Friday, October 28, 2011

The 101 on Beer

Call Me A Late Bloomer. I Am Just Beginning To Discover The Magnificent Complexity Of Beer.

I’ve never liked beer…that is until recently. Blue Moon Beer put me on a path of educating myself on the difference between a beer and a really good beer. It’s about time don’t you think?

For most of my adult life, a beer was a beer was a beer. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell the difference between a Bud and a Miller Lite.

Complicating matters even worse, pairing beer with food is a challenge of another kind.

Generally you can pair light dishes with light beer and heavy dishes with heavy beer.

Yes, that’s the one thing I took away from my education today at the Haymarket Pub and Brewery at 737 West Randolph.

There are plenty of breweries in Chicago to go get a lesson on the 101’s of beer but this one happens to have all of the right ingredients for an excellent class: well-informed bartenders and staff, good home brews (their own Belgian IPA ‘Angry Birds’ won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival) and extraordinary food.

I really expected run of the mill bar food and instead got amazing cuisine made with only the freshest of ingredients. The key? They make a lot of what they put on your table in-house.
This white pizza with homemade bacon and blue cheese was to die for.

I was tempted to order more off the menu but I knew my limits. Beer is filling and I had mine after sipping the four brews that were suggested to me as a newbie. Pay particular attention to the fact that they did not ease me in with anything light and fizzy.

Speakerswagon Pilsner 5.8%
Buk Black Rye Rock 7%
7GA I.P.A. 6.8%
Perception I.P.A. 6.5% (this one was put on the menu just two days ago)

I enjoyed all of them but to my surprise, the beer I expected to like the least I liked the most- The BUK Black Rye Rock. It was totally smooth and not heavy like I thought it would be.

Haymarket does sell beer flights – you can order 4 ounce minis for about $1.50 each - and they are a great way to jump in and test the waters. In fact, they are likely to push you from the stage of just drinking beer to really enjoying beer and that was a huge leap for me.

I have always been a wino so here are some easy comparisons between wine and beer:

Light Body
Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Barbera, Pinot Grigio
Beers: Lager, Pilsner, Wheat

Medium Body
Wines: Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah
Beers: Ale, IPA, Bock

Heavy Body
Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay
Beers: Stout, Porter, Barleywine

And with food, I learned this about pairing today…

Pizza, for example, is greasy and requires something that will hold up to the acid in the tomato and take out the greasy cheese but not overwhelm the dish. Pilsners and Lagers do the trick.

Go for stronger and fruitier flavors when feasting on spicy fare: Lighter Ales in particular

Another rule of thumb is if you're pairing a meal with different beers make sure to start with a light beer and work your way to darker beers.

So where was I through all of this when the beer revolution was quietly brewing in Portland and finally took hold in the 1980’s? Turning up my nose on the way to the wine department.

The craft beer industry grew from just a few pioneers to more than 1,700 breweries in 2010. I guess this is when I started to pay attention. Not because the brands were finally getting recognition but because I had my first Blue Moon and was hooked. Suddenly pizza, hamburgers, chili and Mexican all spoke beer to me.

These days, there are even beer pairings for breakfast – Pancakes with a Stout and sausage with a Bock. I’ll have to take this one in later because it can easily burn up another post.

An Always Rule of Thumb: If you don’t feel risky, stick with what you know. Chances are the safe bet is the one you will like the most anyway.

But…on second thought, if I hadn’t taken that risk on the Buk Black Rye Rock 7%, I would still be thinking that a beer is a beer is a beer.

Bon Appetit!

I’ve been making this Beer Cheese Soup recipe for years and have yet to find another one that I like better.

This recipe came from my mom’s high school friend Johnny Glick.The Gluek name has been part of Minnesota brewing history for over 150 years.

Gluek’s always keep in step with technology, first by using one-way (cans) containers for their beer and then by developing a ground-breaking new malt beverage called "Stite," a predecessor of today's "light beer.”

Many drinkers maintained that it had a higher than average alcohol contents and with all of the high alcohol contents I had today, I am convinced that Gluek’s was a brewer before it’s time!

