Friday, February 20, 2009

Fajita Feast


(for the sides)

We served the fajitas with hot fresh flour tortillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, refried black beans, lime slices, fresh cilantro, crumbled white Mexican queso, and jicama salad, as well as the recipes that follow. Any combination of favorite sides will do, however, including radishes, chives, avocado, sour cream, etc.--the sky's the limit. You will certainly want to heat the tortillas, either in the microwave (we don't have a microwave) or over a very low gas burner, and wrap them in a clean towel to keep them warm. I can't recommend Rick Bayless's Arroz Verde recipe enough, and my own recipe for the purple cabbage slaw turned out way beyond my best-laid plans, but apart from those enthusiastically lauded sides, do as you will.

(for the beer)

22 oz. Troegenator Double Bock
22. oz Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale

(for the Sweet Corn and Cabbage Slaw)

1/2 a head of red cabbage, finely sliced
3 ears of sweet corn, kernels sliced off the cob
5 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 shallots, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 heaping tsp. paprika
2-6 shakes (depending on spice preference) of Chipotle Tabasco sauce (not the regular kind--if all you have is the regular kind, substitute smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. agave nectar or white sugar
Salt and fresh black pepper

1) Heat the oil in a saute pan and add the shallot and garlic; sweat for 1 minute.
2) Add the sweet corn kernels and saute for 4-5 minutes, until corn is tender but still crisp. Set aside in a mixing bowl.
3) Add the red cabbage to the bowl, followed by the remaining ingredients. Toss thoroughly and check seasoning to balance salt, sweet, and spice flavors.

(for the Arroz Verde, slightly altered from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen)

1 cup of white rice
2 poblano chile peppers, diced
12 springs of fresh cilantro, stems included, washed thoroughly
1 2/3 cups good quality salted chicken stock
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1) Heat the seasoned chicken stock in a pot until boiling and add diced poblano; simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
2) Put the chicken stock with the diced poblano and fresh cilantro sprigs in a food processor and pulse until very smooth. Set puree aside, wipe out the pot and return it to the burner.
3) Heat oil; saute the onion 2-3 minutes until sweated. Add the garlic and cook until toasted and fragrant, 1 minute more.
4) Add the rice and saute until the grains are opaque.
5) Pour the chicken stock and chile puree into the rice and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat for 15 minutes; fluff the rice with a fork to stir in any chile solids that might have accumulated on top, and serve.

(for the Fajitas)

3 breasts of chicken, pounded thin and sliced
2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
3 tbsp. tequila

(all the spices below should be mixed, and then divided evenly between the chicken and the vegetables in separate bowls)
2 tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ancho chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. cumin
Salt and black pepper

1) Keeping the raw chicken separate from the vegetables, toss both with the spice mixture and plenty of salt and pepper in two large bowls.
2) In two large (heavy-bottomed or cast-iron works great) skillets, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add the vegetables and the chicken to their respective pans.
3) Saute the vegetables over high heat until the peppers are sweated and the onions have lost their bite, about 5 minutes. Set aside on a serving platter.
4) Brown the chicken on all sides and cook until just tender, 5-7 minutes depending on thickness of the chicken. When the meat is nearly cooked, pour the tequila over it and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Saute 1 minute more and then plate.

Beer is de rigeur with Mexican food (comment dit-on "de rigeur" en Espagnol?), but--notwithstanding the existence of some stellar Hispanic brews like Dos Equis, for example--we didn't happen to have any south-of-the-border beer on hand. That was fine, because these two styles were great with fajitas and could stand up to the vibrant flavors. The Red Rocket is a killer high-hopped ale from California, with a mouthfeel on the lighter side, hints of lemongrass, sweet citrus, and bitter pine resin. It's from the geniuses at Bear Republic who brought us the Hop Rod Rye. Next on the list is a slightly richer, sweeter bottle, the Pennsylvania-brewed Troegenator Double Bock: you still get a good hop background to balance out the molasses-tinged malts, and this quaff goes down very smooth, leaving hints of chocolate and toast on the palate.

