Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beer, Beer, Beer, lovely lovely beer

Prost alles!
Lots of beer stuff going on lately. My amazing brewer of a father is working on opening a brewing in Mancus, CO but surprisingly has still had time for me down in Moab.

  • We recently experimentally brewed a Black Belgium Trippel in a 5 G. We loved it so much, as did our friends, that my father will be brewing this beer again and aging it in their whiskey barrel and using this as the beer for his opening night when his brewery opens next summer. 
  • Another experimental: Our first time using Galaxy Hops from Australia, we brewed a dry hopped pale and this is currently being bottle conditioned. Very stoked!
  • The Wild Bunch: The Moab homebrew club just had a brew day where we brewed a batch of Chai Milk Stout. Fun times were had by all.

My latest beer haul has plenty of seasonals (I will no longer be a virgin of 'Rumpkin' after tonight!) I will save this for future posts.

Must see Denver (area) Breweries

I took a long awaited trip in August to Denver and surrounding areas on what I called "Beercation". I didn't need to bore anyone with details, there is so many reviews already posted across the web. Finally I decided to give a simple run down of my favorite spots and why they were so fucking awesome.

Avery (Boulder): Not much I need to stay. Known for their world class beer, this Brewery never fails to disappoint in not only in a wide selection of delicious beer (including barrel aged and tap room exclusives), but also in a kickass happy atmosphere. I love the people who work here, and even more love the delicious summer IPA's they had on top. It made the extremely hot day more bearable.

What a shame Equinox Brewing in Ft. Collins fails to distribute. Even though it was packed it served as a nice hangout spot (unlike New B.).

Left Hand (Longmont). What can I say? Sitting at the bar I felt like a little girl who just met her childhood hero. These were some of the first locally regional beers I got into.
Grimm Brothers (Loveland) perfectly fits my style. German fairytale mixed with classic German styles. Fuckin Win!

Funkwerks (Ft. Collins): These saison experts know how to make some freaking delicious summer time beer. I really enjoyed the outside seating and beanbog toss on the luciously green grass also.

Prost! (Denver): Where have you been all my life? These guys do a wonderful job in educating the average american beer drinker in what German beer is really about. Classic styles, lots of seating, and I proudly brought home my favorite: their weisebier.

Crooked Stave (Denver): These guys are getting so much hype I knew I had to check them out. A peak into their backroom and I knew they were serious about barrel aging. They have some of the best beer I've ever had, and also broke my Galaxy Hop cherry.

River North (Denver)

Renegde (Denver)
Before anyone chimes in their two sense, I did visit plenty of others. New Belgium was alright. I do really enjoy their beer but they have become so ridiculously popular that their taproom was not much enjoyed. I want to chill out and enjoy my beer, not feel rushed to get the hell out. Denver Brewing was also good, worth it if you have time, but astonishly special.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chinese Wonton soup

I don't find that stories of my childhood relating to food are as extravagant as other cooks. I am honored to stem from a traditional southern family and specifically my great grandmother who was an awesome cook. Other then that, my most vivid memory relating to food was constantly craving Chinese. When my father asked where I wanted to eat on my birthdays or other random occasions I always replied enthusiastically "Chinese food!" I was satisfied with a cheap Americanized buffet of egg rolls, fried rice, cashew chicken...and especially Wonton Soup. However, we sometimes went to substantially nice sit down restaurants in the heart of Arlington, Texas that made awesome Wonton Soup. I was lucky enough to go back a couple of years ago to the same restaurant and eat the same wonton soup. They make it just as delicious. So simple, the broth producing clean flavors, the wontons stuffed with delicious pork.

When my mother moved me to Denver for a year in high school there was a restaurant on Broadway called 'Imperial', just right by my house. I would constantly order take out, even if it was just there shrimp wonton soup that I found amazing and like nothing I've eaten.

