Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Spatchcock Chicken

I am a big proponent of week night grilled chickens.  While a turn of the rotisserie is always nice, the time to "roto" a bird is sometimes premium, especially Monday through Thursday.  So when the schedule dictates, I move to my second preferred way of grilling a whole bird, the spatchcock.  

Spatchcock Chicken on Grill

Whereas a whole chicken, around 3-5 pounds, can take upwards of 90 minutes to cook, a spatchcocked bird, thanks to the increase surface area hitting the grill, can finish in half that.  Speaking of surface area, since spatchcocking "spreads" the bird open, this preparation also lends itself nicely to marinades.  

The spatchcock process is dead simple: remove the backbone, snap the breast bone, and lay the chicken flat.  The only tool needed is a pair of poultry shears.

Place the bird in front of you, breast side down.

Spatchcock Chicken

Using the shears, cut up one side of the backbone.

Spatchcock Chicken Cut

Cut up the other side of the backbone.

Spatchcock Chicken Cut 2

Remove the backbone.

Spatchcock Chicken Backbone Removal

Spread the cavity open.

Spatchcock Chicken Cavity Spread

To make snapping the breast bone easier, slice down right in the middle of the "V notch.

Spatchcock Chicken Breastbone Cut

And snap.

Spatchcock Chicken Snap

Flip the bird over and continue to press flat.

Spatchcock Chicken

From this point, you can either skewer the bird horizontally (to give stability when moving the bird from plate to grill to plate) or leave it un-skewered, like above.  I've prepared chickens both ways and frankly, prefer it without the skewers.  It's just one less thing to clean.

Rub

To finish up, season or marinade the chicken.  Then, hit the grill. 

Thanks to a little poultry surgery know how, time should never again stop a weeknight chicken.

Now not to get personal, but do you spatchcock?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Beer Tasting: A Fall of Beers

I love fall.  I love beer. It goes without saying, I love fall beers.  The beer style I most readily associate with fall is the German, Märzen.  Dating back to the 16th century, Märzens were a strong lager, brewed in March, and made to last through the hot German summer.  

These "March" beers were later consumed at the Octoberfest celebrations in Munich.  Subsequently, over time, Märzens became known as Octoberfest beers.  Here in the US, fall isn't just for Octoberfest.  Shelves this time of year are filled with big, flavorful, and malty beers taking in every flavor from pumpkin to pecans to maple syrup.  It's a veritable holiday smorgasbord.

Harvest Beer Time

So, how does one get a handle on all of these fall beer offerings?  Easy, have a beer tasting, which is exactly what I did with my good friend and neighbor, Bryan.

The Taste

Note: a beer tasting does not have to be an official event at your local pub.  In fact, I think tastings are more fun with just a friend or two.  

Over the last six weeks, I collected a number of different fall beers.  Some we've had.  Others we have not.  All of them I walked over to Bryans.

Even Pours

I suppose what I like about tasting beer with friends is the ability to bounce off flavors and impressions.

It is one thing to identify predominant flavors.  It is another to bounce those interpretations off of someone else.  Even further, I find it interesting to contrast similar beer styles to one another.  This isn't a matter of simply saying, "I like THAT one better".  It is more like, "wow, there is so much more pumpkin here" or "man, that's lot of nutmeg".  

Homework

In true judging, much like in BBQ, you judge the beer against the style guidelines, not against another beer.  This, however, is not judging.  It's fun.

Bryan Pouring

Before getting to the first sip, it is always interesting to compare colors.  

Beer Color

Straw, maroon, red, and amber.  The smallest amounts of dark and crystal malts can create subtle differences.  

Tastings

So, armed with 14 glasses, 7 bottles, 1 piece of paper, and 1 pen, we were off.

A lot of beer

Here is what we had and here is what we discovered:

Pecan Harvest Ale - Abita - My first note "quite nutty".  I like pecans, but wow, this was just not for me.  My final note, "nuts turn me off".  Bryan was nowhere near as harsh as me.  He liked it.

Punk - Dogfish Head Ale - All pumpkin, right from the start.  A little bit of spice and nutmeg followed by some cinnamon on the finish.  Quite good and well rounded.

Pumpkinhead Ale - Shipyard Brewing Co. - For a beer with pumpkin in the title, there sure wasn't a lot of pumpkin.  I can't remember if I've had this before.  If I had, I'm not sure why I selected it again.  It was really disappointing.  Bryan was also stumped.  There was an odd taste, not like an off-taste, but a taste we simply couldn't identify.  In the end, this one was deemed "not right".

