Friday, July 1, 2011

Thinking Ahead to Fall....And Beer

Mike the Gay Beer Guy is obviously more forward-thinking than we are. He's thinking ahead to fall and what would be best served with an IPA or a bourbon barrel porter, while we're wondering what we'll make for dinner ... tonight. Anyway, it's good to have people like Mike on this Earth. Thanks to him, everyone is better prepared. :)

Here are Mike's thoughts.

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel -

My tastes in the beer I drink change according to the seasons, which means that now is the time for a big, flavorful IPA or a fantastic Belgian Saison, Tripel, or Witbier. As a brewer, I often forcing myself to think a month, two months, or ever 4-5 months into the future. Thus, this month’s posting is dedicated to the food and beer of the colder winter months. Why would I talk about stewing meat (and heating up my entire kitchen) in July when it’s more than 90 outside? Well, that’s simple ... so I can brew my Bourbon Barrel Porter, of course. And what goes well with my Bourbon Barrel Porter? Beef Stew...

Beef Stew feeds 6-8 people, or 2 people for a few days of lunches and dinners. Stew is my boyfriend’s specialty. We were at the farmers’ market the other day and bought all sorts of fresh ingredients. That’s the beauty of stews: You can almost toss anything in! Stews are best, in our opinions, are best cooked one night and eaten the next, or even later in the week. As you’ll see, we cook the stew and leave it on the stove overnight to cool.

We also like using thick-cut beef chuck steaks rather than the stew meat available at most supermarket butcher counters. The fat content is higher (which means more flavor), it’s more cost effective, and the meat looks so rustic as it falls apart after cooking for a few hours. Enjoy!

Salt/Pepper to taste
3 ½ pounds thick-cut beef chuck
½ bottle of red wine (we used merlot because it was open)
2 medium onions (or 1 large onion)
1 pound carrots
1 pound celery
1 fennel bulb
5 cloves garlic
Water (or beef stock)
2 bay leaves
Small palmful of dried thyme
Roux (to thicken the stew... if you want)

Start by cutting your veggies into chunks. Leave the garlic cloves relatively whole (there’s nothing left to do if you crush them with your knife to get the paper off) and leave the beef in its steak form.

In a large Dutch oven (or the large stainless pan Theo used the night we cooked), heat a few tablespoons of EVOO over medium/high heat. While the EVOO is heating up, wash and dry your steaks and season them liberally with salt and pepper. (It is very important that the steaks are dry. A dry steak will sear nicely, creating all sorts of fond on the bottom of your pan, which means more flavor... if the steaks are wet, the meat will steam and not sear... not so much flavor)

Once the pan is hot and the EVOO is smoking, sear the steaks one at a time if you have a pan that won’t fit them all. Each steak should be a nice shade of brown, not burnt but not too brown ... and of course, we’re not worried if the steak cooks all the way through, since it will be cooking for a few hours!

When the steaks are seared and resting, it’s time to build the base of the stew. Deglaze the Dutch oven with the wine... almost any wine will do, as long as it’s not too sweet. Return the Dutch oven to the heat (you remembered, of course, that when deglazing with alcohol to do it off the flame) and scrape up the fond from the bottom. Return the steaks to the Dutch oven, adding the juices that have accumulated and add the veggies and garlic. Cover this with water (when we made it, I guess technically it was a braise, since water only came up half-way to the meat and veggies) or beef stock and bring to a boil; when the stew comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with the lid, and add the bay leaves and thyme. Adjust your seasoning (we’ve found that a healthy punch of salt and 4-5 grinds from the pepper mill work well). Simmer the stew for about two hours, or until the steaks fall apart. When time is up, turn off the flame and let the stew rest overnight on the stove (keep it covered).

The next day, fish out your bay leaves ... we do it first, so that we don’t forget! Next, take out the beef steaks and cut them into pieces resembling your veggies ... the meat should be tender, so if it just falls apart. Return the stew to a simmer and enjoy. If you like, use a roux to thicken, but it’s not necessary (we covered a roux on one of my previous posts ... but if you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick recap: equal parts fat and flour ... heat the fat, stir in the flour, cook stirring often until the mixture is about the shade of light peanut butter and then go for an extra minute, mix this into the stew ... start with 4 tablespoons each butter or EVOO and 4 tablespoons flour, add 1 tablespoons of the roux to the stew at a time until it’s to your desired thickness). Enjoy the stew with the Bourbon Barrel Porter. (I actually drank an Oaked Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewery when we ate the stew; this certainly got me in the mood!)

Bourbon Barrel Porter
On to the main event ... there’s a lot of waiting involved in this recipe, so I suggest leaving yourself a good five months to get all the tastes in order! This recipe is based on celebrated homebrewer Denny Conn’s Imperial Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Porter, which also sounds just as good!! Cheers!

OG - 1.075 (before adding the bourbon)
FG - 1.017
IBU - 35
ABV - about 7.5% before Bourbon

13 lbs American Two Row Malt
2 ½ lbs Munich Malt
1 ½ lbs Brown Malt
¾ lbs Crystal 120
¾ lbs Crystal 40
¾ lbs Chocolate Malt

Mash at 152* and Sparge as usual (I plan my recipes for 6 gallons at the end of the boil)

Denny uses an addition of Magnum hops, but I prefer East Kent Goldings in my Porters... I usually go for a 60 min addition, and a 20 or 10 minute addition. It works out to be 1 ½ to 2 oz at 60 minutes, and ½ oz at 20 or 10 minutes, depending on how much hop flavor you like in your beer.

Denny usually ferments with his own proprietary strain (buy it commercially from Wyeast as WY1450), but I prefer my house strain, Pacman. You could also use WLP001/WY1056/US-05 which is essentially the same Chico strain (Sierra Nevada), but a nice English strain, such as WLP013/WY1028, both named London Ale, could be nice as well. I ferment Pacman pretty low... like 60-63. I suggest Chico around 65-68, and I would ferment any English strain with restraint, since you want to restrict the ester profiles somewhat ... just my suggestion, do what you want!

When you pitch the yeast, soak 1-2 oz of American Oak Chips in about 2 cups of Bourbon. As the beer ferments, the oak flavors will be released into the bourbon; it will smell fantastic! Let the beer finish fermenting completely, and then let it sit another week. When you’re ready to keg, add half of the bourbon (leave the oak behind!) and store the rest in a clean bottle; it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sanitize the bottle, but there’s probably enough alcohol in the bourbon. Let the beer age for a few months and taste every now and then. If you think it needs some more bourbon, of course add more! I carbonate this beer lightly, so as not to drive off the subtle flavors.

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