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Really Drunken Noodles

September 26, 2011

Ok, so I’m not going to bother with the requisite “Sorry I’ve been such a negligent blogger, blah, blah, blah…” anymore.  Apparently, I’m just going to post when I’m going to post and we’re all going to have to accept that.  That being said, let’s get right into it!  And get ready for a long one; I’ve gotta make up for lost time.

Last week, a coworker of mine told me about a beer Ballast Point Brewing had released recently to celebrate Holiday Wine Cellar (North County San Diego’s premier liquor store) and its 46th anniversary.  The beer is Indra Kunindra–an India-Style Export Stout with curry, coconut, kaffir lime leaf, cayenne, and cumin. The recipe was from local homebrewer Alex Tweet; Alex won Holiday’s 2nd annual homebrew competition in late 2010 and his prize was for Ballast Point to brew his wining recipe on a commercial scale.  This beer interested me on two levels.  First, it sounded frickin’ delicious and second, it’s a supremely local beer–crafted by a San Diego resident, brewed by one of the best breweries in San Diego County, and only available at one San Diego retailer.  It’s a treat reserved exclusively for those of us who are already afforded more beer opportunities than most.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a shame that most people are not going to have access to this unique brew but I do like that I get to feel just a little special every time I take a sip.
Beer So I picked up a couple bottles at Holiday on Saturday: one for drinking and one for cooking–as soon as I had read the description on the bottle I knew I was going to be blogging about this one.  I brought a bottle to a friend’s house to share and everyone agreed that Indra Kunindra is a phenomenally different beer.  It has a subtle sweetness from the coconut, a delicate curry fragrance on the nose, and a pleasant bite from the cayenne.  I quite enjoyed it but there was a lot going on on my palate, so I was totally satisfied savoring my five ounce pour.  My drinking companions all thought that a Thai yellow curry was the dish to showcase this beer but I disagreed.  I thought that by cooking the beer with even more coconut and curry, you’d just negate the presence of the beer altogether.  But the flavors did obviously lend themselves to Thai cuisine, so instead I chose to do a take on my absolute favorite noodle dish, Pad Kee Mao, otherwise known as Drunken Noodles.

Drunken Noodles don’t traditionally contain alcohol; they’re so named because of the desire you’ll have for a cold beer after tasting this spicy dish.  Never having worked with fresh Thai chiles, I was extremely conservative with the heat.  I only used two chiles but, if you’re the adventurous type, use as many as you can handle.  Personally, I like to keep things mild so that I can pile on the Sriracha later. 😉  And as far as protein goes, just use your favorite or whatever’s on sale at the market.  I got a screaming deal on chicken breast, so that’s what I used.  And I fried up some tofu to throw in as well, because I love the play of different textures.  If you don’t like it, don’t whine at me, just leave it out.

Really Drunken Noodles
1/4 c. Black soy sauce
1/4 c. Golden Mountain Sauce
1/4 c. fish sauce
1/4 c. Indra Kunindra, room temperature (if you’re lucky enough to be able to get it.  Otherwise use Maui CoCoNut PorTeR or any other sweet porter or stout.)
3 Tbsp. Canola oil
1/2 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained, pressed, and cut into 1 inch cubes
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Fresh Thai chiles, to taste (I used 2 and it was extremely mild)
1 green onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced into thin half moons
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
2 eggs, beaten
1 large chicken breast with rib meat, sliced thinly
1 lb. fresh wide rice noodles, rinsed and separated (if fresh noodles are unavailable, cook equivalent amount of dried noodles according to package directions, drain, and set aside)
1 c. bean sprouts
1 c. Thai basil leaves

In a small bowl, whisk together the sauces and the beer.  Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet (or a nice big wok, if you have one).  Toss in the tofu and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside.

Add the garlic, chiles, and green onion to the hot oil and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Toss in the onion and bell pepper and stir fry for 3 minutes until the onion is just beginning to soften.  Push the veggies to one side and add the beaten eggs to the other side of the pan.  Use a spatula to stir and scramble the eggs until just set.  Add the chicken to the pan and stir fry until cooked through.