Festbier - Victor Brewing Co. - I described this as "Märzen".  It seemed true to form.  Not overly malty with a slight spicy finish.  A solid entry.

Harvest Pumpkin

Harvest Pumpkin - Samuel Adams - Bryan aptly described this as "the smell of fall…in your nose".  A nice bit of pumpkin, with a woody, oak finish.  Actually I never really realized just how pronounced the oak was.  I love wood flavors in beer.

Pumking - Southern Tier - Spoiler alert.  I love Pumking.  This is one of my favorite fall beers.  It is also a big beer.  A thick mouthfeel, with pumpkin, nutmeg, and spice.  Even more pumpkin comes out as the beer warms.  Bryan also liked its bold flavors.  Although I would be hard pressed to drink these all night, I would have no problem substituting this for a piece of pumpkin pie, even if it ment drinking it out of a pie pan.

Fat Jack - Samuel Adams - I think Fat Jack is mostly an amped up version of Harvest Pumpkin.  Everything is bigger, the smokey wood, the pumpkin, and the spicy finish that just lingered.  Absolutely excellent.

 

In the end, Pumking and Fat Jack were identified as dessert beers.  Both solid, both excellent, but seeing they are so bold, they are best saved for the end of a meal.

For everyday fall drinking, we liked the Festbier & Punk.  Bryan included the Pecan Harvest, too.  He liked the nuts a lot more than me.  Punk is a pumpkin beer that although has a slightly high ABV, is smooth and balanced.  Very nice and very approachable.

To wrap up the night, Bryan made dinner.

Bryan working the grinder

After a hard evening of "beer tasting", a mix of sautéed onion and zucchini went along great with his perfectly grilled soy marinated pork chops.

A Pair of Pork Chops

Next time the seasons change, experiment and learn about a beer style, by holding a tasting with a friend.  It's a great way of exploring new beers and a fun way of re-evaluating beers you already know.  Then, If you are as lucky as I was, your beer tasting partner will throw a great meal to cap it all off.  Thanks, Bryan…and cheers!

Cheers

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

All hail, The Pumking….
Pumking - Southern Tier

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's on the Grill #256: Cheesy Leeks

I have a love affair with leeks.  Hailing from the same family as onions and garlic, leeks are sweet, milder than an onion, and ever so tasty.  They are also a complete pain to fit into the produce bag at the grocery.

To prepare, leeks can be lightly sautéed, or served casserole style with with cheese, as I did with my pesto planked filets last week.  It's one of those "set it" and "forget it" sides.  Depending on what else is on the menu, this type of prep can really come in handy.

Pesto Planked Filets with Cheesy Leek

The first rule of leeks is a proper clean.  Unlike an onion, which forms into a tight bulb, leeks are made up of sheaths which hold onto dirt through their growth cycle.  A thorough wash is a necessity.

Leek cleaning and preparation goes hand in hand.  First, remove the root.

Cut the Root

Next, remove the darker colored green leaves.

Remove the Green

Slice the leek in half down its center.

Slice in Half

With the leak cut in half, hold it under cold water making sure to wash away any dirt inside the sheaths.  I use my thumb to agitate the leaves and allow the water to penetrate.  Once clean, chop.

Slice

Cheesy Leeks
by Another Pint Please

2 Leeks - cleaned and chopped
2 Tbls butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
 

Although this could be made on the stove and in the oven, I prefer to go "all grill".  By using a cast iron skillet, the preparation is part direct heat and part indirect heat.  Although placing a skillet directly on the grates is not always the most efficient use of energy, it works for me.

In a skillet, melt the butter over direct medium high heat.  Once melted, add in the garlic, sauté for a few minutes, then add the leek.  Stir.

Leek in Skillet

Allow the leek to cook for about 15 minutes over direct heat.  Stir occasionally.  At the fifteen minute mark, move the skillet to indirect medium heat and stir in the cheese.  Depending on the size of your grill, kill some burners if necessary to create an "indirect" spot.  Lower the lid and bring the heat down to about 350 F.  

Continue to cook for about 45 minutes, again, stir occasionally.

When done, the leeks should be lightly browned.  Serve warm.

Cheesy Leek

Do you have leeks on your grocery list?  What is your favorite way to prepare them? 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Guest Post: The Drew's Trip to the Great American Beer Festival

I am quite excited to have The Drew, aka "the smart guy" from the Backyard Brewing Society, contribute a guest post to APP.  The Drew is easily recognized from our backyard exploits by his steady hand, dry sense of humor, and for having the first name "The".  Having recovered from his trip to the Great American Beer Festival, he shares his journey below.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Thanks, Drew!

