Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creamy Leek Soup

I participate in a weekly soup lunch with some friends at work and this week was my week to prepare.  I started the dish thinking of a blog post, but almost stopped since sadly, not one part of this recipe was prepared over a live fire.  I know this is a grill blog, but damn, I like soup, so on I went.

Creamy Leek Soup

In hind sight though, certain parts of this dish could certainly be grilled.  In fact, Creamy Grilled Leek Soup does have a ring to it.  Maybe next time, because I can guarantee you, there will be a next time.

If you are looking for a core warming winter soup, look no further than this creamy leek:

Cream Leek Soup
Slightly adapted from Epicurious

8 medium leeks (3 pound), trimmed, leaving white and pale green parts only, and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
1 small boiling potato
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California
1 1/2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream

1.  Wash the sliced leeks in water. I always find it amazing just how much dirt and soil can be found within their layers.  Change the water several times.

Sliced Leeks

2.  Cook the leeks, onion, carrot, celery, salt & pepper in 4 tablespoons of butter in a large heavy pot over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the vegetables soften.  Note: In hindsight, I will grill he vegetables and then add to the pot.

3.  Peel the potato and cut into cubes and then add to the leek mixture along with the wine, stock, water and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

4.  Stir in parsley and simmer the soup, uncovered, 5 minutes.  Be sure to fish out the bay leaf too.

5.  Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook the roux, whisking, until golden, about 3 minutes.  Remove the heat an add 2 cups simmering stock from the soup, whisking vigorously, then whisk mixture into reaming soup and return to a simmer, whisking.

6.  Using an immersion blender (or food processor), blend the soup until smooth.  I absolutely love my Cuisinart Smart Stick Hand Blender.  The Amazon reviews are all over the place, but ours has been used daily for over a year with great sucess.

My favorite stick

7.  Beat the cream in a bowl until you have stiff peaks and then serve topped on the soup.
This recipe seems to scale fairy well.  I doubled everything and it worked great.

So, whether you are feeding yourself for a week or your friends for a day, this soup is for you and when I grill the veg next time, for me again too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

To Infinium and beyond!

With extreme thanks from my friend Todd, a bottle of Inifnium, the collaborative brew between Sam Adams and Weihenstephaner, showed up on my doorstep.

Imperium Ale

Infinium is in a tall, foil wrapped and corked bottle.  It is really quite beautiful.  In fact, it was so beautiful, it sat in the fridge for weeks as I was uncertain as to how and when I would try it.  I'm sure it would have been great to have enjoyed solo while taking a much needed break on the couch, but I believed this was something that needed to be shared with friends and not coveted by one.

So, when The Drew announced his birthday get together, I knew just who I would share this with and better yet, who would appreicate it the most: the Backyard Brewers.

The Collaboration

Infinium is packaged like champagne which is a nod towards the type of beer it is: light, subtly sweet and effervescent.   I noticed the fruit notes the most. It almost had a belgian quality to it, which may have been the yeast, but I don't know.

I've looked around the web and found a number of people disappointed with Infinium.  I would hazard a rather non-scientific guess (my favorite kind) that those disappointed tasters were perhaps expecting something different, or something bolder.  Infinium is dressed for a big party, but for those expecting a brawl, were instead treated to something sophisticated.  Infinium was excellent and different.  It is really the champagne of beers...sorry Miller High Life.  It certainly isn't a Double Bastard, but it is something that might entice non-beer drinks to realize there is more to beer than a fancy bottle and million dollar ad blitz.  It should also lure beer drinkers into realizing a high ABV beer can knock you on your ass even when you don't taste the alcohol burning it's way down your esophagus.

This is a beer for a special occasion and thanks to Todd & Drew, we had just the night.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Matilda v. Matilda

The biggest problem I have with beer is keeping it around.  As I alluded to at the last Brew Day, I want to keep my Imperial Stout until the fall...and it's currently January!  Thankfully, I still have the last 3 years of Stone's Vertical Epics tucked away and until the other night, a '09 Goose Island Matilda.

Now the Matilda came out of hiding only because I picked up a 2010.  One of the neat things about cellaring beers, outside of having a constant supply, is to see how it changes.  That is, of course, if you can keep them around long enough.

Matilda v Matilda

The Matilda is a belgian style pale ale and although these two bottles are separated by only a year, the difference in taste was fairly dramatic.  The '09 had a much stronger hop, spicy pepperish profile whereas the '09 still had those hints, but stronger notes of dark fruit and the belgian yeast.  Both were excellent, but in different ways.

It is a lot of fun (for me at least) to try this vertical tasting.  Beer...well good beer, can really change with age.

Goose Island suggests holding these for five years.  I was lucky to keep them for 5 months and that included hiding them from my friends.  Next time you have the chance to attend a vertical beer tasting, or are lucky enough to stash your own away, give it a try and experience the difference of a couple years. You will be glad you did.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Brew Day: January 2011

Wort Chilling

Brewing in the cold always presents certain challenges.  Last year we had a foot of freshly fallen snow.  This year we had a little snow, but much "warmer" temperatures.  Regardless, everything went off without a hitch.  No frozen hoses, no frostbite and no need to establish late day "safe zones" for certain society members.


