Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here's Looking at You, 2011!

So 2011 has given us some pretty interesting moments; presidential candidates making absolute fools of themselves on national television, tornadoes in Alabama, the discovery of Earth-like planets, a potential vaccine against HIV/ AIDS, and for me a winning lottery ticket (just kidding).  

Here at OGW, things have been pretty exciting as well; since May we've had visitors from every continent (with the exception of Antarctica), an impromptu conversation with a U.S. Senator on the merits of roasting lamb, and a very popular posting for an easy(ish) Irish Car Bomb Cake!  I'm still looking for rendered horse fat to make the perfect pomme frites, but I suppose that leaves me something to write about next year.
4,910 Hits and Still Going Strong!

To all of our readers and dedicated followers, we wish you the very best fortunes for 2012 and thank you for your continued support!  

The Mayans may have predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012, but that doesn't mean I'll stop writing about good food and great beer.  

See you next year!

-Sam

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

A Saison of a Different Color


(review of Saison de Noel from the YellowhammerBrewery of Huntsville, AL)

I’ll be the first to admit, the title for this review is intended to be an ironic cliché.  My apologies to my fellow beer snobs who realize this is as reckless as unregulated beer vat on a hot summer day!

Originally brewed by French speaking Belgian farmers saisons historically made use of wild yeast strains which inevitably changed both the final flavor and color of every beer produced.  So to say that this saison is “of a different color” is as comically erroneous as a presidential candidate’s press conference. (for a descent and concise article on saisons please see the Wikipedia article by clicking here

But for this particular brew the irony was entirely warranted; because this is no normal saison.  Pitch black in color it resembles a strong stout more than a true saison.  With a pleasant maltiness you would swear it was a stout.  And with an ABV that rivals some Rieslings you would think you were drinking a barley wine!

In spite of the unconventional qualities of this brew, I give it my full endorsement.  It is by far the BEST “Christmas Ale” I have encountered this season, with a sweet bite and a balanced spiciness that leaves you wanting the festivities to continue well into 2012!

Origin: YellowhammerBrewery of Huntsville, Alabama
Style: Belgian Saison
ABV: 9.8%
Appearance: Pitch black, with a slight twinge of deep mahogany around the edges.  Though for a saison, it seems remarkably clear with very little sediment.
Aroma: Surprisingly, this beer does not boast a very strong bouquet.  When you do catch a fleeting whiff of its musk, your nostrils will detect very ripe fruit, with raisins, and a touch of honey. 
Taste: The taste, though enjoyable and complex, can be summarized as a yeasty Belgian dubbel.  Rich roasted maltiness, meets a complex array of spicy yeast.  The taste profile concludes with a slight vegetal presence and crisp hopiness.
Mouthfeel: Surprisingly this beer opens with a pleasant crispness.  The body was weaker than I would have preferred, but substantially better than say “Blue Moon.”  Unfortunately, the only drawback to this entire beer is its prolonged lingering aftertaste (which is not entirely unlike eating an acerbic persimmon!)

Tasting Note:
This beer needs air!  I have tried it on two separate occasions (once at its world-wide debut, and again several days later).  I can only say that some oxidation seems to help concentrate the flavors and accentuate the balance of sweet against spicy.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Recipes: American Kanelbulle Cake (Cinnamon Bun Cake)


 Author’s Note:
I ♥ cinnamon… I love it in my yogurt, on my apples, and even in my tea.  Let’s just say that I’m obsessed (for the complete posting on cinnamon read “An Ode to Cinnamon”).  So anytime I can turn cinnamon into a good brunch dessert, I’m all for it.  And this recipe is just “the fix for my jones”…Apologies, drug lingo has never been my strength.

Eat good food.  Drink good Beer.  And above all, stay classy.

American Kanelbulle Cake
BY: Sam Parks (Dec. 2011)

My mother’s entirely family is Scandinavian.  Her father is of Norwegian descent and her mother is Swedish.  And around the holidays there is always more than a little nationalistic one-ups-man-ship around the dinner table.

Not many people know it, but the Swedish people’s greatest contributions to global society are dynamite and Kanelbulle.  Of course you probably know Kanelbulle as cinnamon buns or sticky buns.  My version of this recipe incorporates raisins and cinnamon into almond flavored egg dough for the perfect balance of spicy brightness with subtle sweetness, though the glazing does add the mammoth blast of sweetness Americans have come to expect.

