Beer of the Week: NW Peaks Spickard Spiced Ale

By Iron Chef Leftovers

The Mountain Beers from NW Peaks in November had a decidedly seasonal tone to them – Thanksgiving dinner. There was a pecan pie beer (review forthcoming) and a beer that invokes the flavors of stuffing – the Spickard Spice Ale. You don’t see too many beers that use savory (herbs) rather than sweet (nutmeg, cinnamon, etc.) spices, so I was really excited for this one.

From the NW Peaks Website:

The name. The mountain. Spickard is juxtaposed to Mt Redoubt (the namesake for our red ale) and is a great alpine destination, although accessibility is limited to put it mildly. To get to Ouzel lake located at the base of Spickard, you have to travel through Canada and then hike back into the US to Depot cirque. The waterfall en route is one that might not be matched by another in the N cascades. Truly a splendid location.

The Beer. While many breweries are doing pumpkin spice beers in October, we decided to wait until November. And instead of using Halloween spices (pumpkin), we went towards Thanksgiving spices/ingredients. We started with a base that includes more than 25% maize giving the beer a thicker, sweeter flavor. We then added some spruce, rosemary, and thyme that give the beer a flavor reminiscent of thanksgiving stuffing. A great beer on its own and a perfect accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.

untitle8dThe beer pours and amber reddish brown with a cream colored head. The nose is dominated by strong notes of rosemary and sage with hints of corn and grain supporting the herbal character. The beer leads off with solid herb flavors of sage and thyme with supporting notes of wood (not oak – think tree branch) and rosemary (probably the spruce in the beer), before moving into a slightly sweet middle, supported by grain and a mild corn character before finishing long with notes of yeast joining the herbs and corn. The finish is long and all of the flavors integrate perfectly, forming a liquid cornbread stuffing beer. The beer drinks well on its own but it truly shined with a traditional thanksgiving meal where its depth of flavor truly stood out when paired with turkey and stuffing.

NW Peaks Spickard Spiced Ale makes a glutton out of itself, rolling in at 4 turkey induced comas out of 5.

Beers of the Week: Epic Ales/Odin Sage and Chervil

By Iron Chef Leftovers

Sage and chervil, two wonderful culinary herbs, but not something that you would associate with beer. Sage really tends to pare itself well with fats, and is most tasty when sautéed with butter and pumpkin ravioli. Chervil is a relative to parsley and is wonderful on salads, lending notes of anise to the dish. Because of the Iron Brewer competition at Beverage Place Pub, Odin and Epic got to use these two herbs in a head to head competition.

Epic Ales – the beer poured hazy yellow in color with strong notes of Belgian yeast, sage and pineapple in a surprisingly complex nose. The initial taste was much drier than I was expecting with light notes of black licorice balanced with a slight sweetness. The beer then builds on the sage component, starting out hidden before a long but subtle incline before being joined at the end by some light citrus. The Belgian notes are a background player throughout the beer and this beer is surprisingly well balanced without the herbs dominating the beer or the Belgian flavors dominating the herbs. Given the Belgian treatment, I guessed it was Odin and I was wrong.

Epic’s version of the beer sunned itself with 3 window boxes out of 5.

 

Odin – The beer poured golden yellow in color with heavy sage and grain on the nose and very strong yeast suggesting a pilsner. The beer starts slightly sweet before giving way to a distinctive and pronounced herb flavor – you can definitely taste both the sage and the chervil in this beer, but is still maintained the pilsner like character of the beer, providing a nice crisp balance. The beer finishes long with hints of salt and sugar while still managing to be balanced and slightly dry. This beer had a much more pronounced use of the herbs while still balancing that with the beer character, and I thought that this beer would have been perfect with a grilled chicken breast because of its herb component.

Odin’s version of the beer cultivated a solid 3 Anthriscus cerefolium out of 5.

Both of these beers were well done, but I picked Odin’s as my favorite and so did the crowd.

Chicken Burgers with Apple, Sage, Rosemary and Oregano

By Iron Chef Leftovers

If you are making burgers, meatloaf, sloppy joes, etc., there is something to be said for grinding your own meat. When you buy pre-ground meat, you never know exactly what it is composed of. Grinding it yourself eliminates the guesswork and makes for a better product. It is also much easier than you think it is – if you own a kitchen aid stand mixer, the grinder attachment runs about $50 and works really well. If you don’t, go to your local butcher (or even your local megamart if they have a butcher counter), buy the cut of meat that you want to grind and then ask them to do it for you. Trust me, it makes a difference.

Recently PW and her husband came over to the Iron Chef abode for dinner. I asked what protein they would like and I was told chicken burgers. I thought back to some chicken burgers I have had in the past – they were bland and dry and I wasn’t going to serve that. I then remembered back to a really good house-made chicken sausage that I had at a restaurant years’ ago and decided that would be the base for my recipe. I wanted something that was moist and flavorful but easy to make. This is what I came up with.