Once the chicken is cooked, turn up the heat slightly, pour in the beer sauce, and add the fresh noodles.  Using tongs, toss the noodles, vegetables and chicken with the sauce.  Throw in the tofu and toss.  In the last 30 seconds of cooking, add the bean sprouts and basil and toss.  Cook until the basil is just wilted.
Serve immediately.  The beer gave the dish just the slightest hint of curry and a sweet richness that balanced the saltiness of the soy sauces.  It was actually remarkably easy to turn out a really nice looking, restaurant-style dish, so don’t be intimidated by Thai cooking if, like me, you’ve never attempted it before.  And any ingredients you’re unfamiliar with you will be able to find at any Asian market or well-stocked specialty store.

But we’re not done!  For good measure, I did a yellow curry as well:

Thai Yellow Curry
1 Tbsp. Canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 green onion, sliced thin
1 chicken breast with rib meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
Yellow curry paste, (2 Tbsp.-1/4 c. depending on your taste and the strength of your curry paste)
1 large potato, peeled and diced small
1 1/2 cup green beans or long beans, trimmed and broken into 2 inch piece
1/2 lb. extra-firm tofu, diced into small cubes
1 can coconut milk
3/4 c. porter

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onions and bell peppers and cook for 3 minutes until softened.  Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on the outside.  Add potatoes, beans, and tofu to the pot.  Add curry paste and toss with veggies and chicken to coat.

Add coconut milk and beer to pot and stir to combine.

Bring curry to a boil.  Cover the pot, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked through, about 2o minutes.  Serve with jasmine white rice (or brown rice if you like a little extra fiber, like me).  I think I was correct in my prediction that the beer would get lost in the dish.  The spice of the curry and the sweetness of the coconut milk buried the subtle flavor elements of the beer.  The stout did contribute a rich color to the curry, however, and that was nice. As for pairing, I’d serve this meal with a crisp craft lager, something to counteract the spice and let the flavors in the dish really shine.  Enjoy!


Red Poppy Rhubarb Apple Crisp

April 27, 2011


I’m baaaaaaaack!  Terribly sorry I’ve been gone so long, although I haven’t been entirely shirking my duties.  Stone Brewing Co. has asked me to contribute recipes featuring Stone beers to their blog, so if you visit the Stone Blog, you’ll find a couple new recipes for your cooking pleasure.  But let’s get down to business.

Until now, I have avoided cooking with sour beers.  This has nothing to do with their suitability for cooking, or lack thereof.  This simple fact is that I am a sucker for sours.  It is my absolute favorite style and I have a hard time parting with even a drop for use in a recipe.  But I am doing a disservice to my readers (and myself) by not fully exploring the cooking with beer possibilities, so I have made the sacrifice.  I landed on Red Poppy Ale, a Flanders red ale from Lost Abbey brewed with sour cherries and aged in French oak.  This year’s version was released mid-February and I’ve been clinging to the last bottle in my fridge, but last night I said goodbye  in a deliciously glorious way.

I decided to pair the tart libation with rhubarb, a piquant vegetable (fruit?) that exemplifies the bounty of Spring.  People often try to temper the sour bite of rhubarb with sweet fruits (i.e. strawberry rhubarb pie), but that’s not my style.  It’s denying the true nature of rhubarb.  Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim, rhubarb’s gotta be sour.  So with today’s recipe we’re going to embrace the pucker.  Rhubarb and apples come together in a simple crisp that showcases the produce far more than the pastry.  And the Red Poppy adds an incredible brightness to the already tart flavors.

Tart Rhubarb Apple Crisp
3 c. rhubarb, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces (5-6 stalks)
3 c. apples, cut into 1 inch pieces (about 3 medium apples.  Use any variety of thin-skinned red apple; I used Pink Ladies.  And leave those skins on!  It’s called fiber–get some!)
1/2 c. Red Poppy (or any other variety of Flanders Red Ale)
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. flour (I used whole wheat flour; you gotta sneak in those whole grains where you can, right?)
1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease 8×8 baking dish with butter.
Mix chopped rhubarb and apples in a large mixing bowl.  Pour beer over fruit.  Add sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla and stir till sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.

Pour rhubarb mixture into prepared baking dish.

Mix remaining ingredients (except butter) together in large mixing bowl.

Pour melted butter over topping ingredients.  Mix with your hands until coarse crumbs form and there’s no dry flour at the bottom of the bowl.  Pour crumb mixture over rhubarb.

