Sunday, April 26, 2020

Jailbreak's Oats & Toffee & Chocolate & Stuff

When it comes porters and stouts, I generally like them simple.  Perhaps I am old fashioned in that respect.  These beers are classics in and of themselves.  The style comes out of London, where brewers were making dark beers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  The beers started out as strong beers, beloved by local street and river porters (hence, the name porter).  The strong porters eventually went out of style, and, brewers reinvented the style in a milder form, which is the predecessor to the typical porter or stout thart one sees today. 

Many brewers have reverse engineered the stout and porter, in a sense of speaking. There has been a big push for imperial versions of the beer, pushing the ABVs up in a probably unintended, but quite coincidental nod to the original stout or porter style. I love imperial porters and stouts.  It is when the brewers take the next step ... adding stuff to the beer ... that I start to have reservations.

When Jailbreak Brewing released its Oats & Toffee & Chocolate & Stuff Imperial Stout, I had those reservations.  I had taken my parents to the Jailbreak Brewing taphouse for lunch and my dad ordered a flight.  This was one of the beers on that flight.  Skeptical, I just ordered the barleywine.  My dad ultimatley bought a four pack (at bit pricey) and left one for me to try.  I eventually opened it the beer and tried it.  It was quite the surprise. 

This beer is an Imperial Oat Milk Stout with Toffee and Chocolate; and, its ABV is a respectable 10.1%. The brewers describe the beer as a "liquid heath bar," with "a plentiful addition of liquid cacao" and a "big hit of peanut butter-esque English toffee upfront followed by pleasing milk chocolate. All of these descriptions. Ordinarily, I want my beer to be a beer, not a snack.  

With that said, this beer was actually pretty good.  The beer poured pitch black, like motor oil, which is the perfect color for a stout. The sweetness was inescapable in the aroma, as the toffee and the chocolate greet the nose almost immediately.  That sweetness was also the primary feature of the taste. In this regard, the milk chocolate was very prominent, making it a little difficult to focus on the chocolate aspects to the flavor.  

Overall this is a very good beer.  I believe it was brewed as a one-off, a version of a line of stouts that Jailbreak has been doing.  Given how great Jailbreak is as a brewery, I should not have had any reservations at all about this beer.  Until next time ...


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Smoked Rack of Pork Peri-Peri

One of my bucket list items as a cook is to prepare a Smoked Rack of Pork Vindaloo, using Vikram Suderam's recipe in his book Rasika: Flavors of India.  (Actually, the bucket list is to recreate a dinner at Rasika but in my house, including dishes such as Palak Chaat, Calamari Balchao and others). When I bought a bone-in pork roast, I thought this might be the opportunity. However, it was not.  The roast was not ideal (the roast was not cut well, which explains why it was so cheap).  I would also have to go to at least two grocery stores, and, I wanted to prepare this meal for family and guests.  Given the current limitations in this time of social distancing, I would have to put off my bucket list item for a future date. 

That doesn't mean that I could not at least use Chef Suderam's recipes as an inspiration.  Chef Suderam uses a very spice chile paste, which he refers to as a peri-peri paste, as the base for his vindaloo (and other dishes).  The basic piri-piri paste recipe in his book produces a cup, which was enough to use by itself as a rub or marinade for this pork roast. 

However, I got to thinking about those chiles. Although a Goan dish, vindaloo can traces its origins to Portuguese explorers and colonizers. Goa was a Portguese colony until 1961. The Portuguese were known for introducing peppers to their colonies, including those in Angola and Mozambique. Once the peppers took root, figuratively and literally, the cultivation spread beyond the borders of both countries. Today, peri-peri chiles are grown and processed in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda. The reach of the peppers extends as far as Nigeria and Ghana in western sub-Saharan Africa. 

Returning to Rasika, for the moment, Chef Suderam does not use peri-peri peppers for his vindaloo.  Instead, the chef uses Kashmiri chiles to make his peri-peri paste.  Despite the name, these peppers are not grown in Kashmir (or Jammu and Kashmir). Instead, they are principally cultivated in the southwestern Indian state of Karnatka. The Kashmiri chile is relartively mild, clocking in at around 2,000 Scoville units. At this level, the Kashmiri chile is in the company of some well known peppers, such as the passilla, ancho and and poblano peppers. This low level of heat makes the Kashmiri chile particularly popular in cooking, but that popularity is probably more due to the fact that the chile contributes a deep red hue to any curry dish.

It may be just happenstance that Karnatka is just due east of Goa, the Indian state where the famed vindaloo curry calls its home. This geographical relationship provides an explanation for the use of Kashmiri chiles in Chef Suderam's own recipe for vindaloo.  In any event, this recipe put a dent in my Kashmiri chile supply.  Given all of the recipes that I want to make in Rasika, many of which use these chiles, I am going to need to buy some more chiles very soon.  

Peri-Peri Paste from Vikram Suderam, Rasika: Flavors of India, pg. 29
Serves several

Ingredients (for the paste):
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
5 green cardamom pods
1 inch cinnamon stick, crushed
1/4 ounce (about 1 cup of stemed dried Kashmiri chiles, with seeds
5 medium garlic cloves 
1 cup malt vinegar or red wine vinegar

Ingredients (for the pork):
1 six-bone rack of pork
Hickory wood

1.  Make the paste.  In a spice grinder, grind the cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon into a powder.  Transfer to a small blender.  Add the chiles, garlic and vinegar. Blend for 10 full minutes, shaking the container or scraping it down every now and then.  The paste should be a deep adobe red, smooth and the texture of a thick tomato sauce. 

