Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics Day 5: Egg Drop Soup

First, coffee. Gail made Peet's New Guinea Highlands this morning. Again, not better than what we could get in the grocery store, but perfectly good. This coffee had very slight aroma, but a rich mouth feel. It lacked any metallic notes, and had a full, almost woody flavor.

Gail made egg drop soup for dinner, which we rounded of with some take-out Chinese appetizers. Her recipe tasted just the way I like it. When I have it out, I always have to add pepper and a little soy sauce for flavor. Gail's recipe needed neither. I thought I tasted white pepper, but Gail said there was none. I think the garlic and ginger combine for that flavor profile.

Egg Drop Soup

Serves 2

1/2” piece fresh ginger
1 clove garlic
2 ½ c vegetable stock
1 T med-dry sherry
1 egg
2 T cornstarch
2 T water
1 scallion
¾ t sesame oil
2 t soy sauce (optional)
  1. Thinly slice ginger; crush garlic.
  2. Bring stock, sherry, ginger, garlic and soy sauce to boil in heavy saucepan. Remove ginger, and garlic if piece is large enough, with slotted spoon; discard.
  3. Lightly beat egg. Turn off but leave pot on burner; slowly add egg to soup while stirring in a circular motion; let stand undisturbed until egg strands cooked, 1 min.
  4. Combine and stir in cornstarch and water; stir in scallions and sesame oil.
We looked all over for a Chinese beer, but all we could find was Tsingtao, which I don't like enough to buy a six-pack of. So, we looked for something different, and found only one type of rice wine as an alternative. This bottle of Pagoda Brand Shao Hsing Chia Fan Chiew is my first Chinese rice wine experience. The clerk at the liquor store said it was nothing special. He was right. The dark color out of the bottle concerned me at first. On tasting it, the color made more sense. This is just like sherry; average sherry. The bottle is very cool, and since we use sherry mostly for cooking, we will use it happily.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Olympics Day 4: Peet's Costa Rica Coffee

It's tough to do much Olympics on a work day, and today is extra hard because I am going out to dinner for work. We did talk about the Olympics at lunch. Yes, I am the biggest Olympics nut at work.

Gail did make me an international coffee. She made Peet's Costa Rica. It was a pleasant coffee, but no more special than what we usually get from the grocery store. There was little aroma, but the coffee was not at all bitter. A nice, simple coffee.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Olympics Day 3: Paella

Gail made paella tonight in honor of Spain. We used oysters instead of the clams and a wild boar sausage instead of the traditional chorizo. Gail did a great job paring down the recipe for just the two of us. I love how the saffron ties the seafood and chicken flavors together.

Serves 8

For stock:
2-lb broiler-fryer chicken, whole or cut up
1 sm onion, peeled
1 carrot, scrubbed
1 stalk celery, scrubbed
1 bay leaf
1 sprig parsley
1 t salt
2 black peppercorns

¼ c oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 c chopped bell pepper
1 ½ c chopped onion
¼ c parsley
1 t saffron
1 ½ t paprika
½ t oregano
1/16 t ground black pepper
2 c white rice, uncooked
6 oz canned whole clams or 4 fresh clams in shells
8 oz raw shrimp
8 oz chorizo or hard Spanish sausage
  1. Carve raw chicken; refrigerate breasts, wings, thighs, and drumsticks.
  2. With remaining chicken bones, make stock in large soup pot: Cover bones with 2 qt water. Add peeled onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, parsley sprig, salt and whole black peppers; simmer until meat falls off bone and liquid is reduced to 1 qt, about 2 hr. Strain stock; discard solids. Return stock to pot.
  3. Meanwhile, in large frying pan, brown chicken pieces in oil.
  4. Add garlic, peppers and chopped onion; cook until tender.
  5. Stir in spices; set aside.
  6. When stock is finished, preheat oven to 350 F; bring stock to boil; add rice. Boil 10 min to start rice cooking (it will finish in oven).
  7. Transfer contents of soup pot to a large, deep roasting pan. Place hot chicken and vegetables on top of rice and bake until rice is tender, about 1 hr. Check after 30 min and add more liquid (clam juice, on-hand broth) if all is absorbed and rice is not soft.
  8. Meanwhile, scrub the clams, shell and devein the shrimp, and thinly slice the chorizo.
  9. When rice is tender, place clams, shrimp, and chorizo on top of mixture. Cover with a dome of foil and return to oven to steam for 15-20 min, until clams open and shrimp is fully cooked. Remove foil and serve immediately with a salad.
My Spanish beer pairing was Estrella Damm Inedit. The flavors were delicious, although somewhat confusing. It had a low-hops, sweet-sour flavor like the ReAle Extra from yesterday, but not quite the same. I see from their website that those flavors come from orange peel, coriander and licorice. Overall a decent beer. The sour flavors make it more of a sipper.

