey thighs should work in the same fashion in chicken thighs.  However, there is one difference, 3 pounds of chicken thighs might be a dozen thighs, while 3 pounds of turkey thighs may be just 2 thighs.  In order to make this recipe work for a group of guests, it is necessary to trim the thighs and cut them into "chicken-thigh" sizes.  Cutting the turkey thighs into smaller pieces also allows for more of the thighs to be covered with the garlicky bread crumb mixture, which is definitely a good thing.  The one thing to remember is that, as you cut the thighs, make sure that the thighs are roughly the same size and shape.  This will help ensure that the thighs cook evenly and together.

In addition to the thighs and the snap peas, I decided to serve some grilled corn to complete the dish.  The corn is optional.  I used a basic recipe ... butter, salt and pepper applied liberally to the corn, which is wrapped and then placed on the grill.  It is important to rotate the corn about every five minutes, so as to prevent the corn from being burned.  

Adapted from recipe by Mario Batali and available in Italian Grill, pg. 141
Serves 6
12 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup, plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups of fresh bread crumbs
3 pounds of turkey thighs, deboned, cut into chicken thigh-sized pieces
3 shallots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste
1 pound snap peas, blanched in boiling water until
     bright green, chilled in an ice bath and drained
Olio Piccante for drizzling
4 ears of corn, shucked
1 stick of butter, melted

1.  Prepare the bread crumb mixture.  Combine the garlic, 1/2 cup of the oil, the anchovies, parsley and bread crumbs in a food processor and zap until smooth. 

2.  Prepare the chicken thighs and the corn.  Put the turkey thighs in a large bowl and sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture, turning to coat well.  Arrange in a single layer on a platter and put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Prepare the corn by basting the corn on all sides with the melted butter.  Liberally salt and pepper the corn and wrap in foil.

3.  Grill the chicken.   Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for indirect grilling.  Place the turkey thighs skinned side up on the cooler part of the grill, cover the grill, and grill, turning once until the turkey is cooked through, about fifteen minutes per side.  After the turkey is flipped, add the corn to the grill and rotate the corn by ninety degrees every four to five minutes.

4.  Finish the dish.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a 10 to 12 inch saute pan over medium heat.  Add the shallots and anchovy paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the snap peas and cook, stirring, just until heated through.  Transfer the snap peas to a platter and set aside.  

5.  Plate the dish.  Arrange the thighs on top of the snap peas, add an ear of corn, and serve with a drizzle of olio piccante.


Saturday, July 13, 2013


There is SXSW, the music, technology and film conference and festival held annually in Austin, Texas, and, there is the SXNW, the beer that is made by Widmer Brothers in Portland, Oregon. One would think that the comparison would end with the acronym, but, that is not the case.  The beer, SXNW, has as much diversity and complexity as the festival, SXSW.  

The SXNW is part of the Brothers' Reserve series, a range of specialty beers produced by Widmer Brothers.  For this particular beer, the brewmasters sought to combine Southwestern ingredients with Oregonian brewing experience.  They selected Mexican chocolate nibs, cinnamon, toasted pecans and green chiles from New Mexico.  These ingredients are combined with Munich, Chocolate and Extra Special malts, as well as Alchemy hops. The end product is a rather unique beer.

This uniqueness presented a challenge when it comes to characterizing the style of the beer.  The body of the beer is far lighter than a stout or porter.  Nevertheless, the SXNW reminds me of a more simpler and basic version of a mole stout.  (I have reviewed a few mole stouts, such as New Belgium Cocoa Mole and the Ska Autumnal Mole Stout.)

The SXNW pours a very dark brown, almost black color, with a thin, off-white foam that quickly recedes.  The Chocolate malts, along with the chocolate nibs present a strong chocolate or cocoa aroma with the beer.  That aroma is slightly toasted by the pecans and definitely given an edge by the green chiles.  Each of these elements makes its way into the taste of the beer.  The principal taste element is chocolate, with a little sweetness from the cinnamon and nibs that suggests molasses.  The pecans are definitely more present in the taste, giving a nutty or even woody element in the background.  The chiles provide just the right amount of taste, with little heat or spice.  Together, all of these ingredients produce different levels of aroma and taste that result in a rather interesting and enjoyable spiced beer.

When it comes to pairing this beer, the different flavors present some issues.  The safest pairing is cheese, tending toward nuttier and/or harder cheeses. I just enjoyed this beer as a digestif, which is a good way to enjoy this beer.

