•Monday, June 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’m fully aware its been a while since I posted anything on here. Hey what can I say. I’m a lazy procrastinator. Several post have been stewing in my brain, or been half written. What can I say, procrastination has worked for me in the past. Need to write a paper on Nietzsche, sexism, and the anti-semitic tone of “The Superman”? Keep putting it off…put it off some more….oh shit it’s due in a few days?!? Time to burn the midnight oil at the library, and walk away with a solid B. Seemed to work like a charm for me. No time to second guess my writing.

Then again German philosopher Martin Heidegger once described procrastination as follows; Procrastination is like masturbation. Sure it feels great and all. In the end you’re just fucking yourself…….Wait a second was that Heidegger, or just some drunken bar philosophy?!? I guess it’s a bit of a miracle I ever passed a philosophy class.

In addition to procrastinating on blog posts, I’ve been equally lazy in the home brewing department. I’m sort of to the point of being a H.I.N.O.(home brewer in name only). In effort to exclaim my truer home brewing status, I need to get out and brew more. Before the ass kicking heat of summer kicks in, and my homegrown hops dictate I brew a tasty fresh hop ale, I’m going to squeeze in a holiday brew that should be perfect by Thanksgiving.

Most people when recommending turkey day pairings tend to go with either full bodied Chardonnays or Merlots……If anyone orders merlot I am leaving. I’m not fucking drinking merlot……Anyways getting back on track…..Consult the bible of beer and food pairing, “The Brewmasters Table” and you’ll get, alongside garret Oliver’s seemingly ubiquitous hefeweizen recommendation……..seriously he pairs damn near everything with it…….not complaining……if it works it works….. You’ll get a recommendation for Biere De Garde, which is what this post is about.

Biere De Garde is Frances great contribution to the world of beers, and specifically to the world of farmhouse ales. The farmers, in what is today Belgium, were busy brewing dry saisons. Across the border in present day France, the farmers were brewing the maltier, but equally rustic, Biere De Gardes. They had various types, better befitting the time of year. From the year round basic Biere de Garde, to the wheat tinged Biere de Mars(spring bier), to even a holiday Biere de Noël. It’s the Bier de Noël that I plan on brewing. Bier de Noel’s are typically a stronger more complex take on the Biere de Garde. It’s with that extra complexity, that you can get a more rounded total thanksgiving meal pairing, not just a turkey pairing.

Santos L. Halper


12.00lbs 66.19 % Vienna Malt
4.00 lbs 22.06 % Munich Malt
0.50 lbs 2.76 % Weyermann Caramunich III
0.50 lbs 2.76 % Aromatic Malt
0.13 lbs 0.72 % Weyermann Special III
1.00 lbs 5.52 % Muscavado Sugar

1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings 60 mins
1.00 oz. Strisslespalt 20 min


1.00 pkg Bohemian Lager Wyeast Labs 2124

Mash 149 F 60 min or until converted
Boil 3 hours
Top off with water to achieve 5.5 gallons
Ferment 162 F
Guard(lager) for 4 weeks at 35

Music to Brew By: French Edition

M83 have been one of my favorite electronic bands for nearly a decade. Their electro-rock had me hooked from the first time I heard them. Their one, to date, radio hit here in the US is one of my favorites. It sounds like 80s pop in the best sense. Though, I do think I’m one of the few who deeply loves the sax solo at the end

As much as I love good electro music, I have to say France is really killing it with the heavy music. Whether its the blackened shoegaze of Alcest, or the forward thinking and avant garde metal of Blut Aus Nord, France is at the forefront of creative metal and hard rock.


Sous Vide Cooking Redux

•Wednesday, September 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

About four years ago I had a post on here involving sous vide cooking. I felt its a good introductory post on the matter. A few years have flown by, and now seems like a good time to revisit things. In that timeframe, proper sous vide cooking at home has become easier and more practical. There are now a few options for the home cook wanting to explore sous vide.

Currently the most popular option is the Sous Vide Supreme. At $430, and roughly the size of a breadmaker, its a good option for most people wanting the next greatest thing in home appliances. If cost and space is a concern, they sell a smaller cheaper Sous Vide Supreme Demi, at only $330. I haven’t personally used this, but plenty of industry folk I trust like it.

I personally use a Sous Vide Professional Thermal Cooker from Polyscience. This is basically a science lab immersion circulator, cleaned up to fit among your current kitchen appliances. The price tag may be steep for most home cooks, but I feel its worth the expense. A traditional immersion circulator can be used to heat up large volumes of water to precise temps. That can be useful if you are cooking for large parties. For half the price Polyscience has recently introduced the CREATIVE Series Thermal Immersion Circulator. Its smaller and a little less powerful. Its only capable of heating about four gallons of water. That should be plenty for the average home cook.

