Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Day, Another Fall Stew

With temperatures in the 30s tonight I wanted to take full advantage of the chilly temperatures and make another fall stew.

Fall Stew with Chicken, Butternut Squash, Pancetta, and Sage

I rendered some pancetta then cooked up some garlic in the fat with a little extra olive oil, toasted some red pepper flakes, and added in some butternut squash and carrot. When all the vegetables were tender I tossed in some cubed chicken breast, leftover broccoli rabe, and fresh chopped sage leaves.

Westmalle Dubbel

For beer I decided to go the trappist route (as I often like to do) and have this dubbel from Abdij der Trappisten van Westmalle.

Jack-o'-Lantern Sticking Out His Tongue

Last night we had carved this pumpkin. My attempt was to make it look like he was sticking out his tongue. I'm not sure if that comes across but one thing is for sure: he is terrifying.

The leaves are still on the trees and there's snow on the ground but even with this confusing set of factors we tried to stay on topic and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, a movie I hadn't seen since I saw it in the theater in 1993. Jen generally does not like watching movies so I was surprised she'd made this suggestion.

I think it might just be that she wanted to distract me for as long as possible to avoid my normal Halloween routine of talking like the crypt keeper all day.

Crypt Keeper

Make no bones about it! We had a great fright!


It's Rodenbach Time!

Yesterday my parents came up on their annual birthday/Halloween visit. Since we'd gotten an unusually early snowstorm on Friday I decided to cancel our dinner reservations and do the cooking myself. A lot of the snow had melted by dinner time but ingredients had been purchased and it was time to get to work.

Adding Dogfish Head Punkin Ale to Osso Bucco

I made Osso Bucco. I normally stick to a pretty basic formula when I'm making this but I tend to get bored easily so I changed it up. I crushed garlic, cooked it with onion, celery, and butternut squash. I also added in some carrot. Normally this is where I'd add tomato and red wine. Instead I used this Punkin Ale from Dogfish Head. After adding some concentrated turkey stock from Canadian Thanksgiving I threw it in the oven for two-and-a-half hours.

Rodenbach Grand Cru

While it cooked I popped open this bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru. I had purchased this a while back based on a video review by Michael Jackson

However, over time, I forgot about the review and was pretty surprised to be reminded that it was a sour beer. While this was alarming at first it actually turned out to be the perfect pre-dinner beer. Michael Jackson said it was similar to wine. I think it's more like a framboise. After all, what does Michael Jackson know about beer, anyway?

Nate and Dad: Beer Guys

We were so impressed with the beer that my father and I posed with our glasses like a couple of guys in the 1880s who were still amazed at the technology of still photography.


While the Osso Bucco cooked we enjoyed this Gabietou cheese with some sourdough bread.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale Braised Osso Busso with Green Onion Gremolata

The end result of the Osso Bucco cooked with beer was fantastic. I think I'm going this route with all future Osso Bucco (Osso Buccos? -- what is the plural of Osso Bucco?) that I make. I only selected the pumpkin beer because it was around and it was seasonally appropriate. I think, however, the spices in the beer happened to lend themselves nicely to the veal and the butternut squash.

Stewed Kale and Potatoes

As a side dish I made this stew with garlic, onion, potato, and kale.

Plungerhead Zinfandel (2008)

Along with the Osso Bucco I stuck with tradition and served this 2008 Plungerhead Zinfandel from The Other Guys. It was, of course, selected based on the name and the label. I think most winemakers these days have gotten the message that unless you have a humorous or interesting name and label for your wine it's going to get lost in the mix. Unless, you know, it's from some super famous vineyard.

Château Mouton Rothschild doesn't really need to get anyone's attention with a picture of a dog riding a bicycle or a nun playing pool.

Pear Tart with Fig Glaze

Jen managed to use up all of our leftover pears from the farm share to make this pear tart with a fig glaze. While it looks like a huge amount of tart it was actually quite small. It cooked up nicely although we had to balance out Jen's tendency to think baked items are burned before they are with my tendency to think they are not burned after they are. This was our compromise position.