This beer is a limited edition and I am not sure that it is around anymore.  If you should see it, the beer should sell for about $12.99 a bottle.  The SXNW is definitely worth a try, especially if you like beers with a little chile or spice in them. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013


The word "Imperial" has a particular place in the history of beer.  According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, at pages 478-479, the term "Imperial" was reserved for beers specifically made for the royal courts of Europe.  The most well known example of an imperial beer is the Russian Imperial Stout, which was produced by English breweries (such as Henry Thrale's brewery) in the 18th century for the court of Catherine the Great.

What was once reserved for the privileged few soon became available to the masses.  Beginning in the 1980s, English and American craft brewers began brewing the imperial stout for everyone, not just kings and queens.  Soon, American brewers began to "imperialize" other beers.  Their efforts led to a change in the meaning of the word.  No longer did it mean "reserved for the court."  Instead, it meant an extreme version of a beer style.  As Garrett Oliver noted in the Oxford Companion to Beer, "[a]ny beer stile that has been given a dose of steroids is now said to have been 'imperialized, a term that brings to mind the sudden attainment of superpowers by a comic book hero."  Craft brewers have been working like Stan Lee to produce beers of epic strength, pushing the limits of IBUs and ABVs.

While most "imperial" beers tend to be IPAs or Russian stouts, there are some craft brewers who are seeking to create heros with less likely origins.  One such beer is Revelry, an Imperial Red Ale produced by Jim and Jason Ebel, the brewers at and owners of Two Brothers Brewing.  There really are no standards or guides for an Imperial Red Ale.  Just amp up the hops and/or the malts.  This does provide an opportunity for some creativity when it comes to brewing a particular beer. 

The Two Brothers Revelry pours a nice burnt red color.  This Imperial Red Ale is definitely hop forward, with the aromatic elements principally comprised of the citrus and pine notes.  While the hops are the first elements one senses in the aroma, there are also malty, caramel-like tones.  As for the taste of this beer, the Revelry presents a good balance between the hops and malts used to produce the beer.  This balance is also rounded out by a sweetness and a boozy nature that definitely comes out in the finish. 

An Imperial Red Ale, like the Revelry, pairs well with meats, from beef or steak dishes to lamb or even pork.  It would pair well with these proteins, regardless of the cooking method used.  Grill or oven, the balance of malt and hops will complement the flavors of the meat.  The malty and sweet nature of this beer could also pair with somewhat spicy foods, such as curries, and substantial dishes, like stews or and chilis.

This bottle of Revelry was given to me, so I do not know how much it would cost.  I have not seen many Two Brothers beers around where I live, but I know they are generally available in the Midwest, especially in Chicagoland, where Two Brothers is probably the largest, independent owned brewery in the region.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Copper River Sockeye Salmon with an Orange-Saffron Sauce

There are only a handful of food blogs that I regularly follow, and, one of them is Hunter, Angler, Gardener and Cook or "HAGC."  The mind behind HAGC is Hank Shaw, who spends his time doing what the name of his blog suggests.  Hank has posted several recipes that have been on my to do list for quite some time.  One of those recipes is Trout with Orange-Saffron Sauce. 

I was particularly interested in the orange-saffron sauce, which I thought was a very good sauce to pair with trout.  Hank used the orange (and white wine) to provide some acidity to balance with the fat in the trout.  The orange also added a little sweetness, which adds complexity to the sauce.  That complexity is further developed by the use of saffron that, according to Hank, adds an "ever-so-slightly bitter flavor" to the sauce.  After reading his blog, I was determined to make this dish for my beautiful wife, Clare, and myself. 

I had to make a couple of substitutions and adjustments.  First, I did not have access to any trout fillets that were thick enough to do this recipe any justice.  I decided to substitute some Copper River Sockeye Salmon fillets. The salmon worked very well because it shares some of the same characteristics as the trout, particularly that little bit of fattiness and relatively mild taste.  Second, I had to substitute the greens.  Hank used amaranth, but I did not have any of that leafy vegetable available to me.  I substituted some fresh spinach.  Although I am not a big fan of spinach, I really liked it in this dish. 

Adapted from recipe by Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
Serves 4

Ingredients for the Orange-Saffron Sauce:
1/2 cup of white wine
1/2 cup orange juice
A healthy pinch of saffron, crumbled
A healthy pinch of sugar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the fish and greens):
1 1/2 pounds of tender spring greens, such as spinach
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter or vegetable oil, divided
A splash of water (no more than 3 tablespoons)
Grated zest of an orange
1 1/2 pounds of Copper River Salmon (or any wild salmon)

1.  Make the Orange-Saffron Sauce.  Make the sauce by bringing the white wine, orange juice, saffron, sugar and shallot to a boil in a small pot.  Simmer strongly for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and puree the sauce in a blender.  Return the sauce to the pot and turn the heat to low.  Add salt to taste and keep warm, but do not boil it or simmer it any further.