Bake crisp at 375 for 45-50 minutes.  Top should be golden brown and the fruit mixture should be really bubbly.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Serve crisp warm with a lovely scoop of ice cream on top.  You can use plain old vanilla, or you can be an innovative fancy-pants like me and doctor that vanilla up just a tiny bit…

I started with Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream in Vanilla Bean.  I chose it for several reasons.  First, no dairy!  Which means I can nom on it freely without fear of debilitating gut rot (TMI? Sorry…).  Second, the coconut milk adds a depth of flavor beyond just plain vanilla.  And finally, coconut milk ice cream has the best texture of any ice cream I’ve ever had.  No joke.  Sooooo creamy.  It’s a little pricey, but well worth the investment for this rich and creamy treat.

(Note: Do your ice cream doctoring before starting the crisp, to give it a chance to harden back up.) Anyway, I let the ice cream soften a bit (the ride home from the grocery store should suffice for this).  Then I scooped roughly 2/3 of the pint into a mixing bowl (I left some in the container in case my experiments went horribly awry–I didn’t want to be stranded without any ice cream at all!)  To the ice cream I added about a 1/4 cup of Red Poppy, stirring quickly to blend the beer and ice cream thoroughly.  You want to maximize the thoroughness of your mixing while minimizing meltage, so work fast!  The more the ice cream melts, the higher your chance of big ice crystals forming as it refreezes.  It should be about the consistency of soft-serve at this point.  Pour the mixture into a lidded tupperware container, cover, and replace in the freezer.

When your crisp is all baked, and delicious, and ready to be served, take that refrozen ice cream out of the freezer.  The flavor is smooth and sweet, with just a hint of cherry tartness.  It pair beautifully with the crunchy topping and sour filling of the crisp.  Yes, I am a genius and yes, you may bow down at my feet.

Tofu Beersala

February 26, 2011

Today we’ve got a vegetarian (vegan, actually!), beer-i-fied version of a classic: chicken marsala.  Tofu replaces chicken for a healthy variation full of soy goodness.  And, of course, we’re using beer instead of Marsala wine.  I chose Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron for it’s dark, sweet, malty deliciousness.  This caramelly, wood aged, brown ale also has a lovely thickness to it (at 12% ABV, it ought to), which lends itself well to making the sauce for this flavorful dish.  You definitely don’t want to use a light, high carbonation beer for this.  A Belgian Quadruple style would work well here, if you can’t find the Palo Santo, but seek it out if you can–the depth of roasty flavor and sweetness is hard to match in another brew.  This recipe serves 2-4 depending on how hungry you are.  And if you are confused by the scant amounts of food in the pictures, good eye!  I prepared a half recipe just for myself  (because the boyfriend has a severe aversion to tofu).

Tofu Beersala
1/4 c. plus 2 tsp. cornstarch, divided
1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed to remove excess moisture, and cut horizontally into 8, 1 inch pieces
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots or 1/2 medium onion, finely minced
1 tsp. dried thyme or 2-3 tsp. fresh thyme
10 oz. sliced white or cremini mushrooms
3/4 c. Palo Santo Marron (or similar beer)
1 c. vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. tomato paste

Combine 1/4 c. cornstarch and flour with salt and pepper in a bowl.  Heat 2 Tbsp, oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Dredge drained and pressed tofu slices in flour mixture, turning to coat on all sides.

Place slices in hot oil.   Cook the slices until crispy and golden brown on all sides, watching to make sure they don’t burn.  Remove from pan and place on a plate, covered with a paper towel.  Set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp. oil to pan.  Add shallots and thyme to the oil and cook over medium heat until the shallots or onions are translucent and golden brown.  Add mushrooms and cook 5 minutes, until tender.  Add beer and mix thoroughly.  Allow the beer to reduce for a minute or two.

Create a roux in a measuring cup, combining broth, remaining 2 tsp. cornstarch, and tomato paste.  Add this mixture to the mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes until thickened.

Serve with the tofu slices over your favorite mashed potato recipe.

And if you too have a severe aversion to tofu, or a soy allergy, I’m sure this recipe would work just as well with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Be sure to pound the chicken breasts down to a uniform thickness before dredging and frying.  Enjoy!!!