Gluek’s Beer Cheese Soup
½ cup butter
¾ cup flour
1 pint half-and-half
1 – 12 oz can beer
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
White pepper, salt and garlic powder to taste

Heat butter, add flour and blend until smooth. Slowly add the half-and-half, chicken broth, beer, and seasonings, stirring after each addition.
Add cheese and stir to melt.

I was prepared to pass off this recipe as just another onion ring recipe but it was really, really, really good … so I had onion rings for breakfast this morning. Honestly, after making this I think that I have fallen in love with Guinness for cooking.

Make sure you coat them really well with flour when you take them out of the buttermilk.

That second step of dunking them in Guinness and flour was the brilliant extra that made them really crunchy.
P.S. I only use Vidalias.

Guinness Beer Battered Onion Rings

2 large Vidalia onions, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon California-style garlic pepper seasoning
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (12 oz.) bottle Guinness® Extra Stout Beer
4 cups canola oil

Separate sliced onions into rings, transfer to bowl and cover with buttermilk.

Combine 1 cup flour, garlic pepper and salt in bowl and stir to blend.

Combine 1 cup flour and beer in bowl and whisk to blend.

Heat oil in deep heavy pan or deep fryer to 350°F.

Working in small batches; remove onions from buttermilk and drain. Dredge in seasoned flour; shake excess. Dip in beer batter; drain excess.

Carefully lower onion rings, one at a time, into hot oil (do not overcrowd) and deep fry until golden brown, turning several times during frying with tongs. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.

Repeat process with remaining onion rings.

Season with salt, if desired. Serve hot.

I thought that these short ribs would be so much better braised in the oven but to my surprise, they really turned out well and I loved the bath of hoisin sauce at the end.
Serve with mashed potatoes and a great bottle of red.

Braised Hoisin Beer Short Ribs
Dave Lieberman via Food Network

3 poundsbeef short ribs, about 10 ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
10 to 12 garlic cloves smashed
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
12 ounces good ale (recommended: Bass)
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 cup hoisin sauce

Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy pot with a lid (Dutch oven) over high heat. Brown the ribs on all sides, in batches if necessary. Remove the ribs and pour off all but a couple tablespoons of the rendered fat.

Return the pot to the stove, lower the heat to medium and saute the garlic and ginger for about 3 minutes. Add the ribs back to the pot. Add the beer and the vinegar. Stir and then cover and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Pour the hoisin sauce over the ribs, move the pot to the oven, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove ribs and ginger from sauce. Strain fat from the top of the pot so that you're left with just the good stuff.

This was an interesting drink and a perfect lead in for fall.

I used Apple Cider instead of the Applejack. I also used my recipe for Pumpkin Syrup from last week’s post.

Lot 49

1.5 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1 oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz Pumpkin Syrup
5 drops Cinnamon Tincture
3 oz Stegmaier Pumpkin Ale

Shake the non-beer ingredients well with cracked ice. Pour into a rocks glass, add cold beer and stir. Rim glass and garnish with an orange wheel.

I discovered homemade chicken bratwurst at my butcher shop a year ago and haven’t had a “real” one since they are that good.

I have a really good recipe for German Potato Salad but I liked this one, too. The eggs gave it a different consistency and I used pancetta instead of bacon. I also did not mash the mixture. Somehow I just can’t imagine taking the masher to something I painstakingly put together. It looked splendid the way it was.

Remember to closely monitor the addition of vinegar and mustard to the mix as it is definitely a matter of taste.

Grilled Bratwurst with German Potato Salad
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse (via Food Network)
Makes 4 to 6 servings

4 beers, 12 ounces each
1 1/2 pounds Bratwurst links (2 to 3-ounce links)
Vegetable oil, for brushing brats
Brat rolls, brown bread or hot dog buns
Crock of whole grain mustard

Potato Salad:
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and diced
6 ounces raw bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onions
Freshly ground black pepper
Up to 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (add a small amount at a time, and taste)
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup chopped green onions

In a saucepan, over medium heat, bring the beer up to a simmer. Add the brats, and cook until plump, about 6 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the grill.

For the Potato Salad: Place the potatoes in a second saucepan, and cover them with salted water by 2 inches. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and simmer the potatoes until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well, and return to the saucepan to keep warm.

In the meantime, grab a skillet and cook the bacon until crispy over medium heat. Add the onions, and season with pepper. Saute for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Set aside.

