Monday, June 9, 2014

IPAs and an Argument

A good friend and I were discussing the wonders of beer in foods. According to my friend, IPA beers usually cannot be used in recipes because they tend to overpower whatever they are in. I disagree, because it can be done. I will never admit he was right.

Except, he was right, the bugger.

Well, mostly anyway. And, okay, so it wasn't an argument per se but I needed a little alliteration for title. Sue me.

Let us start at the beginning, shall we?

What is an IPA? IPA stands for India Pale Ale. This will involve a history lesson, so feel free to skip down to the recipe if you don't want to listen to my anglophile ass tell you about them.

During the years of attempted British world domination, otherwise known as imperialism, India was a colony of Britain. This and many more countries were subjected to all sorts of take over by the English. There was a saying at the time that the sun never set on the British Empire. As the turn of the 19th to the 20th century got closer, Britain began to lose it's colonies and the shine of imperialism was exposed for what it was; a subjugation of cultures on a grand scale in the quest for domination of markets and resources.

All that aside, during that time, there was no Suez canal outside Egypt. To get to India, you had to take a boat all the way around Africa, which is why South Africa was (half of it anyway) a British colony, so they could make a pit stop. Many beers at the time had little or no hops in them. Deep, rich porters and brown ales were common. Lagers really weren't around yet, and I will explain the difference some other time. These beers would be brewed in England and then shipped in barrels to the colonies. When a trip from England to India was six months or more without any refrigeration, many of the beers would spoil. This made for some very unhappy military men.

Right about this time, it was discovered that hops had an antimicrobial property to them when used in certain concentrations. Highly hopped beer will keep longer than lightly hopped beer, especially in warm climates. As a result the brewers started putting large quantities of hops in the beers before shipping them to the troops in India. The result was a very specific taste profile. When the troops would come home to England they had become accustomed to the highly hopped beers and wanted them again. So a style was born and named India Pale Ale or IPA.

Today, this is a real movement in the beer world. There are people out there that call themselves Hop-Heads and can never get enough of this little cone-shaped bittering agent. The rest of us who like this style appreciate it's more astringent nature that brings flavors like citrus, bitters, and floral profiles to our beer. Personally, I never liked IPAs until I got into some of the really great things that have come out of the craft brew world over the last 10 years or so. Now I love them, and when it is warm out, this is what I drink.

Back to the cooking thing, 'cause its what I do. My friend is correct in that due to the nature of IPAs, using them in foods is a challenge. Hops can really overpower flavors in a dish if you don't deal with their strength in an appropriate way. Other types of beers are very versatile where IPAs can be more limited in this arena. What I know about IPAs, is that you need a good one if you are going to cook with it. It can't be too over the top with bitterness. You are looking for floral or citrus notes, not bitter ones.

I decided to use a beer called Super Fuzz, brewed by the Elysian brewery. This is a blood orange Pale Ale, that actually is best served just chilled, and not too cold or you miss the flavors. It is a lovely example of a well balanced IPA. The orange flavor is slight but it was my starting point. Although technically not an IPA, it has many of the same properties. I discovered this faux pas after I had written this blog post and had another beer nerd tell me that it was, in fact not an IPA. Derp.

Since I did a dessert first (which, lets be honest, is the best thing about being a grown up; eating dessert first) I decided to go with a main dish appropriate for the season. POOOOOOORRRRKKKKKK!!!!!

I thought about ribs but given their unique needs, I didn't think this would be practical. I went with a pulled pork for this one, partially due to its versatility but also because it is good for self serve and I am taking this shit with me.

You have several different ways to do this; crockpot or slow cook on the grill. I wanted to avoid the smoke flavor, as I don't think in this case it would add anything to the flavor profile I was going for. So I went crockpot on this one, with a few exceptions. Here we go, my fellow beer junkies.

Super Fuzz Pulled Pork

1 pork shoulder roast
1-12oz bottle of Elysian Super Fuzz
1 Stick salted Butter, divided
1 Sweet Mayan Onion
1-20 oz can crushed pineapple
1-6 oz can pineapple juice (cocktail sized)
3 tbsp worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp minced garlic
2ish tbsp chopped roasted red pepper (I used deli style in a jar)
2 tbsp red pepper flake

You want to procure a pork shoulder or butt roast that is proportional to the apparatus you are seeking to cook it in. In other words, don't be a nimrod like me and get one too big for your crockpot. I plan appropriately now.