Pear Tart with Fig Glaze and Vanilla Ice Cream

With a little vanilla ice cream, hot out of the oven, the tart was fantastic.

Nate Reading the Oxford Companion to Beer

After dinner we continued our tradition by watching Ghostbusters and added a new tradition by watching Ghostbusters II. Truly two of the scariest movies ever. Perfect for a spook-tacular Halloween!

My parents got me some books by Garrett Oliver and I was able to read about how poorly I'd matched beer with dinner.

There is no better present than reading about one's own personal failure.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beer: The Cure for the Common Stomach Ache

Today we got a giant new couch delivered and I spent much of the day organizing and rearranging the apartment to accommodate its bulk.

New Couch (Verano Sofa from Crate & Barrel

Okay, it doesn't look that big in the picture. Let me assure you that you could easily sleep two people on this couch. I'm sure most people reading this own a large house where they have one of those massive L-shaped couches that wrap the entire outside of their living room and have to communicate with others on the couch via walkie-talkie. If you are one of those people then just go easy on us. Allow us to think that this humble couch is excessively large and that we are living a decadent life similar to that of Roman nobility before the fall.

Chicken and Shrimp Quinoa with Goat Cheese Rosemary Bread

Since I was so busy, and feeling kind of queasy all day, I turned to the pantry where I found this quinoa blend from Wholesome Kitchen in Flushing, NY. It consisted of quinoa, dried potatoes, dried onion, dried Persian lemon, dried dill, dried parsley, dried cilantro, dried garlic, red chili flakes, and nigella seeds.

I don't know what nigella seeds are but I do know that this looked like a quick and tasty way to make a dinner that Jen would like and would also soothe my stomach. Jen enjoys any dinner made with small globe-shaped grains. It's a fact. Couscous, quinoa, you name it and she's all in.

Abita Amber

For drink I felt like having a beer. Sometimes, when my stomach is upset, I often crave a small amount of beer to help settle it. I'm not sure if this is just my normal craving for beer telling me to stop my complaining or if it actually does have some sort of restorative property to it. At any rate something in the beer tends to settle my stomach. Maybe it's the bubbles, maybe it's the alcohol, maybe it's my general desire to have some beer for any reason whatsoever.

I picked this Amber from Abita only to find out that they're having a Boudin & Beer celebration on November 11, 2011. I'm wondering if it's too late for me and my dad to get tickets to go check it out. Odds are it's not.

Also, I should probably wait until I'm done with my stomach ache to partake in boudin.

Just a hunch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Gnomes Hate Us For Our Freedom

In preparation for my first batch of home brew beer to be ready to drink I started off last night with another Belgian ale which will certainly be far better than mine.

Basserie D'Achouffe Dobbelen IPA Tripel

For starters it's brewed in Belgium. That gave it a leg up on any Belgian style ale I could cobble together. Secondly it was another beer in a series of gnome-themed beers. This beer was the Dobbelen IPA Tripel from La Chouffe, purveyors of fine gnome-themed beers. Their website is also features the second best flash animation of gnomes after Gnomesong!, the classic song and video from Lance & Eskimo.

Cheese Ravioli with Sweet Italian Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, and Grape Tomatoes

I got out of work late enough that I only had time to drive straight to the train to pick up Jen so I had to act fast. Luckily this dinner was made basically in the time it took to boil some water. I browned a little garlic in olive oil and butter, threw in some sweet Italian sausage removed from the casing, added some blanched broccoli rabe, sliced grape tomatoes, a little turkey stock, and some cooked cheese raviolis. Over the top I grated some Reggiano-Parmigiano.

Jen was very suspicious of doing this recipe with a ravioli instead of regular pasta. However, as she admits, she is often suspicious of just about anything I make. It turns out it was quite delicious and her fears were allayed -- just like they are every night.