I started cooking wonton soup a few years ago. My view is that it is a gourmet peasants dish: meaning it is cheap, easy to make, but fit for a king. Gourmet has a wonderful wonton soup recipe w/boy choy: Here.
I still use this recipe as a guideline though I have it in memory. When I cooked it a few days ago I used the broth I had left over from steaming the duck in my previous post. The recipe is fairly simple but maybe a little time consuming if you aren't used to making wontons. I've actually heard someone say that this was just too much work for a soup, which almost offends me because any soup that takes less then an hour is probably not worth its salt. It is also so easy to experiment with the stuffing in the wontons. I have used chunks of shrimp or prawns before instead of ground pork.

A word about the ingredients: You should be able to find wonton wrappers in your local supermarket. I have not yet been adventurous enough to make my own, but maybe one day. I also found bok choy in my very small rural supermarket. This is literally a Chinese cabbage. It was studied by the Ming dynasty for its medicinal qualities. The Koreans picked it up and started using it as a main ingredient in kimchi. It adds a needed crisp texture to soups, but be careful because after a day of being cooked it is very soggy and chewy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crispy duck

More fried goodness!!!! I was stoked to learn that my local butcher carried duck. It is only shipped from somewhere else, frozen, but you can't ask for the whole world in rural Utah. I have done this recipe twice now, and I must say it is completely delicious but I kind of a pain in the but....kinda.

I took a day trip to the town over and went to a small little Oriental store. I stocked up on soy sauce, red bean paste, eel sauce, egg noodles...the list goes on. Most exciting of all, I treated myself to a new Wok! Along with the crispy duck I served fried rice from my new beauty, which did not make a final photo shoot because we were too busy eating it while it was hot.

This recipe is taken from The Food of China by Deh-Ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds. This was an thrift store find, just packed with recipes and beautiful photos.

Crispy Duck:

4-5 lb duck
8 scallions, ends trimmed, smashed with flat cleaver
8 slices ginger, smashed
3 T rice wine vinegar
2 T salt
2 t sichuan peppercorns
1 star anise, smashed
2 T soy sauce
1 C corn starch
oil for deep frying (I used part peanut oil part vegie oil)
condiment of choice such as hoisin sauce (I used Eal sauce and it was delicious)

Combine scallions, ginger, rice wine, salt, peppercorns, and star anise. Rub all over duck and let the duck sit face down into the marinade in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, but I let sit overnight. Put the duck into a steamer and let it steam over simmering water for 1 1/2 hours or until it reaches 160 degrees. I used a stock pot that has a separate steaming basket to place the duck in. You might have to add more water in the process.

Remove the duck and let it cool. Rub the corn starch all over the duck, pressing firmly into the skin. Let the duck dry for a couple of hours uncovered in the fridge.

Fill a wok or large pot 1/4 full of oil. Heat the oil to 350-375 degrees then lower duck into. Ladle oil onto the top of duck and flip the duck over when the bottom is getting golden and crispy. Drain the duck onto a plate, serve with condiment and in my case fried rice.

Veggies for my fried rice

Dak Kang Jung

Despite my self-lessons in the french language and memoir on top of memoir of Paris, I've been kinda obsessed with Asian cuisine lately. Well, I shouldn't say lately, because I've always been a little obsessed and find myself cooking and craving various regions constantly.

A close friend of mine, who happens to be part Korean, made this dish for my son's 2nd birthday party when I invited friends and family to a potluck in his honor. It was a major hit, and though very rich and almost too intense I couldn't stop eating. She had fried some chicken and tossed it in some kind of delicious sweet soy sauce. This opened my horizons of fried chicken, since being from the south I've never known it much other way then being fried and served with gravy and mash potatoes.

The first few times I made this at home I followed my friend's simple directions: fry some chicken (dipping in milk + egg then dredging in flour with some spices), then bringing part soy sauce part brown sugar to a simmer until it reduces and becomes very thick. After that you of course put the chicken right into the sauce so it is heavenly coated.

Just two weeks ago I stumbled across a new food blog (new to me), Notions & Notations of a Novice Cook, that escalated dak-kang jung even further. The dish is still so simple to make and yields amazing flavors. You can find her recipe at the link provided. I made a few simple changed, such as a little more brown sugar and soy sauce to the sauce recipe. I also served it on top of jasmine rice which is a nice balance to all the sauce.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Southern me up!