I started by browning each of the sides of the roast in a hot pan with a little olive oil in the bottom. This is not technically searing and it is not about creating a "seal for juices" or any such asinine thing like that. That is a myth. What I am doing is creating a little thing called the Maillard Reaction which changes the amino acids and surface sugars of the meat creating a completely different result than if I hadn't done it. It isn't mandatory but this plays into the flavor layering magic I am creating. Click here for more information on this. Basic kitchen chemistry at work, folks.

This part is really simple, as far as I am concerned. Put the pork in the crockpot, cover it, turn it on low and walk the hell away for 6-8 hours. For whatever reason I have friends that cannot manage this. We humor them and then call for pizza.

Anywho, in about 6 hours you should have something that resembles this:

Take out the roast, put on a cutting board to rest for a while. No worries if it breaks apart. That is what you want. If the roast is not very easy to pull apart with a fork, put it back in the crockpot. You want the fibrils in the meat to completely break down. This can happen anywhere between 170 and 190 degrees depending on how fatty your meat is. You can't really over cook this, so don't sweat it too much.

Now for the beer.

In the same pan you used to brown the meat add 1/2 stick of salted butter and sweat down the onion and minced garlic.  To that add the crushed pineapple, pineapple juice, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, the bottle of Super Fuzz and the roasted red pepper. Cook this down a bit so it begins to look more like a sauce. Add the red pepper flakes now.

Turn off the heat and let it stand for a minute, and then add the other half stick of butter to this and let it melt into the sauce.

Now taste it. Is it spicy enough for you? If not add some more red pepper flake. Not rich enough? Add a little more butter. Don't like pineapple? Well, then you're shit out of luck. In all seriousness, the pineapple flavor is there, but it isn't in your face.

Now assemble how you wish. You could just straight up eat the pork with the sauce on it out of a bowl. We put it on sandwich rolls. It can be served hot, cold, or room temperature which is what I did. Like the beer, room temp seems to make things bloom.

Best things about this recipe, aside from the fact that it is made with beer is that there are no added sugars in this. All the sweetness comes from the pineapple and onions. It is also not too sweet. This could be made and frozen for a quick meal, assuming it doesn't disappear right away. The flavors are subtle but blend together so well.

So IPAs can not only be drunk, but eaten too. Point, set, match. ;)


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Southern Tier and cookin' with Beer!

I'm entering the time of the year where the kids are home all the time ( A L L  T H E  T I M E ), and the weather is finally getting better. Usually I would have some school work to do or some other activity but this year I find myself without any real need to do anything. There will be some of you out there that will say that I am blessed and enjoy it. Sit back, have some fun with BBQs and kids and a couple beers.

Bitch, please.

But I do like food and I love beer. (Those that know me personally will appreciate how much of an understatement that is).

Now as a caveat to this, for my readers that don't know me personally or are more temperate than I, I am not an alcoholic, nor do I drink everyday or large enough quantities to do damage. I'm a craft brew junkie; pure and simple. So don't go running off sending me emails with attachments about how to recognize if you have a problem with booze. I most likely will respond with a snarky comment. So lets save ourselves the aggravation, shall we?

So here I was, nothing to do and I had this beer peeps get together I was getting ready for, and I wanted something special to bring with me. What to do?

After some very nice sampling recently, (with some lovely new friends, I might add) I am reminded how versatile beer is. There are a million and more flavor profiles that can be used and adapted to cooking. There are seasonal beers, dark, light, bitter, sour, etc. Lots to try and explore. And don't be intimidated by the craft beer scene. There are those that are die hards out there but they were assholes before they got into beer, so it isn't a direct result of the beer. The fact that they become more obnoxious after drinking the beer is correlational. Go to a microbrewery, and just try stuff. Most of us are really into sharing what we know and love to talk about it. Especially you ladies! The craft scene is a rather male dominated market, and they appreciate a woman who likes beer. I was told recently that women that know beer, love beer and like to talk about beer are like unicorns; very rare. Lets change that, shall we ladies?

I suppose the whole point of this commentary is that I was bored, and had a thing I was going to and wanted to impress.

How many of you remember that bread pudding thing I did at Christmas time? If you want that recipe click here. Its a great and simple recipe that requires very little fiddle-farting around with.

