Monday, April 30, 2012

O! How we love New Orleans!

 We just spent 5 glorious days enjoying The City That Is The Happiest Place On Earth. Yes, we did everything we set out to do, including eating fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House, dancing in the sun to Hot Club of New Orleans, slurping oysters, drinking Guinni at Monagahan's (Erin Rose), drinking pilsner at Crescent City Brewery, eating crawfish in every way imaginable, discovering The Bulldog multi-tap in Uptown, throwing down to Bonerama and Evan Christopher, waving to Ignatius J Reilly, buying the weirdest thing we could find for Mr Cicerone's daughter's birthday, eating turtle soup at Court of Two Sisters and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde, drinking Sazeracs at The Roosevelt Hotel, and, in general, eating, drinking and laughing until we fell down. Uncle Dave, and our friend Nicole of Eat It Detroit, came along on our adventures, and I just know we would not have had quite as much fun if they had not been there with us.

Highlights- the food! Everything we ate!

Here's what Mr Cicerone had to say about Cochon.....

The Green Goddess can only be described as SUPERB, AND I WANT TO MOVE IN THERE. Jacques-Imo's was, as usual, fantastic. Platters of fresh oysters at Felix's were worthy of the king's proverbial ransom. The turtle soup at The Court Of Two Sisters was unrivaled. Jambalaya at Coops, the crawfish boils everywhere one looked, the cheese at St James Cheese Company, fried green tomatoes and etouffee at various places. Groan, groan, groan. And....the fried chicken at Wilie Mae's Scotch House made Mr Cicerone weep tears of joy.

The beer!
There's a really nice pilsner at Crescent City Brewery, good Guinness at Erin Rose, and a few really good beer bars if you know where to look. There's DBA in the Marigny, Cooter Brown's at the end of the St Charles street car line 30 minutes from The French Quarter, The Bulldog in Uptown (awesome!), and The Avenue in The Garden District, where I was stunned by the diversity of the draft beer list (Tilquin Gueuze on tap!), but a little dismayed at being served line cleaner in my glass instead of beer. (Note- I'm sure this was a "once-off". There are two Certified Cicerones on staff, and it was not they that did this.) Most of the bars and restaurants carry Abita, and beers from NOLA Brewing (Flambeau Red, Blonde & Hopitoulas were all good), as well as newcomers Bayou Teche   (LA-31 Bière Pâle & Biere Noire were excellent).
Note: The "International Beer House" (of which there are more than one) on Bourbon Street are sad, smelly watering holes that are to be avoided for the most part, though we did enjoy a pint of Paulaner Helles purchased there.

Pictures? Here's a bunch

I'll stop now, and just add that YOU JUST HAVE TO GO THERE. NOW.

Dinner at Chez Cicerone

Tonight's dinner made use of a GIANT (7.5pound!) chicken that Mr Cicerone smoked last weekend. We barely made a dint in it, and on the spur of the moment, this evening, as I was starting to chop the leftover chook for chicken salad, I decided to make quiche instead. So, thank goodness for food processors, because like magic, the pastry was made. As it rested in the fridge, I sauteed some shallots, smashed the garlic cloves that had been used for aromatics inside the chook's cavity, and made the custard for the quiche with 3 DUCK eggs that I'd been lucky enough to find at Eastern Market last Saturday. (Whip eggs, add 1/2 cup cream, one cup milk, salt & pepper.). The pastry then got rolled out and fitted into a pie dish, and blind-baked for 20 minutes, then brushed with egg yolk. A thin layer of grated Manchego covered the bottom of the shell, then the shallots & garlic, and handfuls of chopped smoked chicken, then the custard poured in. Baked at 375 deg F for 45 minutes. Served with a simple green salad, and Mr Cicerone's Rauchbier.
That's Mr Cicerone's Rauchbier in the Schlenkerla glass.
Lovely as the quiche was, next time I think I'll add some bacon!! And, there will be a next time. We still have about 2 pounds of leftover chicken, and 9 more duck eggs!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 363: Classic American Pils

Some years back, our gentleman friend and fellow dashiki-wearin' dude Jeff Renner led a campaign to resurrect an indigenous beer that had been largely killed off by Prohibition.