Olympics Day 3: Russian Shchi

I'm really enjoying the volleyball. It was a great outing for the men's and women's US teams. I also loved watching the 16-year-old from my home town of San Jose, California, Ariel Hsing, win her match in table tennis.

Gail made a Russian cabbage soup called shchi for lunch. We noticed that so many of our international dishes included cabbage. We will look out for cabbage overload. Gail took her recipe from food.com. I think it is the caraway seeds that give this dish its distinctive taste. It is both savory and sour, really amazingly meaty for a dish whose only meat is the stock.

I poured a Russian beer to accompany the shchi, a Baltica #4 Original. The beer's dominant flavor was burnt caramel to match its color. It had a strongly sweet finish, with a very slight phenolic, Band-Aid flavor. Overall, it was a smooth and easy drinking beer.

Olympics Day 3: Traditional English Breakfast

Yesterday we picked up a few coffees to extend the international fun. From Starbucks, we got the Brazil Peaberry Yellow Bourbon. From Peet's we got the New Guinea Highlands, Costa Rica, and Kenya Auction Lot, which I'm drinking right now. We were surprised that Starbucks didn't have more variety, and that they only had pre-packaged beans.

The Kenyan beans were notably shiny. We ground and brewed them the way we usually do, using half a scoop per cup. I expected strong aromas, but the cup lacked any aroma. The flavor started out watery, but finished strong and bitter with a taste of iron.

When we were in London last year we enjoyed the traditional English breakfast. Gail made one this morning including eggs, bacon, sausage, fried potatoes and tomato. This is sometimes called a fry-up for obvious reasons. Look how nicely the eggs came out of the pan. The most unusual part of this breakfast was the tomato. That was an excellent sweet addition to the saltiness of the sausage and bacon. Looks like I'm developing a taste for sweet-salty.

The traditional English breakfast is supposed to be a hearty, "full" breakfast with eggs, two meats, and various side dishes. The potatoes and tomatoes are very common, as are beans. We decided to skip the beans thinking our intestines were sufficiently full of cabbage.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics Day 2: Chicken Piccata

This afternoon we went on an excursion to extend the international beer selection. From left-to-right you'll see another British beer as well as beers from Scotland, Spain, France, Holland, Czech Republic and Jamaica.

For tonight's dinner Gail made chicken piccata in honor of Italy. I love how the flavors of the lemon and capers complement each other. The chicken was as tender as the butter it was sauteed in.

Chicken Piccata
amounts per serving

½ T olive oil
1 ½ T flour
4 oz boneless skinless chicken breast
¼ t salt
freshly ground black pepper

4 t dry white wine
2 t fresh lemon juice
3 T low-salt chicken broth
1 T drained capers
½ T butter
1 T chopped fresh parsley
Fresh lemon slice or wedge for garnish
  1. Heat oil in heavy skillet (preferably not a non-stick variety) over med low heat. Meanwhile, measure flour into shallow bowl; set aside.
  2. Pound chicken to ¼” thickness; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Dip chicken pieces in flour to coat; reserve excess for thickening pan sauce.
  4. Cook coated chicken in skillet until golden, about 3 min per side. Meanwhile, combine wine, lemon juice and chicken broth, set aside; measure capers into small bowl.
  5. Transfer cooked chicken to platter; cover to keep warm.
  6. Melt butter in skillet; remove from heat; whisk in reserved flour until completely smooth. Add wine mixture; bring to boil in skillet over med-hi heat; boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 min.
  7. Stir in capers and parsley; pour sauce over chicken; serve immediately. 
Tonight's beer was also from Italy: Birra del Borgo's ReAle Extra. I brewed a beer once and forgot to add the hops. The resulting beer had a sour, lemon flavor that was pleasant but overwhelming. The ReAle had that same pleasant sour flavor balanced with an appropriate, but subtle hops. In fact, they triple the hops in this beer, but don't add them until the flavoring phase, totally skipping the bittering phase. This makes it a rather sophisticated alternative to my normal fare. This was piccata in a bottle. It was a perfect complement to the capers and lemon.

Olympics Day 2: Korean Marinated Beef

I enjoyed the Olympic opening ceremonies. My favorite parts were the agrarian village scenes, and of course, Mr. Bean. And now the sports begin. I have watched some cycling, boxing, women's basketball and volleyball. I don't know why volleyball isn't a televised sport all the time. That game was intense.