2.  Make the Greens.  Cook the greens in 2 tablespoons of butter or oil over high heat in a large saute pan, stirring constantly until they wilt. Add a splash of water, the orange zest and some salt and cover the pot. Lower the heat to medium-low and steam the greens for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat.

3.  Sear the salmon.  Heat the remaining butter in a pan large enough to hold the fish.  (If you don’t have such a pan, put a baking sheet in the oven and set the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit so you can keep the fish warm as you do this in batches.)  Heat the butter over high heat until it stops frothing. Pat the fish dry with paper towels and set it skin-side down in the hot butter. Turn the heat down to medium-high for a typical fillet  or to medium if you are working with a thicker piece of fish.

4.  Continue cooking the salmon.  Let the fish cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, then use a large spoon to baste the meat side of the fish with the hot butter. Baste the salmon for 90 seconds, then give it a rest. A thin fillet will only need one quick basting, but thicker pieces of fish will need a second or even third round of basting.  It took about four to five rounds of basting for the fillets that I had.  When the basting is done, salt the meat side. The skin side should lift off the pan easily after about 4 to 5 minutes of steady cooking. The moment you take the fish off the heat, salt the skin side.

5.  Finish the dish.  To serve, swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce, one tablespoon at a time. Pour some sauce on everyone’s plate. Top with the greens and then with a piece of fish. Serve immediately.

Overall, this is a great dish.  Clare and I really enjoyed the match of the salmon and the orange-saffron sauce.  Hank suggests other possible options when it comes to fish, such as sea-bass, bluefish, and walleye.  I think I may also try this recipe with rockfish, which is very plentiful around where we live. 


Monday, July 1, 2013

Anderson Valley Vineyards New Mexico Red Chile Wine

Over the past couple of years, I have tried to be adventurous when it comes to wine.  I have sought out little known grape varietals or wines produced from unexpected regions.  In the latter regard, one such unexpected region can be found in New Mexico.  One ordinarily associates New Mexico with deserts and grasslands.  However, New Mexico has mountain ranges and, with mountains, comes elevation, cooler climates and the possibility of cultivating wines.

I have previously wrote about the history of winemaking in New Mexico, which has a surprisingly long tradition.  I suppose it would only be time before this winemaking tradition would merge with what puts New Mexico on the "map" ... Hatch chiles.   Now, the name -- "Hatch Chile" -- does not actually refer to a specific variety of chile peppers.  Instead, it is a reference to where the chiles are grown, which is the Hatch Valley, stretching from the town of Arrey to the town of Hatch, New Mexico.  The specific peppers are different variants of the Anaheim chiles ... a much more aromatic and spicier version of the Anaheim chiles that are found in most supermarkets.  Given the abundance of Hatch chiles, combined with the creativity of winemakers, a chile wine was destined to be made.
With my love for the Hatch chile, it was inevitable that a bottle of chile wine would grace the table of the Savage Boleks.  This particular bottle of Red Chile wine was produced by Anderson Valley Vineyards.  I came across this bottle at the tasting room of another winemaker, Vino del Corazón.  At the time, I was more focused on the Corazón wines.  I have previously reviewed two of their wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The winemakers also had Anderson Valley Vineyard bottles for sale because they gained their practical experience with that vineyard.  When I saw they had a chile wine, I bought a bottle.  

The backbone of this wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon.  At first, I thought that this grape was a risky choice.  There is a range of Cabernet Sauvignon wines, from fruit forward and easy drinking wines to some big and earthy wines.  Many of the Cabernet Sauvignon wines (especially those tending to the big and earthy wines) have varying amounts of tannins, which do not play well with spices like chiles.  Tannins intensify the heat and piquancy of chiles, making the dish much spicier than it would otherwise be.  That is fine for someone like me, because I love spicy foods, but it can put off other people. 

Fortunately, the Cabernet Sauvignon used to make this chile wine tends toward the fruity and easy drinking end of the wines.  This really allows the chiles to shine through.  The wine poured like any other Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a dark red or burgundy color.  The aromatic elements present what one would expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon, such as red cherries and raspberries.  However, the Hatch chiles are definitely present in the aroma.  They are also present in the taste of the wine, providing a kick to the ripe cherries, strawberry and raspberry flavors that are found in a Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  The wine is particularly balanced between the berry fruit and the pepper spice.  

I do not know if this wine is still being made, because I could not find anything about Anderson Valley Vineyards.  However, I did see that Vino del Corazón has its own red chile wine.  I intend to buy a bottle (or a few) and, based upon the other Vino del Corazón wines, I have no doubt that it will be just as good if not better than this wine.