The key to this recipe is using freshly ground chicken thighs. You can probably use pre-ground chicken but you run the risk of the burgers drying out and will probably pay more per pound for the pre-ground meat than you will for the thighs. This recipe will make 4 good sized burgers, but can easily be scaled.

The Software
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs; ground
1 teaspoon minced sage
1 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 teaspoon minced oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup apple, peel removed and diced into 1/8 inch pieces
½ large egg, lightly beaten

The Recipe
If grinding your own chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes and freeze for 10 minutes to firm up the meat before putting it into the grinder. Add all of the ingredients to a bowl and gently toss to combine. Divide the mixture into 4 equal parts and gently form into patties (you could make sliders and probably get 8 out of this recipe). Set on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (the burgers can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for 24 hour until ready to use). Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the burgers. Cook on the first side until a crust forms (about 4 minutes) and carefully flip. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the internal temperature reaches about 175 degrees (7-10 minutes, depending on your stove). Remove and serve to a hungry public.

Notes
The recipe can also be made on the grill. I would highly recommend starting these out on a cast iron skillet to form a bit of a crust before putting them on the grill surface – the burgers will seem loose and gravity will pull them through the grates of the grill initially. To check your seasonings, cook a very small amount of the mixture and cook it in a pre-heated skillet – it should cook in about a minute and this will tell you if you need to add anything seasoning wise. I used a Fuji apple for this, but you can use just about any apple you would like. It is important to use the apple – it helps to keep the chicken very moist. I suppose that you could use chicken breast for this, but you would run the risk of the meat drying out before it is done. I used fresh herbs when I made this dish, if you use dried, cut the amounts in half and test the seasonings – you can always add more but you can never take any away. This is a pretty mild tasting dish – if you want to ramp it up, some jalapeños or crushed red pepper would be really nice. Letting the formed patties sit in the fridge is important. If you don’t do it, they will fall apart when you cook them. You could freeze them and cook them later if you aren’t going to use the entire batch.

Skillet Fried Potatoes

By Iron Chef Leftovers

This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.
This type of steamer basket works best. You can get them at Amazon.com for about $8.

I do entirely too much reading of cookbooks. These days, I am not really looking for recipe ideas, more just to learn techniques. One thing that I hate to cook, but Mrs. Iron Chef loves to eat are potatoes. For me, they really are just a vehicle for adding stuff to it, much like chicken breast, so you go from healthy to unhealthy in a hurry since potatoes don’t inherently have much taste. For my End of the World meal, I was making beef stew served in a can, which I thought about it, and what goes better with beef stew than potatoes (well, celery root puree, sun choke puree…just humor me here). I took a hybrid technique from Modernist Cuisine and Cook’s Illustrated to come up with this recipe. This really isn’t much more difficult to do than making regular potatoes, but you will get better texture on them and you can actually do stage one in advance and finish them when you are ready to serve. When you are done, you should end up with potatoes that are creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside. The only special equipment you really need is a steamer basket.

The Software
1 large Yukon Gold potato, cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons fat (bacon fat, duck fat, butter or olive oil all work well. See note below)
Salt and pepper

The Recipe

Stage 1 – Fill a large pot with water to just below the surface of the steamer basket. Heat water over high heat until steam is visible. Add the potatoes to the basket in a single layer. Cover the pot and steam for 13 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness – you are aiming for them to be slightly al dente and they should have leached their starch to the surface, so they will feel tacky. Remove them to a plate lined with a couple of paper towels and dry. It is important that the potatoes are dry before starting stage 2.

Stage 2 – Heat a large (12 inch) skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes (don’t use non-stick here). Add the fat and heat over medium-high heat until it just begins to smoke. Test the heat of the fat by dipping the edge of one potato slice in the fat. If it sizzles immediately, the fat is hot enough and you can add the potatoes in a single layer. If they all won’t fit in the skillet, you can do stage 2 in multiple batches. If the fat is not hot enough, continue heating it until you can get your test to sizzle. You are really just browning/reheating the potatoes and looking to get a golden crust on each side, so you probably won’t need more than about 2 minutes of cooking time on each side, checking after 1 minute to see the progress. After both sides are browned, remove to a cooking rack or a plate with a paper towel, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve right away. It pairs nicely with this Beef Carbonnade recipe.

Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.
Your end result should look something like this. You can also get really classy and serve it in a can, like I did.

Notes
You really want the potatoes dry before putting them in the fat since hot fat + water = bad news. Your cooking time will really depend on what type of fat you use. Animal fats (butter, bacon fat, duck fat) have a lower smoke point than vegetable fats (olive oil, vegetable oil), so they will reach that stage quicker and take longer to brown the potatoes, which is why you really want to check them after about the first minute. You can actually skip stage 2 if you want and just serve the potatoes steamed. Just increase the cooking time to about 16 minutes in the steamer. This dish would also benefit from the addition of some fresh rosemary, sage or thyme.