Last, but certainly not least, we have a great option for the DIY, cost conscious crowd. There are plenty of guides showing how you can use your ordinary rice cooker as a makeshift sous vide device. Here’s a pretty good guide from Popular Science – Cooking Sous Vide the DIY Way.

In addition to sous vide hardware, you’ll need a way to vacuum seal your food. I prefer a Foodsaver. This is the model I own – FoodSaver V3835 Vacuum Food Sealer with SmartSeal Technology Any vacuum food sealer will work for most applications. With the hardware side of things out of the way, lets get to cooking.

Right now is a good time of year. The temps are trending down to more barable levels. We are still getting the tail end of the summer’s wonderful bounty. Giving summer one last hurrah, I offer a dish showcasing the best of what summer has left to offer. In this dish I also showcase what can be done with the sous vide way of cooking.

Olive Oil Poached Rock Cod With Charleston Ice cream, and Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder

2 ears of sweet corn, husk and silk removed
3 tsp sugar
A healthy pinch of salt
3 TBL butter
2 sprigs of Tarragon
1 rib of celery, chopped
Half a sweet onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Italian sweet peppers, with a small dice

Using the sous vide device of your choice, or simply a pot and good thermometer, heat your water to 180F. Using a sharp knife, remove the kernels from the cob, reserving cobs for later use. In a vacuum bag add the corn, sugar, salt, 2 TBLS butter, and tarragon. Vacuum seal it all.Drop the bag bag into the water and cook for one hour.
While the corn is in the water bath, its time to make corn stock. Add the cobs, celery, onion, bay leaf and a healthy pinch of salt. Add just enough water to cover.
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, strain and reserve. In a saute pan add the remaining butter. Heat to medium and add the diced peppers. Saute the peppers until cooked through. Remove a 1/4 cup of the peppers, reserving the rest for garnishing later. When the corn is cooked, open the bag and remove the tarragon sprigs. Add the corn, sweet peppers, and a 1/2 cup of the stock to a blender. Blend until smooth. Check the seasoning. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, and reserve for later use.

Olive Oil Poached Rock Cod with Lemon and Tarragon

2 8oz Rock Cod filets, cut into two portions each, chilled – Any firm fleshed mild white fish will work here
1/2 a lemon sliced
4-5 sprigs tarragon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Turn down your sous vide device to 140F. You can use ice or cold water to speed things up. On a plate add a layer of kosher salt. Place you cod filets on top and cover with more salt. Let the filets sit in the salt for about 10 minutes. This both seasons and firms up the flesh.

Remove from the salt and rinse thoroughly. Pat the fish dry. Divide the fillets, lemon slices, tarragon, and olive oil between two vacuum bags. Vacuum and seal the bags.
Place the bags in the fridge until ready to use. Place the bags in the hot water. Cook for 10 minutes and remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove the fish from the bags and blott off extra oil.

Charleston Ice Cream

This strangely titled dish is nothing more than a bowl of rice. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the frozen dairy treat. This is simply another awesome way to cook rice. This method gives you rice that doesn’t clump up, and allows you to taste the individual grains of rice. This is one of the signature dishes at Husk restaurant in Charleston. The chef behind that restaraunt, Sean Brock, is one of my culinary man crushes. This is his way of cooking rice, which pays homage to South Carolina’s former rice culture. He uses Carolina Gold Rice for this dish, a heirloom variety brought back from the grave thanks to him and Glenn Roberts at Anson Mills. They both are doing great things to preserve diversity in our produce. If you can find the carolina rice, by all means use it. I will be using my favorite rice, Texmati, for this version.

6 cups water
1 cup Texmati rice, rinsed*
2 TSP salt
1 Bay leaf
2 TBL Butter, cubed

Heat oven to 300F. Bring the water, salt, and bay leaf to a boil. Add the rice, and reduce to a simmer. Cook the rice for 15 minutes. Strain the rice. the rice should now be al dente. Spread the rice out onto a baking sheet. Put the rice into the oven. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring the rice occasionally. By this point the rice should be dry. remove from the oven. Add the butter, dispersing evenly over the rice. Place the rice back into the oven for another 5 minutes, stirring it up about half way through. Remove the rice from the oven and serve.

To Plate

Olive Oil Poached Cod
Charleston Ice Cream rice
Corn Chowder
Sauteed sweet peppers
1/2 tsp fresh Tarragon, Minced

In the center of a shallow serving bowl add a healthy mound of the rice. Lay one piece of cod atop the rice. pour the corn chowder around the rice. garnish with the sweet peppers and tarragon.