Blame this guy.
The beer, once lost, can be considered successfully revived. Commercial producers have picked up on the crisp, bitter lager as something worth celebrating, and one can find some nice examples out there; I recommend Craftsman's 1903 from Pasadena, CA. Capsule history: Pilsener beer was the 'It Girl' of the brewing world in the mid-late 19th century, and European immigrant brewers, mainly from Bohemia and Germany, sought to make a pils-type beer from the ingredients they found in their new home. The biggest problem was that American barley malt, typically made from 6 row barley, was significantly higher in protein and husk material than the 2 row barley of Pilsner's place of birth. The protein created potential haze problems for a beer celebrated for its brilliant clarity, and the grainy flavors from the husky 6 row were not desirable. The silver lining of the husk issue is that that's where the enzymes in malt are found, and 6 row malt has enough spare enzymatic power to convert added starch in the mash to fermentable sugar without breaking a sweat. Thus, American brewers cut the 6 row malt with corn grits, which are almost pure starch, comparatively speaking, to thin out the protein rich wort. Hop profiles were similar to the original Pils in terms of perceived bitterness, although American hop varieties were frequently used. So goes the story, anyway. Today's story proceeds thusly:

(10 gallon recipe)

12  lbs. Briess 6 row malt
3   lbs. Flaked maize
1.8 oz.  Cluster hops, 8.7%AA (kettle addition, 60 min.)
1   oz.  Saaz hops, 5.1% AA (flavor addition, 20 min.)
1/2  t   Calcium Chloride in mash liquor
Wyeast 2308 Munich lager slurry

Simple decoction mash-

Doughed in 1 qt./lb. at 130F for 123F strike. Rested 30 min.
Pulled 8 1/2 qt. thickest mash for 1st decoction. Heated to 155F, rested 15. Heated to boil, held 10.
Returned to main mash for 146F, rested 20 min. Infused to 150F with 2 qt. boiling liquor, rested 20.
After a negative starch test, pulled 8 qt. thin mash and boiled 5 min. Returned for 166F mashout.

Vorlauf/lauter/sparge until runoff drops to 1.009; collect 12 gallons sweet wort.

Boil/hop as noted above. Chill to 55Fish and pitch yeast. Rack and lager like the dickens when fermentation subsides. (Note: with this yeast, a diacetyl rest is necessary; allow temp to rise to mid-60s for the last few days of primary fermentation.)


I am writing about this as if I am some sort of authority, when in fact this is the first CAP I have ever brewed. Plus I mostly pulled the recipe out of my hinder parts. You may want to disregard this entire post....

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I got okra, enough to choke ya....

Quick post about Dinner at Chez Cicerone this evening......

Giant (8 pound) chicken, lovingly sloooow-smoked by Mr Cicerone, accompanied by whole steamed okra  blanketed with a decadent mustard remoulade sauce. The sauce was made thus....

3 large egg yolks, 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon, one tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco, salt, pepper, one clove minced garlic, whisked together. Then, on low heat, 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter are whisked in gradually to produce a thick, velvety, buttery, mustardy sauce.....Oh My!

Beer? The only commercially available Steinbier, Hofstetten Granit Bock, went wonderfully with the smoky chicken. The beer is rich and uber-malty, with that deep, almost raisiny/pruney malt flavour reminiscent of Celebrator Doppelbock. It has a delightful burnt toffee flavour, too, and as it warmed this transitioned into a nice, mellow smoke....

(Mr Cicerone's Wee Heavy was also a fine accompaniment to our meal.)

(And now, as I'm writing this, I'm sipping on Buster 2010,which has oxidized a wee bit in the loveliest way, with the end result being a drier, hazelnutty version of the original beer which is hiding its 10% ABV content a little too well.....)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Les Bon Temps, They Will Roulez

We are heading down to New Orleans on the morn, meeting up with Uncle Dave, and Ms. Rupersberg, for to spend five days in The City That Care Forgot. The French Quarter Festival will be going on, and that will be grand, but there is really no bad time to be in N'awlins. People there know how to live- music, food, drink, conviviality are important there. And it shows in every respect, but, arguably, most in the food. (This keeping in mind uh, JAZZ!) I have yet to visit Paris or anyplace in France, but if there's a better place to eat, I don't know if I could survive it. (Uncle Sean, having been to all three, rates them thus: #1 Seoul, #2 New Orleans, #3 Paris.)