We've begun having dinner parties with Messrs. Brady Cooper and Mark Vincent Barlow--the last occasion was the Three Vegetarian Pizzas we posted. They arrive, we commence drinking, then chopping, then dicing, and finally eating--at around ten at night, as is natural and proper for supper in NYC. Fajita Feast was deemed a success, I think, since a poll taken of its participants over what we ought to cook next revealed an inclination simply to make more fajitas. By the way, Brady and Gabriel are serious guacamole contenders when apart, but combined, they're unstoppable. Recipe for aforemention guac deferred because they were both hovering over it, tasting it, and adding all manner of alchemical shit to it for half an hour, so no one has the slightest notion what it actually contained, other than magic.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Skate Wing in Rock Shrimp Caper Sauce with Blood Orange Brussels Sprouts

INGREDIENTS (serves two--we also had roasted root vegetables tossed in butter and thyme):

(for the beer)
Brooklyn Winter Ale

(for the fish)
1 skate wing (about 3/4 to 1 pound)
Poaching liquid to cover: about 3 cups of fish stock, with seafood boil herbs added. Our mix includes mustard seed, dill seed, ginger, chili pepper, bay leaf, clove, allspice, celery seed, cinnamon and black peppercorn.

1) Bring liquid to a simmer and poach the fish, about 10-12 minutes; it's done when the flesh is opaque and begins to flake apart easily.
2) Divide skate wing in halves and plate.

(for the sauce)
1 1/2 cups fish stock
splash of white wine
1 oz. capers, minced
4 springs fresh parsley, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 lb. rock shrimp
Salt and pepper

1) Simmer and reduce the fish stock, butter, capers, and white wine to a little over half a cup of liquid.
2) Incorporate the heavy cream and return to a simmer. Season with salt and fresh pepper.
3) Add the rock shrimp and cook until just pink; when they're pink, remove from heat.
4) Stir in fresh parsley and pour over the divided skate wing.

(for the Brussels sprouts)
1 lb. baby Brussels sprouts
2 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup brandy
Juice of 3 blood oranges, some flesh reserved
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. honey
Salt and fresh black pepper

1) Pour blood orange juice, honey and balsamic vinegar into a small sauce pot and simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce into a thick, delicious glaze. Depending on your balsamic, you may need to add more sweetener, as balsamics vary widely.
2) When the glaze is almost ready, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. As the outer leaves brown, add the brandy and scrape the bits off the pan. They'll be done in about 5-7 minutes--taste them to prevent overcooking.
3) Season to taste and toss with the glaze.
4) Open Brooklyn Winter Ale
5) Serve together

We went with the Brooklyn Winter Ale for this one--can't beat $7.99 for a sixer at Whole Foods, at least not in New York. Even though Garrett Oliver is ridiculously dismissive and tends to "get his tweed undies in a twist," (source of quote shall remain nameless for his protection) over beers that are not to his liking, e.g. hoppy west-coast beers, he can still brew a mean beverage.

Okay, we weren't too wowed by this one on its own, but it did do a wonderful thing when combined with the dinner: it made them both better. The malt-forward sweetness and laid back hops played well on the tongue with the sweetness from the rock shrimp, roasted veg and the glaze of the brussel sprouts. I like me a little hops with something bold like brussel sprouts, and there was just enough bitter presence to hold up on that end as well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Chili Beef with Broccoli and Oyster Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS (serve this dish over white rice, brown rice, or rice noodles):

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped large
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 dried red chilies, pounded into small flakes
1 small head broccoli, diced
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved
1/2 pound king oyster mushrooms, sliced into 1/4 inch lengths
12 oz. beef round stir-fry strips
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tsp. honey or agave nectar, or 1 tsp white sugar
2 heaping tablespoons Thai chili sauce (naam prik pow)
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

1) Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Add dried chili to infuse with the oil, about 1 minute.
2) Add onion and garlic, tossing until garlic is toasted, about 1 more minute.
3) Add beef, oyster sauce, water, soy sauce, sweetener of your choice, white pepper, and Thai chili sauce. Saute about 3 minutes.
4) Add broccoli to the pan along with sugar snap peas and cook for 2 minutes.
5) Finally, add the mushrooms to the hot skillet and cook until just wilted and tender, about 2 minutes.
6) Taste the sauce and add salt or sugar if needed for balance, cracking fresh black pepper over all.
7) Open Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA.
8) Enjoy together.

Dogfish Head is at the forefront of East Coast craft brewing, and the sweet, malty richness of their 90 Minute IPA pairs great with anything spicy, anything influenced by Asian heat. The sauce for this dish was basically inspired by the Cashew Nut Chicken sauce I learned to make in Chiang Mai, but the white pepper gives the beef something to stand up against. Dogfish Head brewers are confident enough not to be afraid to experiment, and when they discovered that a flavor added continually during cooking evinces more nuances in the finished dish than if, say, you'd dumped two tablespoons of black pepper in a recipe right at the end rather than spicing it throughout, they knew they were on to something in the world of hops. This incredibly smooth, honeysuckle-sweet brew is the result.


A Word to the Wise on the subject of Chili Lung:


1) When adding dry (or fresh) chilies to a skillet of hot oil, do not hover over the skillet.
2) Should you happen to hover over the skillet, do not breathe in.
3) If you happen to inhale airborne essence of hot pepper while cooking, do not laugh, shrug it off, and continue on in the kitchen.
4) Open the window.
5) Run with all your speed.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Steve's Kidney-Punching Brisket

INGREDIENTS (our thanks to Steve Sokolov for this killer recipe, for being such a good egg, and for never pressing charges when I punch him in the kidneys):

1 7-lb very marbled brisket

2 giant sweet onions

2 habanero peppers

6-8 cloves of garlic

½ gallon mango juice

Salt and pepper to taste


Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Generously salt and pepper your brisket. Sear it in a stove-top safe roasting pan on all sides, browning well. Remove from pan and set aside.

3) Chop onion into large slices and add to the roasting pan with diced habanero (be careful, gloves would be a good idea) and chopped garlic. Cook about 5 minutes until onions are sweated.

4) Add the brisket back to the pan and fill half way up with mango juice. Place uncovered into the oven. You should have plenty of juice to spare. Throughout the cooking, as liquid evaporates, continue to add more juice.

5) Cook until the meat easily pulls apart with a fork, about five hours, flipping the brisket occasionally in the liquid if you feel the need.

6) Open Ninkasi Total Domination.

7) Enjoy together.


Ninkasi makes good brew, and we only get our hands on it when we're in the Northwest--this one is quite resinous, just the way we like our IPAs, and a little bit toasty, with clear copper-grapefruit consistency. Awesome with brisket, that's a fact.


We were homebrewing when made this brisket! It's a great meal to stick in the oven for four or five hours without really thinking about it, when you've got some sort of massive project going on in the garage, like cleaning your motorcycle or building a shelf or putting the finishing touches on your taxidermied elk, or best of all, making some beer. We would obviously have loved to pair our own beer with this brisket, but...well, it hadn't actually brewed yet, of course.

Eric Braddock (Gabe's sister's husband and a fine upstanding young gentleman) makes some stellar homebrews with Jordan Lehner and other promiment guest stars, and on this occasion we decided on a rye malt IPA, to which--I know, I went a little crazy with this notion--we added caraway seeds along with the hops. It's gonna be awesome. Pictured are men brewing beer while drinking beer, the dried Amarillo and Centennial hops that went into the Rye-P-A, and Penelope Rose Braddock inside a mash ton--she's learning to homebrew and already makes some pretty canny suggestions from time to time.