So put in that old DVD of “Fargo,” find on your flannel hat, and shout “Uff Da!”  From my family to yours, I sincerely hope that you enjoy this Americanized version of an Old World classic...at least it’s safer to eat than dynamite.  
American Kanelbulle Cake

INGREDIENTS

For the dough:
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 0.5 oz. (2 packages) bread machine yeast
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 oz. almond paste
  • 2 tsp. amaretto
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks + 1 Tbs. water lightly beaten (reserved for the egg wash)
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 Tbs. cinnamon

For the filling:
  • 4 Tbs. melted, unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts

For the glaze:
  • 2 cups confectioners/ powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

DIRECTIONS

  • Dissolve the granulated sugar in the warm water.  Add the yeast to the sugar/ water and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.  Set aside in a warm place for 10-15 minutes, you should see a healthy head of foam forming on the mixture by this point (surprisingly an oven set to 400 degrees and turned off after 1 minute, is the ideal location for “proofing” your yeast/ dough).
  • In a 2 quart sauce pan bring the milk to a light simmer.  Add the butter, salt, honey and almond paste to the milk.  Continue to cook the mixture over medium heat until the butter has completely melted and the almond paste has dissolved.  Cool to room temperature (you can cheat by adding a few ice cubes; just keep in mind that you may need to adjust your flour)
  • Into a large mixing bowl, measure 8 cups of all-purpose flour.  Pour the yeast slop into the flour and begin mixing by hand. 
  • Slowly add the milk/ honey/ salt/ almond mixture to the flour.  When the mixture resembles thick oatmeal, add the eggs, raisins, cinnamon, an amaretto (it’s easier to add these at this stage rather than later).
  • Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (this may take 15-20 minutes).
  • Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, and allow the bread to rise for 1.5 – 2 hrs. or until it has doubled in bulk. 
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 24 in. x 12 in. 
  • Brush the surface of the dough with the melted butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon, brown sugar, and walnuts. 
  • Tightly roll the dough on it long axis (see figure 1).  The tighter the roll and the more rotations made are critical to ensure the filling is evenly distributed.  Just be careful not to tear the dough.  

Fig. 1
  • Pinch the two sides of the long seam together, using a little water if necessary.
  • Then roll the rope of dough around its short axis so that it resembles a coiled snake (see figure 2)
Fig. 2
  • Place the coiled dough into a greased and floured 8 in. cake pan.  Allow it to rise for approximately 1.5 hrs.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cook for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the loaf from the oven, and brush with the egg wash.
  • Return the loaf to the oven and cook for 10 additional minutes.
  • Remove the loaf from the oven and allow it to rest until it reaches room temperature.
  • Combine the powdered sugar, milk vanilla, and cinnamon until it is a thick, milky consistency.  Pour the glaze over the loaf, and enjoy! UFF DA!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Hex-Avor (a.k.a the Hexagon of Flavor)

I like to ease into my day...much like someone approaching a cold swimming pool or a scalding hot cup of coffee.  I can think of no reason why anyone would want to leap out of bed and rush straight into his or her day.  I will admit that I spend a few minutes every morning just reading various articles from around the web before I jump into the day's tasks.  

So today I found myself perusing the food page of www.huffingtonpost.com, when the headline "Western-Asian Flavor Differences Revealed By New Study," grabbed my attention. As it turns out, science has now confirmed what serious foodies have known for years... Western cuisine embraces the subtle nuances of similar flavors, while Asian culinary traditions build upon contrasting flavors and textures (duh?).  (for the complete article please see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/western-asian-flavor_n_1152211.html?ref=food)

What truly fascinated me in this piece wasn't the profound "revelations" espoused by the authors of this scientific study, but rather their accompanying graphics.  The study analyzed 1,000s of recipes from Allrecipes.com and Epicurious.com, and assigned a molecular index based on taste for all of the ingredients listed in the referenced recipe   The result of their analysis is one of the most complete comparisons of flavor profiles I have every encountered. 

In the original artwork posted below, you can see the general patterns for flavor affinities. Meats pair with well with things like bread and cheese, fruits pair remarkably well with wines, and surprisingly, but not unbelievably, aromatic herbs pair well with black tea.    
  
Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )

 What I found particularly interesting was the center of the chart...  All of the foods/ flavors seem to branch off from/ revolve around a hexagon of six distinct items: tea, black tea, jasmine tea, cocoa, coffee, and beer.  Of course one could make the argument that there are really only four profiles, but I couldn't think of a cleaver name for a "square of flavors." 

And so the Hexagon of Flavaors  (Hex-Avor) was born...  A unique set of ingredients that will pair well, at least in the Western sense, with just about anything.

Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )  

 Now as a lover and aficionado of all things beer, I couldn't pass up an opportunity such as this.  It turns out beer does in fact pair better with cheese than wine.  You'll note the only direct link between cheese and wine is Parmesan to white wines, while beer and cheese share almost share an indelible flavor branch.  Garret Oliver must be smiling this week!