Chateau Lalaudey Moulis en Medoc Grand Vin de Bordeaux 2007

With dinner we enjoyed a bottle of wine we'd picked up in Bordeaux this summer. Well, not the exact bottle we picked up. That one was kindly disposed of by the terrible American section of the Zurich airport. Since there have been planes falling out of the sky left and right from wine bottle bombs it only made sense that they discarded this bottle which was hermetically sealed in plastic encasing marked, "Zurich Airport Duty Free."

The wine was quite nice but it left a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't think it was so much the wine or the tannins but rather that taste of eroding personal freedom.

It's better to be safe than sorry! Right, kids?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Commonwealth Cooking

Tally ho, pip pip, and Bob's your uncle! Tonight we're going to have a tenuously themed dinner in celebration of Lady England and all the nations she has previously ensnared in her imperial tentacles! This may be one of our more loose themes as this pretty much covers cuisine from 90% of the Earth's countries.

Baby Greens with Golden Beets, Goat Cheese, Avocado, and Chopped Almonds

First up I made this salad with baby lettuce, golden beets, goat cheese, crushed almonds, and avocado. I drizzled a little olive oil over the top and served it with salt and pepper.

Wow, did I already lose the theme on the first dish?

Chicken Pot Pie

Next up, Jen made her style of chicken pot pie which is really kind of like chicken and dumplings. This is what she grew up on in Canada which still puts the queen all over there money and celebrates a culinary tradition that is like a fiendish hybrid of British and American cooking, thankfully borrowing some of the less terrible elements from both nations.

Hen's Tooth Bottle Conditioned English Ale

For beer I cracked open this Hen's Tooth from Greene King / Morland Brewery, who seem to specialize in making hen-themed beers. I enjoyed this one more than the last hen-themed beer and, apparently, more than all the reviewers on beeradvocate. It was very, very tasty and interesting. It had a fizzy carbonation and a characteristic that I like to refer to as "imaginary chewiness."

Yeah, I'm pretty much an expert at describing beer.

Bi-Weekly Fruit Share

Today I rushed over to pick up our bi-weekly fruit share after work where I was given another enormous amount of apples in pears, this time including Bosc Pears, Empire Apples, Jona Gold Apples, and Mutsu Apples (also known as Crispin).

Apple Crisp/Pie

With all these apples I crossed back over to this side of the Atlantic to make an apple crisp. I happened to have some leftover crisp topping in the fridge from the last crisp I made and I cut up two apples (they were huge) to make this enormous pie plate full of apple crisp.

We let the crisp cool slightly before diving into it after dinner. Along with some fresh new episodes of Psych this pretty much capped off the perfect evening.

By the way, Psych is based on the Victorian era crime novels by Sir Francis Crumblesmith.

I love it when a theme remains strong.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bottling Day

After careful planning, and lots of mild panic, today was finally the day to bottle my first batch of home brew beer. There were quite a few debacles including one where I accidentally used a bleach that, somehow, does not sanitize and disinfect to prepare everything for my batch. Thanks go out to all the dedicated home brewers who came out of the woodwork to offer advice and keep me sane.

Filled Homebrew Bottles

I woke up plenty early and got to work cleaning, sanitizing, cleaning again, and spending about 10% of my time doing things that related to the beer itself. After a few hours I'd bottled and capped 36 regular bottles (both 250ml and 12 ounce) and 5 larger bottles (both 500ml and 16 ounce). At the end I had a motley assembly of different sizes and shapes all filled with a beer that I hope does not turn out to be disgusting.

Bottles: Filled, Capped, and Washed

By 1:00 PM all bottles were cleaned, washed, and dripping dry. Afterwards I tossed them all back into the closet where they will ferment over the next 3-4 weeks.