Ewww and Icky Have No Place In Adults Food Vocabulary

•Sunday, June 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

During a recent trip to Austin last month, I was able to indulge in one of the greatest of porcine delights. Thanks to the artisans at Salt and Time I was able to enjoy some very tasty pig head torchon. Of all the foods that can be breaded and deep fried, pig head torchon may sit alone at the top of the heap. To most folks when they see pig head in a name, the “Eww” and “Icky” part of the brain kicks in. They’ll likely never know the delights of such things. This all brings me to my post today.

Before I go any further, I have to burst bubbles. This, unfortunately, isn’t a post on making said pig head torchon. Maybe one day I’ll tackle such things. For now there will be no creepy photos of pig heads. No shots of my kitchen being turned into a creepy Dexter style killing room….I swear officer this is pigs blood….Sadly, no disturbing shots of me looking deranged and maniacal while hacking through a pig’s head with a rusty hacksaw. If you feel inclined to tackle such things, there are other websites for that. One of my favorite people in the food/blogging world, Carol Blymire, has a hilarious and wonderfully successful post on creating said torchon – “Head to Toe” Part Two(Pigs Head).

This post is however about embracing the unfamiliar. To many, the sheer thought of eating anything that came from a pigs head is a foreign and off putting idea. Once they get past that and embrace such things, they find a wonderful taste experience that isn’t that foreign. There are plenty of cuts that sound more foreign than they actually taste. With that in mind I offer a couple of recipes embracing those “other” cuts.

Smothered Pork Necks

Ahh pork necks. I know you’ve all seen them. You’re not quite sure exactly what a pork neck is. Is it even pork…Wow, they sure seem to pack a lot of em in there….Man all that and its only $3.50?!?

Pork necks are dirt cheap. That has made them somewhat mainstays in southern/soul food. Sometimes you’ll find them smoked, but usually not. Pork necks can be quite versatile. You can often find them being used as a ham hock substitute. They pack a porcine quality that is not much different. I prefer to put them closer to center stage. It’s with that in mind I offer a spicy Cajun inspired pork neck recipe.

Smothered Pork Necks

Canola oil
3.5#-4# meaty pork necks
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS Tomato paste
2 TBS Cajun seasoning
1 TSP Cayenne powder
12oz dark malty beer, such as Celebrator Double Bock
4-5 sprigs of thyme

Coat the bottom of a dutch oven, or other large pot, with canola oil and bring to a medium heat. Season the pork necks with salt and pepper. Toss them in flour, shaking off the excess. In batches, brown the pork necks. Once browned, set them aside. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pan. Sweat the vegetables until soft and just starting to caramelize. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook until the paste takes on a rust color, about a minute. Add the pork necks back along with the herbs and spices. Add the beer, and just enough water to cover everything. Cover the pot, and simmer the pork necks for 2 hours. Remove the lid and check the seasoning. Adjust as needed. Cook an additional hour uncovered. Once the pork is tender and the liquid has thickened up, remove the pan from the heat. Serve the pork necks atop a bed of white rice.

*Word of caution – pork necks have a lot of small bones and cartilage. Eat them judiciously and carefully to avoid the bones.

Barbacoa De Lengua

2-2.5# Beef Tongue or calves tongues
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 bottle of Negra Modelo, or your favorite Munich dunkel lager

Using a scrub brush, clean your beef tongue in cold water. Let it soak for a couple of hours in cold water, changing the water regularly. In a large pot add your beer, onion, garlic cloves, and beef tongue. Add enough cold water to cover the tongue. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cooked covered for approximately 2.5 hours( roughly an hour per pound). You can also do this in a crockpot. Add everything to your crockpot and cook the tongue for roughly 8 hours. When cooked it should no longer be pink, and a knife should easily pierce the meat. Remove the tongue and set aside. Let the tongue cool down a bit. It should still be hot, but not so hot you can’t handle it. While warm/hot, peel the skin off of the tongue…bye bye taste buds….Trim off any fatty portions near the end. At this point you can either slice or shred your tongue.

Tacos de Barbacoa de Lengua

1 recipe Barbacoa de Lengua
Canola oil
Warm corn tortillas
Diced white onions
Fresh diced tomatoes
Sliced Avocado
Sliced jalapenos
Chopped fresh cilantro
Limes, quartered
Favorite Red salsa
Favorite Green Salsa

Heat up a comal or other frying pan/griddle. Add your canola oil. Working in batches, crisp up your barbacoa on the comal. Set aside and keep warm. Best served assembly line fashion. Take your warm tortillas, and add some of the barbacoa. Dress that with the condiments of your choosing.