That was the basis for this creation. You see, the second day after that stuff is cool, it sets and you can cut it into bar cookies. So I thought to myself that beer is just liquid bread right? So I turned my kitchen into Dr. Frankenstein's lair and messed around for many hours. Thank goodness the beer I was using was expensive, so I didn't want to drink it and run out. That, and I would have been loaded before the cooking began, because I bought 4 bottles. One of these days I'll do a post on the process of creation I use in the kitchen and the basics of kitchen chemistry. It involves a lot of swearing in different languages and talking to yourself in a rather angry way until you turn into Lewis Black.

Now the beer I used is one of those things that I like to highlight on its own. Southern Tier Brewery is in Lakewood NY, Hubby's old stomping grounds. It is in the vicinity of Jamestown NY. They have a variety of wonderful beer creations and one of these damn days I will actually go and visit the place while visiting but I just don't get out of town much anymore. They are a great place, so I hear through the hop vine with some phenomenal people. Here is a link to their website for more information. Really good stuff, I promise. The beer is called Mokah, a stout brewed with coffee and chocolate. That's right, I said chocolate.

Do I have your attention NOW ladies? Just be careful, this beer packs a punch at 10% alcohol by volume (ABV).  No worries, after this is cooked the kids can eat it too, the alcohol cooks off.

So here is Southern Tier Brewery Mokah Bars.

1 Large loaf of dense, crusty bread, preferably one that is stale
1 Quart Heavy Cream
1 stick SALTED butter (Seriously, use the salted)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup coffee
3 tsp vanilla
1- 22oz Bomber of Southern Tier Mokah Stout (Give or may want to drink a little)
4 large eggs beaten and tempered
1 bar of dark chocolate (NOT cooking chocolate!)

First cut up the bread in chunks. If you're smart you'll do this the night before and let it sit out to get stale. If you're not, you will be like me and get fresh because you forgot. You can always toast it too. Again, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer I didn't do that either. Put your chunks of bread in a deep 13x9 pan. Set this aside. The size of your loaf matters and this is going to seem like a lot of liquid. When I say large, I mean a good 16 inch long by 4 inch wide loaf here. I have been told not to put "size" jokes in here. I am sure you all will manage coming up with your own.

In a saucepan over low heat, add the heavy cream and butter and heat until the butter is melted. Why did I say use the salted? Here is the deal. Although this thing is a dessert, it is not a typical one. You need a savory element to it, and the salt highlights the sweet. Ever wonder why salted caramels are so in right now? The adult palate can appreciate depths of savory and sweet and the more you play them off each other, the deeper and more complex the flavors. So I said the kiddies COULD eat it. I didn't say they would like it. If you don't have salted butter (to which I say why the hell not?) add about a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt to the butter after it is melted.

Whisk in the sugar.

Add your coffee, vanilla and the beer.

This stuff was so good all on it's own I could have gotten naked
and swam in it. 

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and temper them with the hot mix in the saucepan and add the egg mixture to the saucepan. I hope you all know what I mean by tempering, yes? We've been through this. Review your notes or Google it. You cannot skip this step. If you don't temper there will be scrambled eggs in there and that blows. If you skip the eggs altogether you will just have hot wet bread. Continue to stir over low heat until it just starts to thicken.

Pour this yumminess on the bread chunks, gently fold to fully incorporate.

Now throw it in the oven at 350 for approx 45 minutes. Now you all know by now that all of this is totally arbitrary. You more than likely have some liquid left over. Bread loaves are like people; Sometimes the bread is more dense than others and sometimes the loaf is bigger, etc. You are looking to make the bread sopping wet with liquid just pooling in the low spots. Err on the side of less rather than more, we are making bars here, not pudding.You can always add more liquid while cooking but if you blow it all up front, and it doesn't come together you're pimped and have to start over, and eat that one as pudding.

I know, the things I do for my recipes.

What a BEAUTIFUL thing!

Just grate some dark chocolate over the top, or make a drizzle. I really could give a flying duck about how you put the chocolate on top, just don't over do it. But don't skip this either. There is coffee in the bars like in the beer but there is also chocolate in the beer you want to highlight. Just a touch.

I never got a chance to take pictures of the bars all done, as I was kind of in a hurry. They didn't last long, trust me.

As a side note, I have decided to spend this summer documenting beer events and recipes that include beer. It should make for an interesting series. I am bouncing around like a hipster on crack at the prospect, let me tell you.

So there ya go. Enjoy them and I am going to go try to find something else to put beer on.

Cheers, darlings!