Baby Greens with Golden Beets, Crispy Chickpeas, and Tomato

After the kitchen and apartment had been thrown into turmoil we had to clean our ways back into the kitchen and from there I started putting together a dinner of leftovers. I started with this salad of baby greens, golden beets, tomato, and crispy chickpeas (which after several days had reverted back to regular chickpeas). I served it up with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Fettucine with Pumpkin Crimini Cream Sauce and Ricotta

I took the leftover pumpkin and crimini mushrooms from the other night, threw them in a pan, added a little milk and cream, and added some fresh fettuccine. After tossing it together I added a dollop of ricotta and some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Trappistes Rochefort 10

After a long day of brewing that I would celebrate by having a beer that would be much better than the one I spent all day toiling over. After having the 6 and the 8 it was finally time to have the 10 from Trappistes Rochefort. This was a delicious dessert treat after my long day of cleaning, bumbling, and sanitizing. I cherished every drop of this beer and I'm going to try to keep it in perspective that I am only one man and not a collection of Trappist monks.

Jen's reward was to watch half a dozen episodes of Murder, She Wrote, her new obsession. Her reward was a bit cheaper than mine but it was okay because we both feel we got the better end of the deal. Jen hopes to someday be as stylish as Jessica Fletcher.

I hope to someday be a collection of Trappist monks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a Fluke

The other day I bought a giant bag of crimini mushrooms to go with the giant bag of green beans we'd purchased for an aborted Canadian Thanksgiving dish. Unfortunately the green beans didn't really survive so I was stuck with a tremendous amount of mushrooms and no green beans. What was I to do? Everyone knows there is no other food item that pairs with green beans other than mushrooms.

One thing was for sure, I was truly in a pickle!

Golden Beets with Crispy Roasted Chickpeas and Feta

I started off by making a salad with olive oil, feta cheese, and chickpeas which I roasted in the oven until crispy. I squeezed a little fresh lemon over the top.

Pan Seared Fluke with Pumpkin Mushroom Risotto and Shrimp Butter Sauce

For the main course I got this beautiful whole fluke this afternoon. I seared it in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and Pepper. Before I did this I put together a risotto with garlic, onion, crimini mushroom, pumpkin, sherry, turkey stock, and butter. I put this on the base of the plate and served the fluke on top with some shrimp which I lightly cooked in butter.

Roasted Mushrooms and Pumpkin

The only problem was that I had so many mushrooms and so much pumpkin that if I'd turned it all into risotto we would be dealing with a Canadian Thanksgiving level amount of leftovers.

I decided to divide everything up before pressing on with the risotto which, truth be told, was still far too much risotto. However, it would be nice that we could both enjoy it for a few days as lunch before finally disposing of the excess when it inevitably spoils in our fridge.

Nostradamus Belgian Brown Ale

After this seafood dinner I cracked open this Nostradamus from Brasserie Caracole. At the time of writing this their website is non-existant, which is fine. If it's going to take any time away from them making a beer this good their website can remain dormant for the rest of human history as far as I'm concerned.

The predominant taste of the beer was of molasses. I thought molasses to be an entirely American flavor and not something the Belgians were fond of as well. This beer is perfect for after dinner with a nice sweetness. If you are going to pair it with food I would recommend that you do not but you tend to do what you want to do.

You've always been headstrong that way.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Brew Day

Today was a day I've been waiting for for a long, long time: brew day. In my normal lazy manner of pursuing my goals I finally got around to beginning my own home brew beer. After well over a decade of wanting to do it, and two months after purchasing all of the gear, I finally started on my own batch of home brew.

Sanitizing Brewing Supplies

The day started by unpacking, washing, and sanitizing all of the beer making equipment I'd purchased back in August. This proved to be extremely difficult. Trying to hold a giant, slippery, glass carboy on the edge of a sink while washing it with the extremely short hose sprayer was more difficult than I'd imagined. I took extra care to soak everything in a bleach solution as to hopefully avoid any bacterial infections. Unlike our home canning and jarring experiments I was less on edge knowing that the worst outcome of bad brewing would be a bad-tasting beer. That beats death by botulism any day.

Brew Pot #1 (Too Small)

After putting the 1.5 gallons of water into my largest stock pot it became quite obvious that there really wasn't going to be any chance I could fit anything else into the pot. I put everything on hold, ran out to the local beer shop, and picked up an incredibly poor quality pot that seemed to just one gauge thicker than standard kitchen aluminum foil.