GABF

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado is three straight days of beer sampling from over 580 breweries from across the country. Since several members of the Backyard Brewing Society decided to burn all their wife points on a trip to Vegas back in June, the GABF was represented by a relatively small contingent: Dave (DVD), Tim, Jay and your very own guest blogger, Drew.

 

Great American Beer Festival

The festival has four sessions, Thursday, Friday and two on Saturday. The early Saturday session is a members-only event for American Homebrew Society and Brewers Association members. Our group had tickets for the first three, opting not to attempt an 8-hour, double session drinking marathon on Saturday. My AHA membership had the added bonus of allowing us to enter the festival through the much shorter members-only entrance. The regular line easily had 8,000 waiting to get in. Our line however was about 500 people who all got tickets and IDs checked while waiting. Once the doors opened, we were inside immediately and had a solid 30-45 minutes to grab all the free promotional loot before everyone else made it in. Even so, some of the more popular breweries had immediate lines forming.

The Russian River line was 40 people deep the entire festival.

Beer Lines

As much as I wanted to try some of their beers, with such a large number of breweries present, most of the tables had no line at all so it was hard to justify waiting.

For all the Alefest veterans out there, let me repeat that: most of the tables didn’t have any line. You could walk right up, get a sample, go straight to the next table and immediately get a sample, repeat for 4 hours. So how does this not turn into a fall down drunken debacle? The festival is run differently than Alefest in a few ways that make a significant difference.

  1. The tasting glasses are marked for 1oz pours and the serving crews rarely overpoured. Compared to the 4oz pours at Alefest, that seems tiny but it’s plenty of beer to get a decent taste and decide if you like it or not. It also prevents you from slamming 4oz of beer every time you need to empty your glass.
  2. Water coolers are everywhere. We made a rule that every time we passed a water cooler, we had a cup to rehydrate. No waiting in a food line for a $3 bottle of water. Staying hydrated definitely helps you hold up over the course of the event.
  3. Pouring from pitchers instead of bottles. Just makes the lines go faster. When you don’t have to constantly wait in line, it doesn’t seem nearly as important to grab a sample and immediately get back in line just to make sure you get your money’s worth.

There were a handful of people in costume for the event. Tons of pretzel necklaces and a few food necklaces of the non pretzel variety: bagels, Slim Jims, vegetable tray (wtf?).

The Hop Czar made an appearance.

Hop Czar

The Thursday night and Saturday afternoon sessions had a lot of people but were comfortable. The Friday night session was crowded. There were several brewmasters representing their tables. This was more apparent on Saturday once the competition winners were announced and medals handed out. A couple recognizable beer celebrities were also present.

Drew & Sam

After three straight days of beer tasting I certainly discovered some winners. Two of the most memorable were Denver Beer Co’s Graham Cracker Porter, a deliciously sweet and biscuity beer, and Molé Stout from Ska Brewing. This beer was dark, spicy and had a combination of chocolate, cinnamon and clove that would go well with Mexican food or Skyline Chili.

Some of the other breweries and beers that I enjoyed include:

FirestoneWalker
Figueroa Mountain
Deschutes (Ed. Me - I hope they eventually make it to Ohio!
Ninkasi
Oskar Blues
Strange – Cherry Kriek
RAM Restaurant & Brewery – Very Cherry Porter

Those are the highlights. The sheer number of beers available means that several are going to be on the cutting edge of craft beer taste (aka weird beers).

Cucumber Kolsch – Flat 12 Bierworks
Arlo’s PB&J Ale – Catawba Valley Brewing Co.
Prehistoric Dog Salted Wheat Beer – TRVE Brewing Co.
Billy’s Chilies – Twisted Pine Brewing Co.
Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter – Willoughby Brewing Co.
Campfire Stout (Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows) – Highwater Brewing Co.

The PB&J actually tasted like a sandwich with raspberry jelly. It would have been a good sandwich. As a beer it was only semi-successful.

There’s a lot more to do in Denver than just drink beer. Thursday and Friday before the festival we did some sightseeing and took a tour through the Stranahan’s whisky distillery.

Strahan's Whiskey

Stranahan’s is a small craft distillery that produces about 1300 barrels a year. As a homebrewer who’s debated purchasing a used barrel for flavoring beer, I was curious to know what they do with their used barrels, and whether Southwest would let me check one as a second bag. Turns out they sell their barrels to Breckenridge Brewery who uses them to age their Well Built ESB.

Breckenridge happens to be located a whole whopping five blocks away and has a fantastic BBQ menu. Guess where we headed next.