Image courtesy of Nature.com ( http://www.nature.com/srep/2011/111215/srep00196/fig_tab/srep00196_F2.html )

 PS-If anyone knows where I can purchase the full size version of this chart or find an interactive digital copy, please let me know.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Recipes: Beer Braised Bangers


BY: Samuel Parks (November 2011)

Using beer to braise these snappy sausages really enhances their flavors, and when reduced the braising liquid makes a great gravy for your mash (aka mashed potatoes state-side).  This dish was featured at the Nook Tavern in mid-November 2011, and was a terrific hit!  Try these with horseradish mashed potatoes and English peas, and you’ll definitely be pleased.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Beer Braised Bangers with English Peas and Horsey Mash

INGREDIENTS
  • 10 bratwurst sausages (Johnsonville brand is fine!)
  • 2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 oz. fresh thyme
  • 3 oz. fresh parsley
  • Olive Oil (for frying)
  • 24 oz. stout beer

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat (on medium-high) approximately 2-3 Tbs. of oil in a dutch oven.
  3. Fry the sausages in the hot oil, just to sear the outside.  Do NOT cook through.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, and transfer to the oven.
  5. Cook for 30 minutes and then rotate the sausages.  Return the pan to the over and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the herbs from the braising liquid and transfer the dutch oven to the stove top.  Bring to a boil and cook until reduced approximately 8-10 minutes.  Pour the onion gravy over the sausages and enjoy!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Cookie Swap 2011

Ok, so for the past few years the operations department at our office has hosted a small (but very intense) cookie swap.  Each year we all try to out do our previous creations.  Some years we are successful; and other years not so much.  

But win, loose, or draw we always seem to have a great time.  Since this is a food blog, I thought it would be appropriate to post of the images of the finished products.  We had some excellent entries this year, but as always I hope we can continue to grow this tradition for many years into the future.

Thanks to my terrific coworkers for sharing their culinary creations!



Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Uncle Sam's Mayo Lid Beef-alo Burger, Stuffed with Smoked Cheddar and Provolone

Author's Note:
So I didn't win the Football Nation Ultimate Tailgate Recipe Contest...Truth be told, I think someone on the staff had a few ringers thrown in at the last possible second.  But my loss is your gain.  Below is (IMHO) the best damn burger recipe on the planet.  Ok, so maybe it's not the best on the planet, but it's still darn tasty.

   Uncle Sam's Mayo Lid Beef-alo Burger, Stuffed with Smoked Cheddar and Provolone
An American staple gets a quick update from buffalo meat and smoked cheeses. The perfect make-ahead; storing these burgers in the fridge for a few days before the big game only helps to intensify the flavor of the meat and accentuate the smoky spices. The cheeses help to the keep the burger moist while cooking, and with a little help from the molasses you’ll have perfect grill marks every time!

INGREDIENTS
-2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
-1 Tbs. olive oil OR bacon drippings
-1 large red onion, finely diced
-3 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
-1 Tbs. fresh thyme, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-1 lb. ground buffalo meat (90/10)
-1 lb. ground beef (80/20)
-2 egg yolks
-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
-1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
-1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
-1 tsp. smoked paprika
-1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
-1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
-1 Tbs. molasses
-10 quick shakes of Tobasco (or similar hot sauce)
-2 tsp. kosher salt
-2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
-8 oz. smoked extra-sharp cheddar cheese (sliced into small pieces)
-8 oz. provolone cheese (sliced into small pieces)

DIRECTIONS
  • In a large non-stick pan, melt the butter and oil (or bacon drippings). Add the onion and cook 5-6 minutes over medium heat until it is translucent but not browned. Add the minced garlic to the pan and continue to cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and thyme to the pan and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from the pan allow the mixture to cool completely.
  • Mix together the ground buffalo, ground beef, egg yolks, bread crumbs, green chilies, chipotle powder, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, molasses, Tobasco sauce, salt, and black pepper (it’s ok to use your hands).
  • Add the onion and herb mixture to the meat and spices. Mix well.
  • Line the lid of an old, 1-quart mayo jar lined with kitchen wrap.
  • Push 4 oz. of the meat mixture into the bottom of the lid. Place 1 oz. of cheddar and 1 oz. of provolone cheese into the meat on the bottom of the lid. Place an additional 4 oz. of meat on top of the cheese and press down. (make sure the cheese is completely covered by the meat)
  • Gently pull one corner of the kitchen wrap up, to remove the burger from the mayo lid. Reform with your hands if necessary. Store all of the completed patties on a large plate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This helps to improve the flavor and texture of the finished product.
  • Preheat your grill or pan to medium high, and liberally rub the grate with oil.
  • Place the patties on the grill and cook for 5-6 minutes per side, or until it reaches the desired doneness.
  • Place on a Kaiser roll (trust me you will need a manly bun with some substance for this burger; wimpy little McBuns need not apply) and top with mayo and steak sauce and whatever else you usually put on a burger.
  • Enjoy and watch the game!
 Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"That's not a burger...Here's a BURGER!"