One final note to my family members, friends, and others who have or may have a chance to eat my food: One day I will show up with some awesome brisket tacos. You’ll rant and rave that these are some the best tacos you’ve ever had. You’ll praise my efforts….Starting to sound like a cocky asshole right about now, no?…..Heap enough praise on my cooking over a lifetime and I do become that annoying cocky asshole….its your own damn fault folks…but lets get back on track….After the plates are licked clean you’ll learn that maybe…just maybe…that might not have been brisket….Was it pot roast perhaps? No? What exactly was that we just ate? In that moment you’ll learn you just ate some very tasty Barbacoa de Lengua. You’ll quickly realize just how mundane(I mean this as a positive) and not weird or off putting beef tongue really is. Hopefully it will inspire you to explore other, seemingly strange, cuts of meat you have avoided all these years. Perhaps, maybe one day, you’ll be sending me deranged and creepy photos of you making homemade head cheese or pig head torchon.

Todays mildly creepy post was brought to you by the letters F and U. Those letters are directed at those who will forever view this stuff as “Weird” or “Icky”. It’s ok for kids to go through a picky eating phase. Adults shouldn’t have that same right.

Finally, because why the hell not, some more music to cook by:

Lindsey Stirling: She is a virtuoso violin player with a strong love for electronic/dance music.Never would’ve thought classical violin music and dubstep could successfully be fused together. Her music just seems to click nicely

Boards Of Canada: I’m on an electronic/dance kick today. The reigning kings of IDM(Intelligent Dance Music) have returned….10 long #$E%^@$#@%$%^%ing years since their last album….not bitter….I promise….Their latest effort “Tomorrow’s Harvest” , while not reaching the same heights as their magnum opus “Music Has a Right To Children”, is still one of the best albums released this year.

Liquor Before Beer, Or Is It Beer Before Liquor?

•Tuesday, January 15, 2013 • 2 Comments

Its one of those famous drinking adages. As the saying goes “liquor before beer, never fear. Beer before liquor never sicker.”. If you’re a drinker you have heard that saying countless times. Is there any truth to that saying? Not really. The folks at Mythbusters, with their do diligence, proved that to be false – Liquor and beer. Really I have never had a problem drinking beer and liquor, in any order, in the same night. Its only been when I have consumed in mass quantity the alcohol trifecta – wine, beer, and spirits – that I have ever had a problem. I am just going to blame it all on the wine…..Its not like I have ever gotten sick drinking beer or whiskey…..never happened…..that I can remember. Knowing that beer and liquor can mix and play nice, we come to today’s post – cocktails!

Ever since I developed a love for good beer, my love for fine spirits has grown as well. In increasing regularity I have found myself falling in love with a well constructed cocktail. No, not the fishbowl variety designed to get you hammered while hiding the alcohol it contains. Nor do I care for the wrongly named ‘Tinis….Ugh seriously…..A Martini contains EXACTLY three ingredients – Gin, Vermouth, and orange bitters…Nothing else can be called a martini or use the ‘tini suffix….I mean come on just switching the garnish from an olive to a onion nets you a different cocktail…..Starting to get that stabby feeling…..Ok rant over, now back to your originally scheduled post…… No, I have developed a love for alcohol forward cocktails. In proper cocktail construction each ingredient serves a purpose. Each flavor comes together in a cohesive drink. When well done, its much more than a mere alcohol delivery system. Its with that in mind, that I offer up some classically styled cocktails from a wannabe mixologist.

The Brew Geek’s House Cocktail1.5oz dark rum
.5oz Benedictine
.5oz Raspberry liquor
.5oz dry vermouth
Dash of chocolate & orange bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice filled cocktail shaker. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandy or whiskey infused cocktail cherry.

The Classic…And The Only #@#%#$@!@$# Drink That Can Be Called A…..Martini

2 1/4oz Gin
3/4 oz Vermouth*
1 dash Orange Bitters
Cocktail olive

Combine the gin, vermouth, and orange bitters in an ice filled shaker. Stir** until well chilled. Strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with a cocktail olive.

*With the martini, as well as with the Manhattan and Rob Roy cocktails, there are three ways it can be made. If you just order a regular ol’ martini it should be made with sweet vermouth. If you want a dry martini, it should have dry vermouth. Lastly you have the “perfect” martini. For that you split the vermouth between sweet and dry – for that I opt for a 1/2 oz each of sweet and dry vermouth in the above cocktail.

**For the record, James Bond is full of shit. Cocktails made purely of alcohols(IE devoid of juices/dairy/etc) must always be stirred, and never ever shaken.