Transfer the potatoes and the bacon mixture (including the fat) to a large mixing bowl. Add vinegar (to taste), mustard, eggs and green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Using the back of a spoon, mash the mixture together.

Lightly brush the sausages with oil. Place on the grill, and cook for a few minutes on each side.
Remove the sausages from the grill, and serve with potato salad, rolls and mustard.
Who doesn’t love Mac and Cheese? This version adds the great flavor of beer and be sure to use the panko crumbs. I didn’t think I had any and the ends of my elbows got a slight bit crispy.
I found them a week later. Do you think it’s time to clean out my cupboards?

Beer Mac and Cheese
serves 4-6

2 1/2 cups uncooked whole elbow noodles
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces milk
4 ounces beer
8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese
4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch of black pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare water for pasta and boil according to directions, shaving 1-2 minutes off of cooking time since pasta will continue to cook in the oven.

Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and add butter. Once melted and sizzling, whisk in flour to create a roux and cook until bubbly and golden in color, about 2 minutes. Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add cheeses and stir until melted. Turn heat down to medium and continue to stir, cooking for 5-6 minutes while mixture thickens.

It will most likely NOT thicken like regular mac and cheese because of the beer, but you want it to thicken a little bit. Stir in pepper, paprika and nutmeg.

Add noodles (once cooked and drained) to a casserole dish, then pour cheese over top, mixing gently to combine. Top with panko bread crumbs and an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

I saw this photo in a magazine and liked it so much that I used a biscuit cutter to make a circular design instead of the square just like the photograph.

As it turned out, the sweet little cakes make a perfect base for fruit and whipped cream…just like a shortcake.

Blue Moon Blondie Bites

1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
1 c. white sugar, granulated
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2/3 c. Blue Moon beer (Be sure, when measuring, that you get 2/3 cup of beer and no head.)
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon extract
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking pan liberally with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and lemon extract.

Beat in the flour and salt alternating with the beer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Once a uniform batter has formed, fold in the zest.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the blondies comes out clean.

Allow the blondies to cool completely before cutting. At this point you may choose to slice conventional square blondies or use a circular cutter to cut smaller, round blondie bites.

In Mexico, the first clue I had that someone drank too much the previous night was that they were eating carnitas and drinking Micheladas for breakfast the next morning.

We’ve all been there and this Michelada recipe takes the trophy for curing whatever it is that grabbed you the night before.

Makes one beer cocktail

1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice – this is roughly the juice of one medium sized lime
3 – 5 dashes of Tabasco
3 – 5 dashes Maggi seasoning
• 3 – 5 dashes Worchestershire sauce
Ice cold Mexican beer of your choice –Tecate is my favorite

If you want a salt rim, rub a lime wedge along the rim of your glass of choice and dip in a saucer of kosher salt to create the salt rim.

You can fill the glass with ice. I don’t use ice. Maybe years of being true to the warning not to drink the water.

Build the cocktail in the glass by pouring in the lime juice, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce and Maggi seasoning.

Top with beer to desired level.

Stir gently and serve.

I don’t usually eat chicken thighs because of the high fat content but I would make this dish again. The sauce is delicious and has so much flavor.

I’ll bet you can also use this sauce over BBQ or boneless breasts.

The mustard made the sauce so make sure you have plenty because I was just shy of a Tablespoon.

I would also use a tad more flour and a little less butter to make the sauce a little bit thicker.

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs w/Beer And Grainy Mustard Sauce
from Fine Cooking, December 2010/January 2011

8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 cup amber lager
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 475 F, with a rack set in the lower third.

Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer. Cook until the skin is well browned, about 7 minutes. Flip the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast the chicken until it is cooked through - an instant read thermometer should register 170 F, about 5-8 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the skillet. Add the shallots to the pan and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the flour until combined. Gradually add the beer, chicken stock, maple syrup and thyme, whisking frequently. Raise the heat to high, and bring the sauce to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the sauce reduces to about 1 cup (or to your desired consistency), about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the mustard and the butter, then season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, dip each chicken thigh in the sauce and turn to coat. Plate the chicken, then spoon additional sauce over the top and garnish with fresh thyme, if desired.