Brew Pot #2 (Just Right)

It was, however, big enough for everything and fairly cheap. Soon the smell of breakfast porridge (or cream of wheat) filled the kitchen.

Foaming Wort

I watched the pot like a hawk, expecting it to foam up and boil over. This was about as bad as it got. Everything I read, everything I've seen, lead me to believe that this boil up would be the worst thing I'd ever encountered. It was nothing compared to scorching milk or making caramel sauce. I was disappointed. I feel like I was cheated out of an overflowing pot and smoke-filled kitchen as part of the brewing process. Either my culinary skills came in handy or I was doing something wrong. It's probably the latter.

Chilling Wort

After a lot more boiling, adding hops, boiling, adding sugar, funneling, adding cold water, chilling, adding yeast, waiting, mixing, waiting, and finally sealing the carboy up my brew day had come to a close. I had to chill it in front of a fan by the window for a while until it was at a low enough temperature to throw the yeast in.

Carboy with Wort in Closet

I set the carboy full of wort into a dark closet where I would allow it to ferment for the next few days.

After doing all of this I have a new found appreciation for people who don't know how to cook. It must feel a lot like this. Having never done this before it was a scary and confusing process. I didn't understand some of the directions and wasn't sure if I was doing it properly. I was reading and re-reading steps in the instructions a half dozen times. There were times where I was just looking at all the ingredients and equipment unsure of where to start. I'm sure I took far too many precautions and I had to search message boards for really dumb questions I kept having. I look forward to a few batches from now where I'm just winging it like I do when I made dinner every night. That will be a glorious day.

Pumpkin Stew with Red Chilies and Ground Pinehill Farms Lamb

After adding the yeast it was almost 7:00 PM so I had to put something together quickly for dinner. I cooked a little crushed garlic in olive oil with onion, red chilies (I was feeling brave), celery root, red potato, and pumpkin. I added salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and a ladle full of the turkey stock I'd made the other day. When that had cooked down I put in some ground lamb from Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine.

I don't know why but this felt very Iron Chef inspired to me. It's probably because it was such a small amount of lamb that it felt very Chen Kenichi to use ground lamb as an ingredient in a pumpkin-centric dish rather than as the main ingredient.

Dogfish Head Chateau Jiahu

After dinner, to celebrate my first brew day, I cracked open this bottle of Chateau Jihau from Dogfish Head. This beer is part of Dogfish Head's "Ancient Ales" series and is based on a recipe developed in conjunction with Molecular Archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern. The recipe was discovered by examining preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic village of Jiahu. The recipe called or fermentation of rice along with honey and fruit.

I chose this beer for a few reasons. One: we'd been watching some episodes of Brew Masters (or as I like to call it, Bro Masters) over the last few nights. Two: this claims to be the oldest beer recipe in the world (over 9,000 years old) so I thought it fitting to drink Earth's first beer recipe with my first attempt at brewing. Hopefully mine is half as palatable.

To conclude the evening we enjoyed the Chateau Jiahu while watching the thematically appropriate Prohibition, a documentary by Ken Burns. There's nothing better than watching a documentary about one of our nation's most embarrassing episodes. This particular beer enhanced the embarrassment knowing that a Neolithic village in Northern China had more sense than the most advanced civilization in the world 9,000 years later.

Oh, America, do you ever stop coming up with really bad ideas?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just Like Dad Used to Make

My dad would probably not mind if I brought up the fact that he doesn't really know how to cook. That being said there are a few items he knows how to make. He is quite adept at making grilled cheese sandwiches though I'm not sure he's made one in the past ten years. One culinary invention that my father did introduce me to was the proper way to eat canned sardines.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "There's a proper way to eat canned sardines?" No? You're not thinking that? Oh, you must be thinking, "Ew, canned sardines, gross!"

Well, to hell with you. I think they're delicious.