Kangaroo Cocktail

2 1/4oz Vodka
3/4oz Vermouth*

I offer up this cocktail in hopes of helping to reclaim the true martini. The falsely made/named vodka martini has become the bane of my cocktail drinking existence. Too many times I have tried to order a martini only to be thwarted by a bartender asking me if I have a preferred vodka. When that happens I order a different cocktail, or go back to hugging it out with my love of beer. I beg of you dear reader, if this is the cocktail you like, please order it by its proper and only name. Its only when we cocktail drinkers order this cocktail by its true name, may we finally restore the glory of the true martini……and hopefully we will put a few dents in that most dreaded of cocktail suffixes known as ‘tini

Combine the vodka and vermouth in an ice filled shaker. Stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

*Just like with a martini you can use sweet, dry, or a combination of both.

India Collins
2oz Gin
3/4oz Lemon Juice*
1/4oz St. Germain Elderflower Liquor
1tsp superfine sugar

In an iced filled cocktail shaker combine the gin, lemon juice, St. Germain, and sugar. Shake hard. Strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Top off with the IPA.

*When using juices, with a few exceptions, you should always use fresh squeezed juices. Bottled juices are fine, but generally do not belong anywhere near a good cocktail. There is definitely no reason not to use fresh squeezed citrus juices.

**For the IPA, opt for a citrusy IPA. The citrus notes work well with the lemon juice, and compliment the botanicals in gin. IPA’s such as Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, Sierra Nevada Celebration, or Breckenridge 471 IPA work well.

Chocolate Maple Bacon Bar
2oz bacon infused rye or bourbon, recipe follows
1/2oz sweet vermouth
1/2oz grade A maple syrup
2 dashes chocolate bitters, preferably The Bitter Truth Xocolatl Mole Chocolate Bitters
3oz imperial stout

I created this cocktail in an attempt to recreate the qualities of one of my favorite chocolate bars. Mo’s Bacon Bar by the higher end chocolate company Vosges is truly a thing of beauty. Smokey bacon melds perfectly with deliscious milk chocolate. If you are a fan of either bacon or chocolate, I command you to seek out a bar of your own.

In an iced filled shaker combine the whiskey, vermouth, maple syrup, and bitters. Shake hard. Strain into an ice filled rocks glass. Float* the stout over the cocktail. Add a slice of cooked bacon as an optional garnish.

*Floating is a way of layering spirits, beers, or other alcohols. To float an alcohol make sure the denser liquid is on bottom. Slowly pour the less dense alcohol over the back of a spoon. If done correctly there should be distinct layers.

Bacon Infused Whiskey
750ml whiskey
3-4 strips smokey bacon

This technique is called fat washing. Its a simple method for infusing the flavors of a fat into a spirit. Dice the bacon. In a pan render the the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve for another use. Strain the fat and let cool, but don’t let it solidify. Reserve one ounce of the fat. Pour the fat and whiskey into a jar. Cover the jar. Let the fat and whiskey infuse for 4-6 hours, depending on how smokey your bacon is. Place the covered jar into the freezer overnight. After the fat has congealed, strain it out. Using a coffee filter, further strain the whiskey to remove any remaining fat. You can now pour your whiskey back into its original bottle. You should now have a tasty whiskey packed with a great kick of smoky bacony goodness.

Dysfunctional Family Fun Day

•Thursday, November 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

That wonderful day where everyone gets to hug it out with an obsessive love of food is almost upon us. Oh, you people cursed to have “normal” families probably know this day as Thanksgiving. What fun is Thanksgiving if you have normal relatives I ask? Its not often you get to take bets on your family members worst traits. Its a wonder sometimes how that day never devolves into a childish cafeteria style food fight. I am sure we came close a number of times. Just one more snide backhanded remark, a few more dirty looks, and some heated political talk could have caused hell to break loose. All it takes is one off color comment from your favorite drunk uncle…..I swear that’s not me……..and it could all be over. I think the fact that that never happened is a testament to good food. At a certain point during the meal, conversations drop off as we all shovel unhealthy amounts of food into our stomachs. Then the inevitable food coma sets in. We all become too fat, drunk, and happy to fight.

In order to help stave off potential fist fights and food fights, I offer up some tasty holiday dishes.

Turkey Brine

72oz beer*
6 quarts ice cold water
2 cups kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 tbls peppercorns
1 bunch fresh thyme
4-5 sprigs rosemary
1 lemon quartered
1 Orange quartered
4 garlic cloves
1 large onion quartered

Put everything except the water into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Cook until all the flavors just come together and the salt/sugar is dissolved. Add the water. Chill the brine.

*For the beer I would recommend something dark and malty. A nice doppelbock like Celebrator, or a dunkel like Flensburger work great. A nice Belgian style wit would work and would complement the oranges in the brine.