In fact, this was our largest Brew Day to date, with 6 brewers.  Winter tends to firm up the turnout, as what else would you rather be doing on a cold blah day besides making beer and taking precautions to not die of carbon monoxide poisoning?

The Brewers


For my batch, I opted to go with an Imperial Stout.  With 19 pounds of grain, I am looking for a big, big beer with an ABV around 10%.  I'm going to try and sit on this one until fall.  Try, of course, being the operative word.

Dave at work

Dave brewed a Newcastle clone and Eric a chocolate porter.

Cocoa addition

Brian brewed another batch this, coming off the sucess of his holiday ale he brewed a couple months ago.  Keith, as always, was there lending a helping hand(s) to whoever needed it.

Friends helping friends

It was good to see Jay, too, who cranked out his batch in record time.  He was an example of no fuss efficiency.

Extract In

David and Alek showed up to brew for their first time with us and went through the maiden Brew Day process of assembling their burner.  Thanks to all of the safety measures, this was a ridiculously time consuming process, as they will surely attest.

Burner Assembly

Drew held the award for most interesting and fastest brew of the day: mead.  Mead, or honey wine, is made with just water and honey.  Drew scored a ginormous (my unit of measure when I have no idea of the quantity) tub of fresh honey from a friend at work who has hives (think bees, not skin).  The honey by the way tasted amazing on its own.

A whole lotta honey

I am looking forward to trying it, which unfortunately won't be until next year after it ages.

Temperature Check

Another Brian also showed up to help, as he plans to start brewing soon.  He is taking Dave's excellent approach of watching everyone in action before buying/making his equipment and having his maiden brew.

In the mist

If we play our cards right, our next Brew Day may rise to 7 brewers, which is fine because we had plenty of garage and by judging from the CO detector, plenty of good air movement.

Starter Envy

The Food

We are going on our two year anniversary as a Society and over the course of those two years we have learned to improve the efficiency of our operation by fine-tuning one area: the timing of food consumption.  Historically, we would brew like crazy and then feast at the end.  Although the anecdotal stories of our early days are hilarious, we began to realize we had to watch out for the safety of our iPhones, backs and dignity...and yes, there are stories for all three.

Trying not to burn his pants

Now feasting isn't at the end, it's all day long and this Brew Day was one of the best feasts yet.  First, we had dueling Chilis from Dave and Jay.  Dave's goal was to make his hot enough that Brian would need to bring a change of pants.  I think he came close.

Brian (the newer), brought his electric turkey fryer to fry pickles.  This is a sight you want to see when walking into the garage.

Fryer, in a box

Frying in the winter can be a pain, so it was great that Brian was able to swing into action with his electric fryer and continue our hot oil tradition.

Pickle In

Drew brought along venison sliders.  With his shorter brew time because of the mead, he was able to keep tabs on the grill while we started our own processes.

Drew under the hood

Served on small rolls with slithers of cheese, they were rich and excellent.

Vension Sliders

Another Brew Day perennial was the fatty stuffed with feta. You can not have a Brew Day without one.

Sliced Fatty

Although the sliders, chilis and fatty took us through cooling, a 9 pound cajun pork loin finished up the night.  Eric supplied the loin, which after his kilt incident at Brew Day this past summer, seemed quite appropriate.

Eric's Loin

We ate, we drank, we brewed, we laughed.

Tap, tap

We had a bunch of friends stop in, even if for just a few minutes.

In the Garage

And most importantly, we hoped to brew some great beer.

Almost done

It really was a great day and the weather, even for January, was absolutely perfect.

Nature Made Cooler

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What's on the Grill #203: Venison Tenderloin

I am quite thankful to have several friends at work who like to hunt.  When the call of the wild is heard, they head into the nearest field/forest/stream and bring back a ton of meat.  Of course the true reason why I'm thankful is because they share.  Recently I've had duck, goose, and elk.  Tonight, it's venison.  In fact, tonight isn't just any old type of venison, it's a venison tenderloin.  That's right, it's not just Bambi steaks, it's her holy and sacred tenderloins!

Venison Tenderloin

I love venison, much like any type of game meat...or really, any type of meat for that matter. However, seeing I was a venison tenderloin newbie, I opted for a simple preparation of salt, pepper, thyme and garlic.  Venison has that rich deep flavor (I refuse to use the generic term: gamey), I didn't want to drown it out.

Venison Probed

After equally seasoning the tenderloin, I seared all sides of the meat over direct medium heat for approximately 2 minutes a side.  From there, I moved it to indirect medium to finish cooking.

Snowy Grilling

I wanted to be fairly accurate with the temperature, so I probed the loin.  Also, it was snowing, so I didn't want to spend any more time outside than necessary. Probe it once and forget about it, I say.  Probe it many times and the neighbors start making phone calls.

Anyway, I grilled the venison till it hit an internal temperature of 135 degrees, approximately 20 minutes.  From there, it was sliced and served.