Not to toot my own horn (okay maybe I lie), but I can make some damn good fried chicken. It is one of the main perks from being of southern decent, though as many know fried chicken is widely known and a global delicacy. In fact, I'm constantly hearing vegetarians say that the only meat that sounds good to them is bacon, and meat eaters insist that is a main reason why they could not be vegetarian. Myself? I might give up bacon before fried chicken, though bacon is something I can eat more on a regular basis. I think I don't make fried chicken constantly not just for obvious dietary reasons, but becase I do not want to grow tired of it. I want each fried chicken meal to be more special then the last, and this new and improved recipe I have flourished has done just that.

So lets begin. Any southern woman probably has her own secrets for making fried chicken, and I'm going to tell you exactly what I think about all of  that: there are hundreds of ways to make it. There is so much room for creativity with such basic ingredients so use your imagination. However, I insist on a few basic guidelines, such as a cast iron skillet and a dry rub that sits on the chicken overnight.

Ingredients: (for 3-4 people)

 Cast Iron Skillet
1 Whole Chicken (4 lb. or so)

1 C Buttermilk
1 large egg
1 T cornstarch
1 T Salt
1 T black pepper
3 C flour (all purpose)
Peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying
1/2 cup of honey
3 T butter

Spice rub:
1 T salt
2 t black pepper
3/4 t lemon pepper
1/2 t garlic salk
1/2 t onion powder
3/4 t cayenne
1 t paprika

It is much more economical and environmental to use a whole chicken. Please please please, it is not as hard as you think to cut down a chicken. For me it not morally right to buy a package of chicken that just has one cut, such as the legs, and I admire the variety each piece gives to a meal. You can easily find you tube videos that show you how to cut down a chicken.

The night before you fry the chicken, place all of the pieces of chicken in a bowl. Combine the spice rub separately then generously portion all over the chicken, rubbing the spicy into it. Seal the bowl with plastic tightly and let sit over night. The reason you need to use a smaller chicken is so the pieces are not so huge and will be able to cook evenly with the batter so the outside does not burn.

The next day let the chicken sit out to almost room temp while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. The only way I will cook fried chicken is in a cast iron skillet. You will probably need to do 2-3 batches because you do not want to overcrowd the skillet. Mix 1 egg and the buttermilk in one bowl, in a second bowl combine flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

In a small saucepan, heat honey and butter on med-low stirring constantly (I used a local produced wildflower honey, but I think any will be delicious). Once it simmers, remove from heat and let cool. Fill the skillet about half way with oil. Peanut oil is more expensive and very rich, and this time I used half peanut oil and half veggie oil which worked out great. Heat at medium. Be careful, cast iron channels heat very well and you might have to turn down the heat just a notch once warmed up. You want the temp of the oil at 350 degrees.

Dredge each piece first in the egg batter (with right hand), then straight into the flour batter (left hand). Set each piece aside, it needs to sit for five minutes. If it goes straight into the oil you risk the chance of the batter not sticking as well. Carefully drop the chicken in the skillet. It should take about fifteen minutes to fry, turning each piece over once. Do not touch the chicken until the batter gets crispy or the flour can fall off. You can use a thermometer to see if the chicken is at 160 before pulling it out. Once you pull it out (setting on a paper towel or wire rack,) lather the hot chicken in the honey/butter with a brush. If you need to do more then once batch of chicken, keep the cooked pieces in a slightly warm oven to keep warm.

I am excited to experiment with the honey-butter lather further, such as fusing it with some fresh herbs. I also usually take some of the oil out of the pain after frying, add some flour and whisk it with milk to make gravy-but it is refreshing to mix things up a bit.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The journey is more fun then the destination

One of the best parts about our short Durango trip was driving there! Utah is absolutely gorgeous right now with all of the snow, if you hadn't noticed, and made for one content car ride.

Durango Coffee Company not only made me a bomb 'shot in the dark', but is a home cooks dream!

Durango Bagels: Cinnamon sugar bagel with raspberry cream cheese
Fuzziwig's Candy Shop: Valentine display
Besides the railroad and steamworks brewery, Durango also has a fun main street scene. I was pleasantly surprised to find they had a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory! They also have a small but kick ass candy store, an amazing culinary and coffee stop, and a really decent bagel shop.