Bread Pudding: Lost and Found

February 8, 2011

Whew!  I made it through the holidays relatively unscathed and now I can get back to blog posts!  Hooray!  What’s that you say?  You say, “In what universe do ‘the holidays’ last from September to February?”  That is a fair question, my friend.  And the answer is, “The universe in which I try to hide my laziness under a flimsy veil of excuses.”  Sorry!  In all honesty, the last five (FIVE!) months have been intensely busy but that is no excuse for not sitting my ass down and typing up a couple paragraphs once a week.  I’ve realized that I’m never going to be able to realize my lofty goals and ambitions without being able to commit to a simple, periodic blog post.  I just need to do it.  So I suppose this blog is going to act as a litmus test for my future.  Yikes.

But enough about my shortcomings.  I owe you guys a recipe!  Think of it as a belated Festivus present.  I’ve been super sick all weekend, so today I needed some straight up comfort food–warm, rich, and delicious.  I decided to make a grown-up version of one of my all-time favorite desserts: bread pudding.  Well, let me clarify.  Bread pudding would be my favorite dessert if everyone didn’t always insist on putting raisins in it.  Raisins ruin everything!  Don’t get me wrong, I love raisins on their own.  But as soon as you put them in a baked good or (heaven forbid!) a savory dish, you are relegating me to a mealtime punishment of picking out those little, chewy nuggets of blech.  No raisins. It was decided.  I was excited about the bread pudding prospect, though; this dessert is just crying out for some beer!  I mean, what else is going to accent and amplify the bready goodness like a dark, malty ale?  Why aren’t more people doing this?

For my beer selection, I chose Lost and Found, a brew by local San Diego favorite, Lost Abbey.  This beer is a lovely, dark, abbey style ale with heavy notes of dried fruit.  I chose it as an homage to traditional bread pudding because it is made with…raisin puree!  Perfect!  I can add a teensy bit of raisin essence without all the actual yuckiness.  At the shop where I found the beer, I also happened upon a loaf of fig anise bread from local bakeshop extraordinaire, Bread & Cie.  I had been planning on just using a french baguette, but this loaf called out to me as the perfect, sophisticated pairing for this exceptional brew.  Plus, I love giving a shout-out to local business when I can.











Alright, I’m done squawking.  Let’s get to the good stuff.

Lost and Found Bread Pudding
For the Pudding
4 or 5 c. french bread or fancier bread (enough to fill an 8×8 baking pan), cut into large cubes
1 1/4 c. milk (I used almond milk but, if you prefer cow juice, make sure you use whole milk)
4 Tbsp. butter (plus a little extra to grease the pan)
3/4 c. beer (room temp and flat is preferable)
1/3 c. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. Bourbon vanilla extract (or regular, if that’s what you’ve got)

For the sauce
3/4 c. milk (see note on milk above)
1/4 c. beer (room temp and flat)
1/3 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. flour
pinch salt

Set bread out to get a bit stale, a couple hours to overnight (the amount of time depends on the moistness of your bread, the dryness of the air, and your impatience).  When you’re ready to make the pudding, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8×8 baking dish with a bit of butter.   Add cubed bread to dish and set aside.

Bring milk to a gentle simmer in a small saucepan.  Add butter and allow to melt completely.  Add beer, stir to combine and remove from heat.  Allow to cool slightly.  In the meantime, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Add cooled milk mixture to the eggs slowly, stirring all the while.

Pour the egg/milk mixture over the bread in the baking dish, making sure to saturate all pieces.  Place dish in the oven and bake 40-50 minutes, until pudding is set.

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.  About 10 minutes before serving, bring all of the ingredients for the sauce to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes.  To serve, pour sauce over warm bread pudding.

Just as I suspected, the maltiness of the beer really compliments the breadiness of the pudding, and the little extra beer bitterness in the sauce is enough to please a more adult palate.  And if you really must add raisins to your bread pudding, I reluctantly grant you permission.  Just sprinkle them over the bread before you add the egg mixture.   But as you do so, know that I am judging you heartily.  Enjoy!