Deep Fried Turkey

1 Turkey
8 quarts turkey brine
Favorite Cajun Inspired dry rub
Oil for frying – peanut being traditional

To fry your turkey you will need a 30 qt or larger pot, a propane burner, and a fry thermometer. Plenty of turkey fryer set ups are available this time of year. Take your bird and remove any plastic – such as the pop up thermometer. Now is a good time to check and see how much oil you will need. Place your turkey in the pot. Add enough water to just cover the bird. Remove the bird. Either measure the water volume, or mark the water line on your pot. The day before you plan to fry, place your turkey in the brine, and place in the fridge. Leave it in the brine for 12-18 hours, larger birds take longer to brine. Remove the turkey from the brine. Pat dry. Rub the bird with your dry rub and put back in the fridge overnight. Remove the bird from the fridge at least a half hour before you plan to fry it up. Add you measured amount of oil to the pot. Heat your oil up to 390F. Slowly lower your bird into the hot oil. When fully submerged, check you oil temperature. You want to maintain a temp between 350F and 365f. Deep fried turkeys take about 3-4 minutes per pound to cook. A 15# turkey will take about an hour. When cooked, remove the bird from the fryer, holding it over the pot to let excess oil drain out. Set on carving board and allow to rest at least 20 minutes. Carve and enjoy.

Scratch Made Green Bean Casserole

2# fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed
2 TBS unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1# mushrooms, mix of wild preferably, diced
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbs flour
1/2cup dark malty beer such as a Celebrator Double Bock
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1.5 cups heavy cream
French Fried onions

Preheat oven to 350f. In a large pot bring a gallon of water to a boil with a cup of salt. Add the trimmed green beans. Cook for five minutes. Remove beans from the water and immediately shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking. Remove the beans from the ice bath and set aside. In a saute pan melt the 2 tbl butter over medium heat. Add the diced mushrooms and the shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook the mushrooms until their liquids have evaporated and they start to caramelize. Add the garlic and flour. Cook for another minute. Deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping up all the fond on the bottom pf the pan. Add the thyme, nutmeg, and chicken stock, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add the cream. Cook until the mixture thickens up, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the green beans. Mix ad pour into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top liberally with french fried onions. Bake in oven for about 1/2 an hour, until mixture is hot and bubbling and the onions are a nice dark golden brown.

Joël Robuchon Style Mashed Potatoes

2# potatoes, russets or yukon gold. French ratte potatoes if you can find them would be ultra traditional
1# high quality European butter
Milk – 1-1.5 cups
salt to taste

Joël Robuchon is one of the single most important chefs of the 20th century. He is THE chef responsible for modern French cuisine. His impact on the world of food extends well beyond French food, influencing most modern cuisine around the globe. These potatoes have become one of his signature dishes at L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon. Thanksgiving is the time of year when we say Fuck You!! to diets and healthy eating, a perfect time to bust out these decadent mashed potatoes.

Bring a gallon of water to a boil. Add a healthy couple of pinches of salt. Scrub your potatoes, leaving them whole. Add to the water and boil for a bout 30 minutes or until a knife can be easily inserted and removed. Drain the potatoes. When the potatoes just barely cool enough to hand, peel them. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer. Place the pan of potatoes on a low heat. Stir the potatoes to dry them out. Incorporate the butter, adding a little at a time with the potatoes. Slowly add the milk until the desired consistency is reached. Pass the potatoes through a fine mesh Tamis to lighten and smooth the mashed potatoes. These are very rich mashed potatoes and should be served in smaller portions.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

1 cup heavy cream
1 small can of pumpkin
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup bourbon – preferably Knob Creek
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp clove
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 cups day old crusty bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
6 tbls unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together the cream, pumpkin, milk, sugar, bourbon, eggs, salt, and spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl add the bread and butter. Toss to coat the bread with the butter. Add the pumpkin mixture and combine well. Pour into a baking dish. Bake until custard is set, 25-30 minutes.

More music to cook to!! With this being Thanksgiving and all there is only one song you’ll ever need: The Thanksgiving Song!!!

Inspiration Is A Bitch

•Wednesday, October 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The title says it all. She acts like she’s in love with you. She’ll say all the right things. The moment you can’t “make it rain”, she’ll turn her back on you. At that point you should probably just give up. I mean it’s probably a bad idea to reach in your pocket and pull out handful of quarters, and throw em at her screaming “I may not be able to make it rain, but I can make it hail”……Wait….Wait….Wait…..I think I’m veering off topic before I ever get on topic. This isn’t supposed to be a blog about bad strip club memories…No the inspiration that’s a real bitch is that little voice that encourages you to write, cook, brew beer, or engage in whatever creative activities you may have. Inspiration comes and goes with out warning. Lately inspiration has been sticking around. As long as I am feeling it, this blog will be better updated. Will it happen? Who knows. Like I said inspiration’s a bitch.