For lunch, Gail made us Korean Marinated Beef. Instead of fresh ginger, Gail used pickled ginger. That was a great addition, but use half as much if you try it. You might get a more tender result by marinating the beef longer. The sauce had a perfect sweet-salt thing going on. Make sure you serve it with rice to pick up all the extra sauce. By the way, that is a tomato from Gail's garden in the picture.

Korean Marinated Beef
amounts per serving

1 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
½ t sesame oil
2 T minced scallions, white and pale green parts only (reserve dark green parts for garnish)
1 t minced garlic
1 t minced peeled fresh ginger
4 oz flank steak
1 t peanut oil

  1. Combine soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, minced scallions, garlic and ginger.
  2. Slice meat across grain into very thin slices, no more than 1/8” thick, then cut into bite-sized pieces; marinate in soy sauce mixture at least 15 min.
  3. Heat peanut oil in heavy skillet over high heat just until smoking; put on an apron while oil heats since ginger will spatter! Stir-fry meat until cooked through and browned, 3-5 min.
  4. Serve immediately, garnished with scallion greens.

With that I had a Korean beer from the Oriental Brewery. Web research suggested that what I drank was called "Blue", but I couldn't tell from the bottle, and the website for Oriental Brewery doesn't even list it. This beer was a disappointment. It was fine for what it was, but that was the closest to Coors that I could imagine. And, that style is not my favorite. They can't all be great.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Let the 2012 Olympics Begin

I'm a huge Olympics fan, so I'm very happy for today's start of the 2012 Olympics. In addition, it's the start of a Flower's family tradition of themed meals during the Olympics. Gail wonderfully plans and prepares a variety of meals from various nations. This year, I'm trying to match the meals with a beer from each country. As a preview, in the picture below you see America, Italy, Great Britain, Korea, India, Japan, Australia, Germany and Russia.

Tonight's meal was in honor of the host country. Gail made a British Bubble 'n' Squeak based on a recipe from allrecipes.com. Gail added a poached egg to round it out. To me the flavor was excellent, but Gail thought it could use a bit less pepper and paprika and bit more salt. We both agreed it tasted a bit like hash. It was an excellent first meal of these Olympics.
Tonight's beer was Sam Smith's Organic Best Ale. This beer reminds me of the beers I had last summer in London. It was clean and creamy with a slightly sweet finish. And, it had the low carbonation and tiny bubble structure common in British pub beers.

Thanks Gail for a great opening ceremony meal.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Krušovice Imperial: How a Pilsner Should Taste

I tried this Krušovice Inperial in honor of my daughter. Next semester she will studing in the Czech Republic. As it happens, I've also been wondering what American pilsner might taste like if they weren't, well, so bad. This is how I'd like them to taste.

You can taste the heritage of great Czech beers in the American examples, but without the character evident in this beer. First, look at the rich color. The richness continues through the mouth-feel. This beer is full of flavor, but refreshing, not heavy. If American pilsners tasted like this, we wouldn't have needed the craft beer revolution.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

No Chewing Allowed Truffles Melt in Your Mouth

This blog entry is too long in coming. Noele gave me a feast of treats last Christmas, among which was a box of No Chewing Allowed chocolate truffles. I followed their instructions, and yes, the experience of letting the chocolate melt over your tongue is sublime. They didn't last long. Thank you, Noele.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Pretty Things Tasting at Formaggio Kitchen

I went to a tasting of Pretty Things beers at Formaggio Kitchen today. I hadn't realized that Pretty Things is a local brewery before today. The woman running the tasting, Anya, explained that they are headquartered in Somerville (Gail and I used to live in Somerville), but the beer is made in Westport at (not by) the Buzzards Bay Brewery.

I tasted each of the six beers in the picture. My favorite was the Meadowlark IPA, which I'm drinking right now as I write this blog entry. The aroma and flavoring hops are intense without adding an overly bitter character.  It's like drinking a glass of flowers. A shortage of these hops may make this beer difficult to get, so I'll have to get more before I can't.

I also liked both saison style beers. Their Jack D'Or is their biggest seller, and is delicious with aggressively bittered hops. Today I preferred the slightly less hop-heavy Field Mouse's Farewell. You never know what I'll be in the mood for tomorrow. Sometimes, I can't get enough hops. I also bought a bottle of the Baby Tree, a Belgian quad. You can almost chew the yummy Baby Tree.

Finally the American Darling on the far right was very good as well. It is probably the closest thing that Pretty Things has to a lawnmower beer. Note the lawnmower on the label.  But don't be fooled, this is not the Miller pony you really want right after mowing the lawn. This is the beer you want at a summer cookout. It's light, but not light enough to throw back after yard work as a thirst quencher.