Mi Cerveza Es Mejor Que Tu Cerveza

September 27, 2010

I’ve been asked recently why I am making food with beer that is difficult to obtain (namely Stone Smoked Porter w/ Chipotle Peppers [silver medalist at GABF, by the way] and Double Bastard Ale).  Ok, folks.  I am nothing if not a responsive blogger.  Last week I brought home some Stone Pale Ale, Stone’s flagship beer and undoubtedly one of the easiest to find.  This beer is a total classic.  It has a smooth malt profile, with biscuity notes as it warms up, and the hop profile is relatively mild (well, mild in grand scheme of things, anyway).  This beer could take a lot of shapes and contribute a lot of flavors to many a dish.  Subtler beers are wonderful in that way–they can be molded, and will conform to the flavor profile you are looking to create with your cooking.  Of course, this present a problem for those of us who are clinically indecisive.  I suffer from the plight of too many options.  I weighed this problem heavily in my mind for a couple days and decided to stick with last week’s cultural theme.  I made food from the land of the boyfriend’s people– it was time to represent my own rich heritage.  So travel with me to la isla de Cuba!

I chose to make Arroz con Pollo, a traditional Spanish dish that is extremely popular in Cuba.  It’s a classic one pot meal that includes sauteed chicken, herbed rice, and vegetables.  This is something that mi abuela and my mom have been making for years: total comfort food for me.  I’ve been adjusting their recipe over the years, adding and subtracting where I see fit, and have landed on the one below.  I’ve always used beer in this recipe, but this is the first time I used anything other than a Mexican lager.  The result was fantastic!!!  Whereas before the beer added a bit of color and flavor to the cooking liquid, the addition of Stone Pale Ale brought a depth of flavor I’ve never experienced in this dish.  The malt really shined through, giving the rice an almost bread-like flavor.  And the hops gave it a slightly bitter edge that complimented the vegetables’ bright crispness.  I have no qualms bragging about my arroz con pollo to whomever will listen on a regular basis, but this definitely was the best batch I’ve made yet.  Never again will a lifeless lager touch this dish by my hand.  Now that I know the potential that can be attained when using quality, malty beer, that is exactly what I will do.  Alright, enough gabbing–here’s the lowdown on this epic, Cuban entree.

Arroz Con Pollo
8 chicken thighs (I used boneless and skinless, but the chicken stays a bit moister if you use bone-in with skin)
Salt, pepper, and cumin to season chicken
Olive oil for frying
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, mashed
2 c. Stone Pale Ale
3 c. chicken broth
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 bay leaf
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
3 c. uncooked white rice
1/2 c. frozen peas

Season the chicken with cumin salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet and brown the seasoned chicken on both sides.
Remove browned chicken from the pan and add a bit more olive oil.  Saute onion and bell pepper in the olive oil until vegetables are soft and translucent.  Add mashed garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.

In a large covered pot or dutch oven, combine beer, chicken broth, tomato sauce, bay leaf and spices.

Add browned chicken pieces and sauteed vegetables to the mixture.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the rice, and bring back to a boil.

Reduce heat.  When the rice has absorbed a bit of the liquid, cover and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes, until rice is fully cooked and the mixture is not soupy.  Add frozen peas in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Notes: This one isn’t as easy to vegetize successfully.  But one thing I’ve done that approximates the recipe is this: Drain and press a block of extra-firm tofu to remove all liquid.  Cut the tofu block crosswise into 8 pieces.  Proceed as directed from the sauteed vegetables stage, substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Cook rice and veggies in spiced liquid as indicated.  About 15 minutes before the rice is done cooking, blend the spices used for the chicken in with about 1/2 cup flour.   Dredge the tofu slices in the flour, and fry until golden in a hot pan with olive oil.  When you add the peas to the rice, add the fried tofu as well (this will allow it to absorb some flavor, but prevents it from getting soggy).  The same can be done with prepared seitan, instead.  Again, make sure that you don’t add the seitan too early; mushy seitan is the worst.

Also, I used a separate pan to cook the vegetables and the chicken, and then prepared the whole dish in the dutch oven.  It is preferable if you can brown the chicken and veggies in the same pot you will ultimately cook the rice in, as this allows the delightfully browned bits from the pan to mix in with the whole dish.  My dutch oven just isn’t big enough , unfortunately.