We travelers have been corresponding and plotting for the last weeks, getting more excited by the day. Nicole came forth with mention of many of the things friends had suggested she must do, and I was compelled to respond with a sort of a manifesto:

Coops is mandatory. Good food, good atmosphere. The lamb ribs are mighty fine, and their jambalaya is really good. Sorry, bro, it's got bunny in it....

I will eat fried chicken from Willie Mae's Scotch House, or die trying. I will eat many, many oysters. Ditto mudbugs. Ditto ditto mudbugs. I will have a pils or two at Crescent City. I will eat beignets. (My spellcheck helpfully suggests 'signets' instead.)(Cygnets, maybe...) I will down Guinni at Monaghan's. I will be thrown out of Avenue Pub for drinking all of their beer. I will down more Guinni at Monaghan's. I will throw down to Bonerama. And Evan Christopher. I will eat too much at Jacques-Imo, Cochon, and elsewhere. I will sing inappropriately at odd hours and places. I will buy cookies from the dessert guy on Frenchman Street at 2AM. I will discover many more new and glorious things, mostly by chance. I will be very, very happy. Furiously happy.

Many, many mudbugs.

Seriously, if you've never been to NOLA, put it on your 'to do' list. You can thank us later. With beer.

(Apologies to Jenny Lawson for appropriating "furiously happy;" I think she would approve of my furious pursuit of happiness.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 362: Pils

Because, Yeaaaaaay, Pils! That is all.

Like this.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Brew Day, Batch 361: IPA (Old-School)

Old School as in Goose, Grant's, Liberty, and the like- A pale, very bitter, slightly-stronger-than-normal ale with a pretty good dose of hop flavor and aroma. Mad Hatter actually fits the mold pretty well, at 5-1/4% alcohol and a metric ton o' BUs.

Today's beer is designed to be golden colored, 6ish percent alcohol, 60 BUs, and most importantly, to make the drinker's tongue tingle. Also, (this is important,) no one drinking this beer should find themselves thinking about cat boxes.

Here's what the 10 gallon recipe looks like:

19# Briess 2 row malt
2 # Weyermann Munich I
1 # Weyermann Carahell
.8oz Centennial 10.5% for 60 min.
1 oz Nugget 14.1% for 30 min.
1 oz Northern Brewer 9.9% for 20 min.
1 oz Cascade 8.6% for 20 min.
1 oz Northern Brewer 9.9% for 10 min.
1 oz Cascade 8.6% for 10 min.
1 oz Nugget 14.1% right before strike heat

Single temp infusion with 1qt/lb at 149F for about 40 min. (overkill with Briess)
Chilled to 65F and pitched an active starter of Wyeast 1056. OG is 1.064

I am optimistic.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Our 8th wedding anniversary had us doing what we really enjoy most- cooking at home!
We started with our annual anniversary toast - 2004 Bigfoot (the year we got married; we have one every year on our anniversary)- paired with some stilton and a 5 year cheddar from Wisconsin. First- the beer. It's getting old ( a bit like us!); oxidation/vinous/nutty flavours abound. It's still good, and still holding its bitterness, but personally we both prefer fresher examples. Both cheeses were quite splendid with the beer.

Next- dinner. We had scored some venison and berry sausages from Corridor Sausage Co. Hmmm, what to do, what to do. Inspired by a bottle of Goose Island's Bourbon County Bramble Rye, I pan fried them and laid them over a bed of the most delicious rice ever- Black Japonica by Lundberg farms- and made a simple sauce from blueberries macerated in port. A side of simple steamed spinach, and we were happy! Needless to say, the Bramble Rye Stout was wonderful with the meal. The beer, made with blackberries & raspberries, was silky and fruity, and the boozy character from the rye whisky aging was not over powering. 

EDIT from Him: The "simple" blueberry sauce incorporated the aroma and flavor of crushed black peppercorns and juniper, and was piquant and delicious....