Archive for May, 2014

Eggplant Parmigiana and Southern Tier Pale Wheat Ale

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2014 by cueball

Eggplant Parmigiana and 422 Pale Wheat AleWhat do you match the beer with?  That is the central question you always have to answer.  In this case, the dish was Eggplant Parmigiana.  Now, eggplant is not a vegetable with a large taste.

Eggplant ParmigianaSo, how do you match a beer to a dish whose central ingredient does not contribute substantially to the overall taste?  In this case, I matched the sauce and Italian bread crumbs used on the eggplant to give it more texture.

The sauce I used was very simple:  tomatoes, onions, and a ton of spices including oregano, lemon-pepper, basil, and bay leaves.  Those seasonings and the seasoning in the Italian bread crumbs and the sweetness from the tomatoes and onions needed a beer with a touch of sweetness and the lightness of the eggplant suggested a lighter beer.  That’s why I choose the Southern Tier 422 Pale Wheat Ale.

First off, the dish was good.  Eggplant is not my favorite vegetable.  However, eggplant parmesan is a good dish.  Not great and I
think that goes back to the sauce.  It was not filled with as much flavor as I had hoped.  I think there will need to be some changes to the recipe to make the dish a little better.  If you like onions it is a great recipe, but I would have preferred more tomato sauce.  Even with the breadcrumbs the eggplant did not contribute much the taste of the dish.

This was my first attempt at eggplant parmesan as well as the first time I had the 422 Pale Wheat Ale.  It almost tastes like a Hefeweizen or other German style wheats, but it doesn’t have the banana/clove taste from yeast and fermentation.  That was probably a plus.  It still has the wheat sweetness and bread notes that matched the sweetness of the sauce and the bread crumbs.  It has a nice refreshing taste and mouthfeel.

Southern Tier 422 Pale Wheat AleThe thing that I am finding is that lighter beers, pale ales, wheat beers, blond ales, work better for Italian dishes then darker beers.  Maybe a brown ale or barley wine would work.  India Pale Ales should also work, but double IPAs maybe too much for a dish like this.  A bigger beer might work for lasagna.

Will I try this combination again?  Probably.  It was successful as the beer worked well with the dish, but the dish was not as good as it will be once I work on a new sauce recipe.

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Quorn Chik’n Cutlets cooked in a balsamic vinegar reduction with herbed steamed potatoes and steamed broccoli with a Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale

Posted in beer with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2014 by cueball

Duck-Rabbit Brown AleThe goal of any pairing is to highlight flavors in both the beer and the food that may not be immediately noticeable when each is taken on its own.   You are trying to find something that you haven’t noticed before in each that will in turn highlight something in the other. You want the food and the beer to play off each other like a good basketball or soccer team.  This is true whether you are going for a complementary pairing or a contrasting pairing.  You are attempting to orchestrate something that is greater and different from the individual parts you are using.  This is much like what chefs do when creating new dishes and brewers do when creating new beers.

In the case of the Quorn cutlets in the balsamic vinegar reduction, I was going for a complementary pairing.  It seemed like a simple match.  A sweet balsamic vinegar reduction paired with a not so sweet brown ale (also one of my favorites), Duck-Rabbit Brown Ale.  In my mind I hoped the caramel notes in the balsamic would play off of the caramel notes in the Brown Ale without having to worry about the sweetness of the beer’s malt getting in the way and hoping the hops would play a more prominent role.

To be clear it did not fail as a pairing, but it did not work as I had hoped.  It almost worked.

The reduction was pretty basic.  It was a half cup of balsamic vinegar with two teaspoons of lemon juice, a teaspoon of honey (maybe I should have eliminated this), and pepper and chili powder to add a bit of spiciness.  It was a sweet reduction bordering on syrupy.  However, the lemon juice cut into the sweetness and brightened it a bit.

The problem was that the reduction and the Brown Ale didn’t really work together as much as cancel each other out.  Now, if I had eliminated the honey and then increased the lemon juice, would that have changed it?  I don’t know, but I will change the recipe and find out later.