Today’s actual post is about a country that has inspired more than a few people, Italy. Italy has long been high in the ranks of great wine countries. For good reason no doubt. I love a good Chianti or Barolo as much as the next alcohol snob. These days Italy is changing. It’s still first and foremost wine country. Lately they have been rising fast in the ranks of good beer countries. Forever it seemed all Italy was on a beer map was a handful of boring generic Euro lagers. The times they are a changing and a growing craft beer scene, not unlike our own, is taking root – Italy’s Craft Beer Awakening. Sadly none of these great beers are available around here. As breweries are able to grow and prosper, I’m sure well see them on store shelves soon enough. When that day comes, it will be a blessing. After all, most breweries willing to jump through the hurdles to get on Texas shelves fall in love with us and stick around a while.

While Italy hugs it out with a new found love of beer, we can fall in love with a beer inspired Italian menu:

Panzanella Salad

1 small red onion
1 half of an English cucumber, or a few baby cucumbers
1.5# Tomatoes, a mix of heirlooms preferably.
1 bunch fresh basil
1 day old loaf of crusty Italian bread, cubed
3 TBSP + more extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP sherry or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Chiffanade the basil by cutting it in thin strips. In a large bowl combine the oil, vinegar, and basil. Take the onion and slice it in half. Cut the onion into thin slices. Take the heirloom tomatoes and core them, and dice or slice them up. Slice the cucumber into thin slices. Combine that in your bowl with the vinaigrette. In a pan heat a bit of olive oil. Add the bread and lightly toast. When lightly toasted add to the rest of the ingredients. Toss salad and season with salt and pepper. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will meld together.

Tuscan Inspired Kale and White Bean Soup

Olive oil
1/4# pancetta, diced
1 onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
1/2# hot Italian sausages, removed from their casings
1# Brined white beans, such as navy or cannellini – recipe follows
1 bunch Kale, washed and cut into a thick chiffonade
12 oz IPA, such as Stone IPA or 60 Minute IPA
1/2 quart chicken stock
Water to cover
3 sprigs oregano
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Salt and Pepper

In a large pot heat, up the oil. Add the pancetta. Brown off the pancetta. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Sweat the vegetables. Add the garlic and sausage. Render off the sausage. When sausage is rendered, drain off the fat. Add to the pot the beans, kale, IPA, chicken stock, herbs, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Add pepper to taste. Let simmer covered for about 1 hour, or until beans are tender. Check seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper. Serve alongside some crusty Italian bread.

Brined Beans
1# dried beans, picked over and tiny rocks removed
4 quarts water
5 TBLS kosher salt

In a container mix the salt and water together until the salt is dissolved. Add the beans. Soak beans for 8-12 hours. Pour off water. Use beans as you would any soaked bean.

linguine Con Vongole e Birra
1# Linguine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil + more
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes
12 oz beer*
1 can diced tomatoes, drained**
1# clams, rinsed and scrubbed
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Water should taste like the ocean. Following package directions, cook linguine 1 minute less than recommended. While pasta is cooking, heat up a saute pan with the olive oil. Add the garlic and lightly brown it. Add red pepper flakes, as much or as little as you like depending on heat level desired. Add beer, tomatoes, and clams. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook six minutes, or until most but not all clams are open. Add the pasta to the pan. Cook the pasta and the sauce for 1 minute, or until the clams are just cooked through and the pasta is al dente. If the sauce is too tight, add some of the pasta water. Add the parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately.

*for the beer, Belgian pale brews work well such as: Belgian style pale ales like Green Flash Rayon Vert or Maredsous blond. Trippels like Boulevard Long Strange Trippel or St. Bernardus Trippel. Belgian strong pale ales such as Duvels

**Adding a can of tomatoes makes a red clam sauce. If you want a white clam sauce, omit the can of tomatoes. Instead add one seeded and diced Roma tomato.

Italian Cheesecake

Amaretti cookies, or your favorite crisp cookie, ground
2# Ricotta cheese
1# Marscapone cheese, or American cream cheese
1.5 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 Tsp vanilla extract
2 TBSP fresh orange zest
1 TBSP Orange Blossom Water
Wild Berry Sauce, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350f. Drain the ricotta cheese in a cheese cloth lined strainer, for about 30 minutes. Heavily butter a 9inch springform pan. Coat with the ground cookies, shaking off excess, and set aside. With a mixer, cream together the ricotta, marscapone, and sugar. Add the salt, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, orange zest, and orange water. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off. Leave cheesecake in the oven for 30 more minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Top with wild berry sauce and serve.

Wild Berry Sauce
2 cups mixed berries, such as raspberries and blackberries
2 TBS sugar
1 TBS Balsamic vinegar

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Let macerate for at least 30 minutes.