Breckenridge Brewery

If the Backyard Brewing Society ever does enter (or found) a brewing and barbequing biathlon competition, we will have some pretty serious competition. Pulled pork, homemade sausage, tenderloin, ribs, you name it, they cook it and the beers are pretty solid too.

We did the Breckenridge brewery tour and sure enough, there’s a stack of Stranahan’s barrels stacked up to age. On the left side there’s also one lone tequila barrel. The tour guide wouldn’t say what’s in it but the Agave Wheat would be a good guess.

Barrels

If we had to do it all again, I would recommend doing the Thursday night and Saturday afternoon GABF sessions and taking the day off Friday to drive up into the mountains. It was definitely an enjoyable trip. GABF advertises itself as the largest beer festival in America so what’s next? Oktoberfest, anyone?

Cheers

Sunday, October 14, 2012

What's on the Grill #255: Pesto Planked Filets

Grilling on a plank sounds cool, mysterious, and different.  All true.  However, what I failed to mention is that it is also dead easy.  This fact is especially important when you don't have a lot of time to hover around the grill.  After all, planking is that magical intersection where "unique cooking style" meets "I don't have time to stand in one place".  Music to my ears.

Although I could have gone with salt, pepper, and wood, I opted to top the filets with a magical culinary figure who tends to only make an appearance when I run out of ice cube trays.  I'm talking about the one, the only, the configurable, Lego pesto man.

Pesto Minifig

I absolutely love pesto and it's mouthwatering, and sometimes repelling, mixture of garlic, parmesan and basil.  When I make a batch, I make a lot, and by far one of the best way to store and freeze "extra pesto" is by using ice cube trays.  So, why the pesto Lego guy?  Well that's what happens when you run out of normal ice cube trays and move over to your Lego ice cube trays.

Pesto Planked Filets with Cheesy Leeks
By Another Pint Please

2 - Beef Filets
1/2 cup of Pesto (fresh or canned.  If fresh, preferably in the shape of a Lego Minifig)
salt & pepper
Cedar plank (soaked in water at least an hour before use)

First, as I mentioned above, be sure to soak your planks.  I cook these over direct heat, so a soak is a requirement.  

Remove the meat from the fridge and prep the grill for direct medium heat.

Place the filets on the plank, or as in my case, planks…I one in half.  Salt and pepper the filets. 

Pepper on Steak on Plank

 Next, pick out your least favorite Lego figs and top the meat.  They were brave Legos.

Lego Man Down!

Although it looks a little ghastly, it will be worth it when you are done.  Spread the pesto across the meat.

Pushing In

With the meat planked and "pesto'd", place the planks on the grill over the direct medium heat and lower the lid.

Since the heat is relatively low and the planks are soaked, the wood should easily survive the cook.  Even though, keep a relative vigilant eye on the grill.  Flare ups can happen and a splash of water to douse the flames may be a necessity.

Planked Pesto Filet

For medium - medium rare, shoot for about 30 minute, or until the internal temperature hits about 130 F.  

Remove from the grill and allow the meat to rest.  Depending on how the planks look, save them for the next cook or donate them to the fire pit.

Mediumish Rare

The pesto, wood, and meat make a magical combination, and as I mentioned before, the planking also allows me to concentrate on other things, like the cheesy leeks I served along side these filets.  That post is coming up next.  

In the meantime, let me ask you, what have you planked lately and more importantly, what foods do you freeze in ice cube trays?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

Plated and ready for serving….

Dinner is Plated

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Third Shift, Dayton Release

This Wednesday, October 10th, is the Dayton release of the Third Shift Band of Brewers Amber Lager.  What is Third Shift's Amber Lager?  It's a 2012 World Beer Cup award winner.  Who are the Band of Brewers?  This may surprise you, they are MillerCoors brewers who, in their free time, took on some brewing "experiments".  Amber Lager is one of them.

ThirdShift

I'm usually a little hesitant when it comes to "stealth brews".  For instance, Blue Moon, yeah, it sounds like a specially craft brew, but it's really brewed by MillerCoors.  How about Shock Top?  Craft brewer?  Nope, Inbev.  So, what makes my interest in Third Shift different?  Easy, this is a project the MillerCoors brewers took up on their own.  It easily reminds me of Google's 20% rule.  Take one day out of the week and work on something outside of your job description.  Something you are passionate about.  In the case of the MillerCoors brewers, their "20%" is Third Shift and I think that's pretty cool.

So, if you want to join in the release fun, check out thirdshift.eventbrite.com for more information.  I will see you there!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

Operation Skewer & Cob:

Beef Skewers