2.  Prep the pork.  In a large bowl, coat the rack of pork on all sides with the paste.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, but preferably 24 hours.

3.  Prepare the smoker.  Bring a smoker to a temperature between 250 degrees and 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a drip pan filled with 2 cups of water) under where the pork will sit (if you have a lower rack, or between the coals.  Place the pork on the rack and use a rubber spatula to scrape out any of the marinade left in the bowl and slather it over the top of the pork.

4.  Smoke the Pork.  Smoke the pork roast until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove the roast and let it rest, covered with aluminium foil for about 15 to 20 minutes.  At this point, you can either slice off the bones and then slice the roast into relatively thin cutlets or you can leave the bones on and slice thicker cutlets.  


Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nyonya-Style Steak

One would think during these times of stay-at-home orders, I would be doing a lot of cooking.  While I am doing some cooking, it is not as much as I would like. There are a couple of reasons.  Work, of course, is one of the main reasons.  The other reason is that I really don't like going to the grocery stores right now.  It is not as enjoyable as it once was.  I have spent quite a bit of my spare time researching how to order directly from farms and other local suppliers.  

Still, I have my fair shares to continue with my cooking hobby.  My beautiful Angel recently bought a couple of sirloin steaks when she went to the grocery store.  I went online looking for recipes and found a recipe for "Nonya-Style Flank Steak" from Steven Raichlen.  According to Steven Raichlen, it is a recipe of steak, Malaysian "Grandmother"-style.  The "style" is defined by the of oyster sauce, anise (or Chinese Five Spice) and topped with fried garlic. As much as I love Steven Raichlen and his contribution to cooking and cuisine (I am a big fan of all his shows), there is a little more to the Nonya-style.

Initially, it is Nyonya, not Nonya. The Nyonya (or Baba Nyonya) are the descendants of the Peranakan Chinese.  The Peranakan Chinese left what is now Guangdong and Fujian in modern-day China.  They emigrated to the Malay peninsula and the islands of what are now Indonesia. The emigration began in the 10th century but mostly took place from the 15th to the 17th centuries.  Thus, the Nyonya are a subculture of Chinese descendants who live in modern-day Malaysia. Those who live in Penang, Malacca and Singapore refer to themselves as Baba Nyonya.

In researching the cuisine of the Nyonya, I came across a very detailed research paper by Chien Y. Ng and Shahrim B. Karim, which can be found here. Both Ng and Karim discuss the historical and contemporary influences on Nyonya cuisine in their paper. They generally describe that cuisine as "a product of of cultural borrowing and cultural innovation through exposure to local sources of food such as ingredients and food preparation, that are non-Chinese." In other words, given the roots from whence they came, the starting point is Chinese cuisine. Once they reached the Malay peninsula, some of the ingredients they would have have used were no longer available or easily attainable.  This is where other cultures, such as the Malay, could fill in the gaps.  This allowed the Nyonya to adapt Chinese cuisine to life on the Malay peninsula.

Commonalities between Nyonya and Malay cuisine emerged over time, particularly when it came ot the use of certain ingredients. Both cuisines extensively use pungent roots (such as turmeric, galangal and ginger), leaves (laksa leaves, galangal leaves, and coriander leaves), spices (cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and nutmeg) and other ingredients (such as lemongrass and tamarind).  One other common ingredient between the two cuisines is the use of chiles. both dried and fresh.

Ng and Karim posit there are three types of Nyonya dishes: (1) traditional Chinese (Hokkien) dishes; (2) Malay-style dishes; and (3) innovated foods. Returning to Steven Raichlen's recipe, the use of oyster sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and turmeric make it hard to distinguish where this recipe draws its inspiration within those types.  Those ingredients are common in both Chinese and Malay cuisine.  It is perhaps the use of Chinese five spice (which is really a Chinese ingredient) that would put this dish in the first category (if categorization were possible).

Overall, this is a very good recipe for a steak, especially when one may be short on time. It was also a great recipe because it got me to look a little further into a culture and cuisine which I never knew about.  That is what cooking means to me.

I just have to remember the fried garlic slices.  Always something for the next time .... 

Recipe adapted from Steven Raichlen
Serves 2-4

1 1/2 poounds of flank steak, sirloin steak or any steak
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons of Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt.

1.  Prepare the marinade.  Heat oil in a small skill over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, about 1 minute.  Transfer the garlic to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.  Pour the garlic flavored oil into a heatproof mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.  Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, Chinese five spice, turmeric, and pepepr to the garlic oil.  Season with salt to taste.  Pour the marinade over the flank steak, turn it to coat both sides.  Let the steak marinate in the refrigerator, covered, 1 to 4 hours, turning it once or twice.

2. Grill the steak.  Heat a grill on high heat.   Brush and oil the grate.  Drain the steak and arrange it on a hot grate at a diagonal to the bars.  Grill the steak until cooked to taste, about 3 to 5 minuts for medium rare.  Transfer the grille dsteak to a platter and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Thinly slice the steak and serve it with the fired garlic slices sprinkled on top.