So for an upcoming recipe contest I had to include some images of the finished product (aka Photo Shoot time!)

Here are some of the best images from the shoot for "Uncle Sam's Mayo Lid Beef-alo Burger, stuffed with Smoked Cheddar and Provolone."  Don't worry, if it doesn't win I'll share the recipe anyway :)






Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy.

Uncle Sam's Buffalo Balls with Whiskey BBQ Sauce


I’ve never eaten actual “buffalo balls,” and after trying these I’m happy not to.  Tangy buffalo meat and smoky spices give these otherwise very traditional meatballs some added chutzpah.  Paired with a spicy Jack Daniels BBQ sauce your tailgating partners will beg for more!

(serves 8 appetizer portions)

Uncle Sam's Buffalo Balls with Whiskey BBQ Sauce

 INGREDIENTS

For the Meatballs
-2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
-1 Tbs. olive oil OR bacon drippings
-1 large red onion, finely diced
-3 Tbs. flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
-1 Tbs. fresh thyme, finely chopped
-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
-1 lb. ground buffalo meat (90/10)
-1 lb. ground beef (80/20)
-2 egg yolks
-1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
-1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
-1/2 tsp. chipotle powder
-1 tsp. smoked paprika
-1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
-1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
-1 Tbs. molasses
-10 quick shakes of Tobasco (or similar hot sauce)
-2 tsp. kosher salt
-2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
-8 oz. finely shredded parmesan cheese

For the BBQ Sauce
-2 cups Kraft BBQ Sauce
-1 cup red pepper jelly
-4 Tbs. Jack Daniels
-Juice from 1/2 lemon

DIRECTIONS

Meatballs
  1. In a large non-stick pan, melt the butter and oil (or bacon drippings).  Add the onion and cook 5-6 minutes over medium heat until it is translucent but not browned.  Add the minced garlic to the pan and continue to cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Add the chopped parsley and thyme to the pan and cook for 1 additional minute.  Remove from the pan allow the mixture to cool completely.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Mix together the ground buffalo, ground beef, egg yolks, bread crumbs, green chilies, chipotle powder, paprika, Worcestershire sauce,  liquid smoke, molasses, Tobasco sauce, salt, and black pepper, and cheese (it’s ok to use your hands).
  4. Add the onion and herb mixture to the meat and spices.  Mix well.
  5. Hand form the meat mixture into 1 in. balls, making sure to press firmly together. Place closely together, but not touching, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes. 
  7. Using a wooden spoon, rotate the meatballs and return the pan to the oven.
  8. Cook for 15 additional minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer the meatballs to paper towel.
  10. Serve with Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (directions follow)
 Jack Daniels BBQ Sauce
  1. Combine the BBQ sauce, red pepper jelly, Jack Daniels Whiskey, and lemon juice in a 1 qt. pot. 
  2. Heat until boiling, reduce the temperature and simmer for 5 additional minutes. 
  3. Serve warm with Buffalo Balls. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

New Food Wednesday (Dec. 7, 2011)

What could it be? (photo courtesy of Veronique of Eating Well 101)
It's probably no coincidence that the "New Food Wednesday" series was born on the same day that the New York Times Dining and Wine is published.  So while reading one of this week's articles ("How We Got to Dessert," by Dawn Drzal) I came across what many by modern standards would consider to be the antithesis of desserts.  I was instantly intrigued.  While I don't think I'll be making these for the Holiday Cookie swap at the office, it's good to have a proper perspective on how we arrived at the modern dessert.

(Find out what these strange cookies are after the jump)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Conversation on Hunger


I ♥ food…I love to prepare it, I love to share it, and I especially love to eat it!  And chances are, if you read this you probably too; because let’s face it, my prose isn’t Faulkner-esque and the entire idea of a food blog isn’t exactly new.

Like many of you, I enjoy watching the Food Network.  I enjoy it so much, that I often watch it while I’m at the gym.  I find it engaging enough to distract me from the sluggish countdown timer on the treadmill, but not debilitatingly so; unlike certain cable news channels whose pundits spout opinionated headlines faster than Kobe Bryant can sling homophobic slurs.

I don’t know if it was the Christmas advertisements or holiday baking shows, but for some reason I was particularly touched by one of the newest spots this season.  It was nestled between the latest-testament-to-consumerism-Lexus-ad and one of the ubiquitous Pillsbury cookie commercials, and the spot sponsored by the AARP seemed very, very out of place.  In the ad an elderly woman stands in the express line at the grocery store not out of convenience, but because that’s all she can afford. 

(for the complete ad see the link below)