I almost always find myself listening to music when I cook. Music offers its own inspiration. With an iPod loaded with over a 1000 albums, I have plenty of music to choose from. I also love introducing folks to great music that is new to them. After all I’m not a selfish hipster. Yes my iPod is loaded with bands/musicians most people have never heard of, but unlike hipsters I don’t aim to keep it to myself. As long as I keep chanting “I’m not a hipster” I can make it happen right? Me living in denial aside, I offer up some good music to cook by, the Italian edition:

Lets start off with some Italian music. I don’t have much in the way of music from Italy. My Italian collection is exclusively metal. If metal is what you need to get the blood pumping, I offer a couple of great Power metal bands:

Thy Majesty

They are an over the top power metal band, in the best since. Their music comes packed with soaring male vocals, plenty of neo-classical guitar solos, and a healthy dose of symphonic elements

Rhapsody Of Fire

They are the godfathers of Italian metal, as well as the originators of the Symphonic power metal style oft associated with Italian metal.

Lets be honest we are dealing with Italian cuisine here. Italians and Italian cuisine are very sexy and sensual. I have a deep love for metal. This is sexy food, and when cooking sexy food you just gotta have some sexy baby makin’ music blasting:

The Weeknd

Abel Tesfaye, AKA The Weeknd, has the greatest R&B voice this side of Michael Jackson. He could sing the U.S tax code, err I guess that should be the Canadian tax code…Damn Canadians…. and women would be falling at his feet to get in bed with him, I have no doubt.

Life Is Like A Shit Sandwich

•Wednesday, October 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell once said “Life is like a shit sandwich. The more bread you have the less shit you have to eat.” Ok he probably didn’t say that. Its more likely the sort of line porn star Ron Jeremy would utter. Regardless of who we can attribute to that quote, it rings true. We spend most of our working lives trying to get more money. So far I haven’t really figured it out. Most people, it seems, never figure it out. So while I can offer no advice on getting more money, I can help with getting more bread.

Since they share so much in common, beer and bread work well together. It can be as simple as using bread to soak up copious pints of beer. I mean there’s a good reason the Germans serve warm pretzels alongside liters of beer during Oktoberfest. Beer and bread’s best and most satisfying marriage is when the two are combined. I humbly offer up some recipes for delicious beer bread, and one signature beer soaker that may well be my curse.

Basic Beer Bread

500g bread flour + more
1 TBL salt
12 oz beer – something dark and malty
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 tsp yeast(one packet)
1 cup water
1/2 tbs cornstarch

Combine the beer and molasses. Heat mixture up to 110F. In a mixing bowl add the yeast. Pour beer mixture over the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. Add the salt and flour. Mix until well combined and you have a firm dough, adding more flour if needed. Knead the dough for 15 minutes. Coat the inside of the mixing bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and add to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise. Let the dough rise until doubled. Punch down the dough. Let it rise until doubled again. Punch it down, and split the dough in half. Shape the dough into whatever shape you want. Move dough to a sheet pan. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled. In a pan combine the water and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook cornstarch mixture until translucent. Preheat oven to 450F. Using a pastry brush coat the dough in the cornstarch glaze. Using a sharp knife make a couple shallow cuts in the dough. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes.

Garlic Cheddar IPA Rolls

600g bread flour
1tb salt
2tbs sugar
2tbl unsalted butter, softened
1 cup IPA such as Sixpoint Bengali Tiger, Stone IPA, or Breckenridge 471 Small Batch IPA
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 1/4tsp dry yeast, or one packet

Mix the sugar, beer, butter, and milk together. Heat mixture up to 110F. Pour beer mixture over the yeast and let proof for 10 minutes. Mix together the flour, salt, cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, and garlic together. Add to the wet ingredients. Mix until well combined and you have a firm dough, adding more flour if needed. Knead the dough for 15 minutes. Coat the inside of the mixing bowl with oil. Shape the dough into a ball and add to the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise. Let the dough rise until doubled. Punch down the dough. Let it rise until doubled again. Punch it down. Take the dough and portion out into small dough balls. I prefer a 3oz roll. Shape dough into round balls. Place onto baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled. Preheat oven to 400F. Bake rolls until golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.

Classic Pretzels

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water, 110 F
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
500g all purpose flour
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
Kosher salt or pretzel salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Stir in milk, sugar, butter, salt, egg and 2 cups of the flour. Beat until smooth. Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn greased side up. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 1 1/2 hours. Punch down dough. Separate the dough into balls and shape into a classic pretzel shape or the shape of your choice. Let dough rise until doubled. Heat oven to 450f. Combine the 10 cups of water and the baking soda in a pot. Bring to a boil. Working in batches boil the pretzels for 30 seconds. Remove to baking sheet. Sprinkle top of pretzels with salt. Bake until dark golden brown, about 12 – 14 minutes.