Group Brew

I spent yesterday at an event run by the Snake River Brewing Club, the homebrewing club that I’ve been a part of for several months now. We brewed around 80 gallons of strong scotch ale and split it up into smaller portions to ferment it. We’ll be getting back together in a month or so to combine the beer into a used Merlot barrel to age for several months.

My brewing system only handles 5 gallons at a time, so I cooked a pot of chili and photodocumented the brew while the guys with 10 and 15 gallon systems did the brewing. The chili was a cheaper version of my favorite recipe– I had chipotle peppers this time, and I used ground beef instead of the tastier chuck roast. One of the other guys brought a Bacon Explosion, which I was interested to try. I’ve never seen one up close before.

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Thanksgiving, Redux

Here’s a lighter take on Thanksgiving that I made a couple weeks ago. Marshmallow-topped yam casserole became roasted yams with caramelized onions; turkey gravy became celery pesto, and mashed potatoes became turnip gratin. We ate this with a bottle of Avery Fifteen, an anniversary ale with hibiscus, figs and white pepper, fermented with a strain of the wild yeast Brettanomyces. The beer complimented the meal in stellar fashion- the brett gave it a tart, wild flavor that cut the richness of the yams and gratin well, while complimenting the celery and capers in the turkey.

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Christmas Dinner

Little late here, but I thought I’d post about Christmas. Beth and I got to spend our Christmas alone this year- after the craziness of a two-family Thanksgiving, it was a welcome change to have a quiet holiday. We opened a few presents- Beth got me Charcuterie, and told me that the “real present” would be letting me make the recipes- and then spent most of the rest of the day cooking.

Beth made Vanilla-Peach jam and several desserts while I made dinner. We invited her neighbor over for the meal, and I served my first-ever attempt at Beef Wellington, along with brussel sprouts and maple-glazed turnips and carrots. We served a Lost Abbey beer called 10 Commandments- a dark strong Belgian ale with rosemary, raisins and honey. For dessert, Beth showed me up with a delicious Gateau D’Liege (a Belgian sweet yeast bread with pearl sugar and raisins), a buttermilk rhubarb pound cake and a arborio rice pudding with mascarpone cream and strawberry preserves.

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Balsamic-glazed Brussel Sprouts

I can’t really take credit for any part of this recipe, but it was so good that I have to share it. Beth was poking around the Smitten Kitchen and found this recipe for brussel sprouts. Since I was raised correctly, I already had an appreciation for brussel sprouts that many people never share, and I set about making this recipe as soon as possible.

We had a few pounds of sprouts keeping cool in the garage, a big bag of shallots from my parent’s garden, and a bunch of Grocery Outlet miscut pancetta in the freezer, so all I really needed was a little time. Fortunately, Beth has an indoor herb garden, so I was covered there as well.

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I spent Thanksgiving with family a state away- my fiance and I took the opportunity to visit the strawberry farm where we’ll be married this spring. She’s picked berries there with her family nearly her whole life- we’re hoping the fruit will be ripe before the wedding. We also ran from family event to family event- two Thanksgiving dinners (an hour or so apart), my grandfather’s 90th birthday party, brunch with our two families, and of course Friday morning shopping. (I found a little game shop, and listened to the employees engaged in a fiery debate about whether Twilight sucked, or really sucked. “I just want one of those little fangirls to come in here so I can give her a book about a real vampire!).

We brought two Ivy Manning recipes to Thanksgiving- shredded brussel sprouts with a roasted red pepper vinaigrette, and oven-roasted sweet potatoes with hazelnut butter. I gave her book Farm to Table: The Art of Eating Locally to Beth as a birthday present last year- there’s not a recipe we’ve made from it that wasn’t excellent.

So I’ve been running in multiple directions at once for the last few weeks, between family gatherings, semester computing projects and thermal physics finals. That brings me to today’s recipe. It doesn’t take long to make something tasty from the right ingredients.

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Dot, not Feather.

That was how I explained the Indian origin of this dish to my fiance’s roommate. Terrible, I know. Beth told me so, and I believe her.

I’ve never met a curry I didn’t like, but this dish was (almost) an exception. I made palak paneer (basically curried spinach with paneer cheese) from an excellent recipe a while back, but I never wrote down the recipe. I tell myself that I won’t forget good recipes, and so I don’t write them down. This is the wrong answer. So, I needed a decent recipe for palak paneer. I hit up the Google, and found a 4-star recipe on Ok, I said… I’ll give this a shot. I should have taken a clue from the way they replaced paneer with ricotta- the name of the dish is palak paneer for crying out loud! I ended up creating myself an account on just so I could express my feelings.

Why, you ask, didn’t I just modify as I went along like a real cook? I’ve used the site several times before, and it always peeves me to see a recipe downrated with a comment along the lines of “These cherry-almond bars were just 2 stars. I used butter instead of shortening and some lemon filling that my mother-in-law brought us from England when she went over for Princess Di’s funeral. I didn’t have almonds, so I topped them with crushed-up peanut clusters left over from Halloween. My husband thought they were too buttery and didn’t like the lemon.” Thanks for that helpful advice. I bet America’s Test Kitchen is just beating down your door so you can spread the good word of “don’t put past-date Halloween crap on desserts”.

*deep breath*

So I followed the recipe, left my comment, and then adjusted the recipe. It turned out well in the end:

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Veener Neeble Valk

There’s a little shop within a shop in Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market. Bavarian Meats is run by two German ladies who look like they just stepped out of The Sound of Music. They sell all sorts of, well, meat, and plenty more besides. Sauerkraut, red cabbage sauerkraut, spiced sauerkraut, curry ketchup…

I picked up a half pound of excellent bacon there, as well as 2 bones worth of Kasseler rippchen. Kasseler is a bone-in pork chop that has been smoked and cured. As I paid for the meat, the owner asked my fiance if we “vood like a veener on vich to neeble vhile you valk?”. It took Beth repeating it for me to understand, at which point I accepted my sample weiner. I went on my way a little more charmed.

Sauerkraut is easy and satisfying to make at home. Like the preserved lemons in the last post, all sauerkraut really takes is time. I’ll put up a recipe shortly- right now I’m going to give you something to do with it.

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