Sardines on Buttered Saltine Crackers

My father showed me that you spread a little butter on a saltine cracker, top it with a sardine, and put it away. It's quite delicious. I only made four of these because I wanted four and Jen wanted zero.

Baby Greens with Roma Tomato, Marcona Almonds, and Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue

After the sardines I made some salads with baby greens, Marcona almonds, and this Bayley Hazen Blue cheese from Jasper Hill.

Turkey Soup with Root Vegetables

Jen cringed at the thought of turkey soup last night but I was ale to convince her that tonight was the night. I cooked down some garlic, onion, and celery root then I tossed in some of the roasted butternut squash, carrot, sweet potato, delicata squash, pumpkin, acorn squash, turnip, and rutabaga. I also threw in some of the green beans that we never ended up using for Canadian Thanksgiving, then threw in some chopped turkey and leftover pasta.

Ommegang Three Philosophers

Since I generally am against the idea of having beer with soup I saved this Three Philosophers from Brewery Ommegang and enjoyed it as a dessert beverage. At 9.8% ABV one was enough. More than enough actually. It's that time of year where it's quite cold out but our building hasn't actually turned the heat on yet so a strong Belgian-style ale was just what I needed to stay warm.

All Jen needed was one sip and a little Northern Exposure. That episode where Walt thinks he saw a caribou really warms you up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Heavy Spending and the Split Personality Beer Tasting

I spent a good deal of today making turkey stock with the leftover Canadian Thanksgiving turkey bones. It was a little too warm out to spend the day with the stove going full blast but making stock is one of my favorite things to do so I let it go. Besides I was feeling a little under the weather and after buying a new car, a new couch, and new kitchen shelves (yes, all in one day), it was therapeutic to smell the broth being made.

Turkey Stock

Repurposing food in a frugal and sensible way, almost balanced out the huge outlay of money.

Shrimp Udon, Spring Roll, and Chicken with Eggplant Garlic Sauce

If it wasn't for our completely senseless take out order! After getting home on a fairly miserable night it was decided that we'd order delivery. We were going to get take out but were shocked to discover that the restaurant by us now offered delivery as an option. What a novel idea! This doesn't generally happen in a city where everyone besides us can afford servants to go and get their take out for them. It must be the economy that made this option suddenly available. Pretty soon people around here will have to start selling their secondary beach houses!

Four in Hand IPA

The To go with this Four In Hand IPA from World Brews in Novato, CA. For $6.99 a six pack this was considerably better than I'd expected. As someone who is not crazy about IPA I was also very impressed. Both my IPA-hating personality and my spending-too-much-on-beer personality were surprised by this beer.

I guess today was full of surprises. Heavy spending and surprises.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mama Mia! That's A-Canadian Risotto!

We only have about seventeen or eighteen pounds of leftover Canadian Thanksgiving food so we're really in the winding down phase of the holiday. Jen, who generally cannot stand repeat meals, has finally reached her limit for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Root Vegetable Risotto with Ricotta and Sage

I started off by rendering some bacon, thinking that would be a good start to warding off the Thanksgiving flavor. I tossed in some butter, a selection of the roasted root vegetables, some whiskey, chicken stock, salt, pepper, sage, and arborio rice. After the rice had fully cooked I added a pat of butter and served the risotto with a dollop of ricotta and some Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale 2011

For beer I had a Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale form Sierra Nevada. I figured it was time for a little break from pumpkin ales. I'd had this beer on tap the other night and really liked it so I decided to break open the one in my beer cupboard cellar.

It was tasty but I enjoyed the one on tap a bit more. This was partially because they served it in a nonic glass and that's just cool. Some day I hope to be able to have a nonic glass of my own.

Whoopie Pie Sundaes

As a final course I scooped some vanilla ice cream and crumbled up some week-old whoopie pies on top with some melted chocolate to make these little sundaes.

It's going interesting seeing if I can continue to carry these leftovers through a full eight days. The real challenge will be in trying to remove enough of the Thanksgiving taste for it to be palatable.

Oh, the holidays!