I believe with how the recipe was constructed it would have benefited more from a hoppier beer or a beer with more citrusy flavors to contrast with the reduction.  Something like a west coast style pale ale (not an IPA) or a hefewiezen/wheat beer.

Usually when I’m thinking about a pairing I gravitate towards complimentary pairing.  It seems easier to put like tastes next to each other and hope they bring out something additional in each other. However, this pairing is a good illustration that the contrasting pairing works just as well as the complimentary pairing and in this case sometimes better.

What happened was the two like flavor profiles canceled each other out.  Nothing could be highlighted because the comparison was too close and the flavor profiles of each were much too strong.  They each needed something to go against to really shine.  A food that has a really strong flavor needs a beer that has some form of strong contrast to bring out the best in both.  In this case a hoppy West Coast style pale ale (not an IPA) would have done wonders with the taste of the reduction.  Alternately, I have been trying to think of a good dessert to pair with a brown ale and I am beginning to think it is not some kind of chocolate dish, but maybe a fruit based desert that may work better.

Penne Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Steamed Broccoli and Asparagus paired with Flying Dog Brewery’s In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen

Posted in beer, food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2014 by cueball
Flying Dog's In-Heat Wheat pairs wonderfully with this pasta dish

Flying Dog’s In-Heat Wheat pairs wonderfully with this pasta dish

I started with the idea of making a lighter spring/summer vegetable dish.  I found this Alfredo sauce recipe on Allrecipes.com and decided that asparagus and broccoli would be the perfect match for it.  Once I had the recipe I wanted I knew I wanted a lighter summer beer.  I looked at the recipe and figured out the dominant tastes would be the creamy sauce and the asparagus and broccoli.  That was pretty easy to figure out since outside of the penne they are the only things in the recipe.

The next question was do I want the beer to complement or contrast the flavors?  What would be the best way to highlight the food and the beer together?  I did not find that many recommendations for pairings with an Alfredo sauce and the ones I did find recommended pale ale.  Honestly, those are useless recommendations without naming a specific pale ale.  Pales are not necessarily light enough to work with a light summer dish nor do they have enough carbonation to work with a sauce that is as cloying as an Alfredo sauce, unless you are recommending one of the lighter spring/summer seasonal pales like Little Hump from Highland Brewing.  Thinking about the recipe, my mind went in a different direction immediately anyway:  hefeweizens or witbiers.

Then I just had to choose a beer.  So, I went down to Dragonfly and bought a handful of different hefeweizens and witbiers that I like, Weeping Willow Wit, Orange Avenue Wit, Shotgun Betty, and In-Heat Wheat.  Any of them would have worked, but I choose the In-Heat Wheat.

In-Heat has a classic hefeweizen taste of cloves and bananas from the yeast, a lot of carbonation, and it is light on the tongue.  The one thing that worried me about using a wheat beer was the cloves and banana.  I was not sure how that would go with the sauce and the vegetables.

I was surprised by how the cloves and bananas complemented the asparagus and the sauce.  This sauce is good because it adapts to whatever it is being served with including beer and the light vegetable flavor of the asparagus also fit with the taste of the beer nicely.  Where this beer works better than a pale ale is in the lightness and the carbonation.  The lightness fit with the overall feel of the dish and the carbonation cut through the sauce keeping it from being too heavy and overwhelming the vegetables and pasta.

Penne Pasta with creamy Alfredo Sauce and steamed Asparagus and Broccoli

Penne Pasta with creamy Alfredo Sauce and steamed Asparagus and Broccoli

One of the lighter spring or summer seasonal pales would have worked because of their lightness and would have brought a different flavor profile because of their hoppy vegetal taste.  That would have placed more of the emphasis on the vegetables instead of the sauce.  The yeasty taste of a wheat beer moves the emphasis to the sauce instead of the vegetables and in turn, with this sauce in particular, the sauce accepts some of the tastes of the beer highlighting both.  That yeasty sweetness also complemented the vegetables without getting in their way giving me a good summer pairing.