A Shepherd’s Repast

September 10, 2010

What is with this stupid weather?!  I know we’re a mere two weeks from the autumnal equinox, but it seriously feels like summer bypassed us all together here in San Diego.  We had about ten total days of sunshine and heat, and it looks like we’re heading straight into winter with zero apology or remorse from the weather gods.  *Raises fist to the sky and shakes it vigorously*  The upside of it all is that I’ve allowed myself to start comfort food season early this year.  No waiting till December to roll out the rich, warming foods that calm the soul and ease the mind.

This week I managed to get my mitts on some of the elusive Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers.  This is an occasional brew Stone makes, complimenting the dynamic peat-smoked malts with roasted, smoked jalapeno peppers (chipotles).  I think the technical term for it is “bomb-diggity.”  I knew a savory dish was the way to go with this one but I wasn’t sure exactly what.  I asked the boyfriend for some input and he had the answer right away: Shepherd’s Pie.  Leave it to a Brit.

I’ve made Shepherd’s Pie on many occasions, so I improvised this recipe, just replacing half of the broth with the beer (and adding several liberal splashes along the way for good measure–I can’t help myself).  I also replaced the traditional lamb or beef with turkey.  You know, because it’s “healthier.”  Feel free to substitute whatever protein and broth you prefer.  And the spices are up to you.  Use whatever strikes your fancy.  Go where your inner Brit guides you.

I’m not going to lie, it was amazing.   The smoky beer made a rich, complex gravy.  And again, you could really taste the beer!  YAY!  The particular batch of chipotle porter I used wasn’t too spicy, so the pie was lacking in the heat department (kind of unfortunate, but I could easily have tossed in some cayenne to kick it up a bit).   And honestly, I feel like I would have had almost identical results with just the basic Stone Smoked Porter (lucky for you, since that is much easier to get ahold of).  Regardless, the dish was boyfriend approved, and that holds some clout when it comes to traditional UK entrees.

Shepherd’s Pie
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium onion
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. Stone Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers (plus a couple extra splashes)
2 Tbsp. flour
1 c. frozen mixed veggies (I used peas, carrots, corn, and green beans)
3 lbs. potatoes (I used red, but use whatever potatoes you would usually use for mashed potatoes)
1/2 c. milk
2 Tbsp. butter
Various spices (I used thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder to taste)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Wash, peel, and chop potatoes into medium chunks.  Place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook potatoes for 20 minutes until tender.  Meanwhile, brown ground turkey and onions in a large skillet.  When turkey is cooked and onions are translucent, add chicken broth and Stone Smoked Porter to the skillet.
Add spices to taste.  Cumin may not be typical shepherd’s pie spice, but I dig it and it’s my damn recipe!  Leave it out if you prefer.  Cook for 5 more minutes until the liquid begins to reduce.   Sprinkle flour into the mixture and stir it in.
Cook until the gravy thickens and is just barely covering the turkey mixture.  Rinse the frozen veggies in a colander so they’re not so frozen anymore.  Drain them well and add to turkey.  Add a splash more of the porter, just to give it a little more cooking liquid so the mixture doesn’t dry out in the oven.
The potatoes should be done at this point.  Drain them well in a colander.  Return them to the cooking pot.  Add milk, butter, salt, pepper (white pepper if you have it), and a small splash of porter.  Mash the potatoes until very smooth (if you have a potato masher, awesome.  Go to it.  If you’re old school like me, use a fork and some elbow grease).

Pour the turkey mixture into a deep 8 or 9 inch square casserole dish.   Top it with the mashed potatoes.
Spread the potatoes into an even layer.  Sprinkle the top with paprika, and place in the preheated oven.  Bake for 30-45 minutes until the potatoes have browned on their peaks and the gravy is bubbling.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top during the last 5 minutes of cooking, just so it melts and bubbles.

As far as serving shepherd’s pie goes, it is inevitably a messy process.  All that delicious gravy (delicious BEER gravy!) does not make for neat and tidy squares.  I recommend throwing away any preconceived “pie” notions you have and treating it like a casserole.  Grab a nice, big serving spoon and just slop it on the plates.  It is so damn good, no one’s gonna care that it looks a mess.