Sliced Venison

I'm glad I went simple with the rub, because the venison really came through and to me, that's a good thing.  Oddly enough, not only was the venison great for dinner, it was even better as cold leftovers the next day.  This is my kind of all purpose meal.  Thanks to my friend Alan for making this happen.  I'm lucky to have such great coworkers with steady aim and overstocked freezers.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

What's on the Grill #202: Pork Stuffed Peppers

The alternate title for this post should really be Refrigerator Dash 2011.  Whenever I am in a rush to eat at home, I would rather go out and buy "junk" versus having "junk", at home, on hand.  I refuse to have the kitchen chock full of processed and "ready made" foods, all of which would survive forever, as most likely have half-lifes longer than most periodic elements.  Sure, I will scoff down chicken wings, nachos and fried poppers with the next guy, but when it comes to eating at home, I need to make something, and it can't come from a box.

In order to fill this odd requirement of mine, I keep a number of things in the freezer.  No, a frozen pizza certainly isn't one of them, but pulled pork is.

Leftover pulled pork is so great to have on hand.  You can heat it up in a bowl, top it on a pizza, make a sandwich, or stuff it in some peppers like I did.

For only two peppers, take about 2 cups of pulled pork and if it's frozen, defrost it.  Mix in 1/2 cup of black beans, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and 1/3 cup of BBQ sauce (or more if you like your sauce).

Pork Mix

Lop of the top of the peppers and clean out the core.  Stuff the peppers with the porktabulous filling and preheat your grill to indirect medium.

Pork Stuffed Peppers

If the pepper has an irregular bottom (i.e. one that will not stand up without assistance) make an aluminum foil ring to wrap around the base and give it stability.


Grill with the lid down for about 30 minutes, serve and eat.

Peppers can be filled with anything and pulled pork is just one more thing to cram in.  If anything, this meal reminds me to smoke more pork so I always have a constant supply on hand.

Oh, I almost forgot.  The beer of the evening was Stone's Double Bastard.  This is one powerhouse of a beer...and that's not taking into account it's 11% plus ABV.


Oddly enough, I wanted something sessionable and then ended up with this.  Oh well, two pork stuffed peppers and a Double Bastard later, I was a happy, content man and "junk" free man who never left the house.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

What's on the Grill #201: Grilled Ham w/Bourbon, Molasses & Pecan Glaze

It's New Year's Day and as is usual with the holidays, the last week has been a blur.  I'm fairly certain Christmas was last weekend.


For a change-up of year's past, we hosted Christmas dinner.  Never being one to do things on a small scale, I opted to pick up 36 pounds of meat...for 6 people.  Let's just say I had leftovers in mind.  With Zoe hard at work prepping the table and everything else, I concentrated on my mission: the meat.

Snowy grills

Christmas Day was cold.  Not exactly the ideal weather for all day grilling.  At least with the snow it made the day even more festive.

On track

Anytime I have long cooks planned, doubly so when it's a special occasion, I always, always write out a schedule.  It's important to keep track of the different grills, what goes on when and where my beer breaks are.  It takes a lot of the stress of managing special meals.  I wholeheartedly recommend doing it, if you don't already.

Ham with Bourbon, Molasses & Pecan Glaze

Based on a recipe from Epicurious

1/2 cup orange juice

1/3 cup bourbon

1 3/4 cups brown sugar

1 cup pecans, toasted, cooled, finely ground

1/4 cup molasses

3 tbls dry mustard

1 whole bone-in ham.  Mine was 20 pounds.

To the grill...

1.  Boil the juice & bourbon and reduce to about a 1/3 cup.  Combine the sugar, pecans, molasses & mustard in a bowl.  Add the bourbon mixture and stir to form a thick paste.  (This can be made a day ahead of time, but I didn't).

2.  My ham was already cooked. I meant to buy semi-cooked, but during my ham dive at the grocery I guess I ended up grabbing the wrong one.  My ham also had skin, which I removed prior to grilling.  I left all of the fat, which wasn't much, intact.

3.  Prep the kettle for indirect medium (350 F) and place a drip pan below the grate at charcoal level.  For cooking time, figure 10 minutes per pound, which for my ham was about 3 1/2 hours.

4.  At this time mark (130-135 internal temp), remove the ham from the grill.  Lightly score the top of the ham with a knife and then rub the glaze over the top and sides.  Next, return the ham to the grill, but at indirect high (425 F).  I slightly cheated here by placing the ham on the gas grill.  Ideally I would have ramped up the temp on the kettle, but with the cold weather already proving a challenge, I opted for the easier route.  Once in at the higher temp, cook for 25 minutes more or until the glaze bubbles.  Let stand for 25 minutes then slice and serve.

Grilled Ham

The ham turned out great.  With the rotisserie turkey on the Performer, there was more than enough meat to go around and now a ton of ham in the freezer to last the winter.

Roto Turkey

Although the week has been busy, it's been great.  I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and now that 2011 is upon us, a fabulous New Year too.  Now pardon me, I'm off for a ham sandwich.