By the way, this a super easy one to vegetize.  Simply use beans or tempeh in place of the turkey, and veggie broth instead of chicken broth.  The smokiness of the porter will still make for an irresistibly rich gravy.  And for a vegan version, replace the milk with unsweetened soy or rice milk and the butter with vegan margarine.  Leave off the cheese.  If you must use vegan cheese, do so at your own risk and please don’t tell me about it.  😛

A Real Bastard of a Brownie

September 3, 2010

Is it just me, or is it often difficult (read: impossible) to taste the beer in many so-called beer foods?  I’ve had cheddar beer soups, beer brownies and cheesecakes, beer can chicken, beer battered everything, etc. and honestly, the most I’ve ever tasted is the smallest hint of malt or hops.  It’s almost always a disappointment.  There are exceptions to this rule, sure, but generally, I don’t think people are letting the beer shine through in their cooking.  I’m going to make it my personal goal with this blog to make the beer a costar in the recipes, not just a supporting character.

Enter Double Bastard Brownies.  Actually they’re Triple Double Bastard Brownies.  (Does that make them Sextuple Bastard Brownies?)  And they are spectacular.  2009 Double Bastard is one hell of a beer, and I was not about let mere chocolate overpower the creamy, caramely, buttery notes of that most Arrogant of strong ales.  If I wasn’t going to drink it, I still wanted to taste it.  So I endeavored to amp up the beer profile in this brownie, bring it to a whole new level.

Step one, put beer in the batter.  Easy enough, but a bit tired, a bit obvious.  How else to beerify the brownies?  What does a good brownie need?  Nuts.  Yes, I am the part of the 50% of the population that insists on nuts in my brownies, and I don’t want to hear it from the rest of you.  Your judgement is flawed.  Anyway, I decided on beer-toasted walnuts for the batter.  I took about half a cup of walnut pieces and soaked them in some Double Bastard for about 5 minutes.  Then I drained them (into a glass–why dump out good beer just because it’s touched some nuts?  [That’s what she said]), spread them on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them lightly with sugar, and toasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 7 minutes, just long enough to lightly caramelize the sugars on the nuts.  Perfection.  Well worth eating on their own.  Maybe I’ll try that with raw almonds sometime, just for an awesome snack…

Finally, I decided on a Double Bastard Caramel ribbon to swirl into the brownies.  I know, madness right?  I googled “perfect caramel recipe” and was unexpectedly subjected to multiple doctoral dissertations on the temperamental qualities of caramel, the differences between wet and dry caramel, the finer nuances of candy making, etc.  Maybe on an ordinary day, this may have been acceptable, but I was impatient to move these brownies from the theoretical/development stages to the hole in my face, so I abandoned my search and made up my own caramel recipe.  I combined 1/2 cup Double Bastard with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan.  I heated it over medium heat until it looked dissolved and caramelly.  Oh, and I threw in 2 tablespoons of butter, just for good measure.  Mmmmmm, butter.  It didn’t get too thick, but it did thicken a little bit.

Time to put it all together.

Triple Double Bastard Brownies
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup Double Bastard
3/4 cup butter, melted
3 eggs
1/2 cup Double Bastard nuts
1 recipe Double Bastard caramel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mix everything but the nuts and caramel together in a large mixing bowl.  Do not over mix, jut make sure all dry ingredients are incorporated into the wet.

Fold in nuts.  Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.  Pour batter into prepared dish and smooth with a rubber spatula, making sure to fill the corners of the dish.  Pour the caramel gently in vertical stripes across the top of the batter.  Then use a butter knife to cut horizontally across the surface of the batter to create little swirlies of caramel on the top of the brownies.  Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (just don’t stick it in a caramel spot!).

Lift the brownies on the parchment paper out of the dish and allow to cool on a wire rack.

These brownies are incredibly rich, malty, chewy and sticky.  The longer they cool, the less sticky they get, so if you’re going to serve them warm, make sure you’ve got plates and forks handy.

The Double Bastard really shines through on these brownies.  The chocolate pairs with the malty sweetness to strike a delicate balance.  And the nuts add amazing flavor and texture.  Friends and coworkers seemed to like them too.  I got resounding votes of approval on these.  If anyone tries this recipe with anything other than Double Bastard, I’d be very interested to hear if the beer stands up to the chocolate.  I think it is a combination of the multiple beer elements in the brownies along with the strength of the Bastard’s flavor that makes the beer such a pronounced flavor in the recipe.  Anyway, happy baking everyone!!!