Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetable Tempura


2 12 oz. bottles Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter

(for the tempura)

10 oz. green beans, trimmed
3 carrots, halved and then sliced into thin, bite-sized sticks
1/2 small head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup soda water
1/2 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup chickpea flour (you can sub 1 cup cake flour if you like)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne
salt and fresh black pepper

enough neutral oil (vegetable, sunflower, or corn) to deep-fry

(for the sauce)

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cold water
1/8 cup rice vinegar
2 tsp white sugar
salt to taste

1) Blend the sauce ingredients with a fork and set aside.
2) Whisk the soda water into the egg in a medium bowl and put in freezer to chill for 5 minutes. The batter must be kept as cold as possible.
2) Heat your fry oil (we used a cast iron skillet). Your goal is 340-350 degrees, approximately. You can test with a candy thermometer, or by dropping in a "test bean."
3) Stir your dry batter ingredients into the chilled egg and soda--a few lumps are perfectly fine. Return to freezer until your oil is ready.
4) Batter your veggies in small batches with your fingers and drop them into the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd. We did the carrots, then the beans, then the cauliflower. Each batch needs about 3-4 minutes, until the batter is lightly browned and the veg is cooked. As you take each batch out and set the fried pieces on a paper towel-lined plate, lightly salting them as they're done, return the batter to the freezer and allow the oil to come back up to temperature before continuing.
5) Plate your veg. We served them with toasted sushi rice, but regular rice or a noodle broth would also be lovely.
6) Open Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter.
7) Enjoy together.


We've gotten turned onto Pretty Things relatively recently--they're a Massachusetts operation, and we find their work to be pretty damn tasty. Our buddy Kirk (of Amsterdam Ale House and 4th Avenue Pub, among other Elysian watering holes) recently hosted a Pretty Things event in Brooklyn, and we got to chatting with their rep. It turns out that they don't yet have the funds for their own brewing equipment, but would prefer to keep producing contracted brew with their own recipes than invite any investors on board who might have pedestrian beer opinions. This makes them sort of beer vigilantes, which is unquestionably tight.

This is a UK-style pale ale, which isn't an easy thing to pull off to the satisfaction of hophead American beer dork palates without unnecessarily becoming an IPA instead of a classic English bitter ale. And interestingly, not a single American hop varietal is used to brew Hedgerow. The hops in play are Pioneer, First Gold, and Sovereign, which as the brewers acknowledge give an entirely different flavor profile to the bitter grapefruit or piney scent of US hops. According to the makers, these Brit hops "are leafy weeds, very bitter and less aromatic. The overall impression left is a slightly-roasty, special bitter with an aggressive and quite 'wild' bitterness with a substancial (sic) dryness that lends to its drinkablity."

In any event, it's quite a drinkable quaff when paired with food, and there's a clean fresh biscuit aroma to the malts that makes it delightful next to a fried morsel. So fry yourself some morsels and crack a brew. No better way to spend an afternoon.


WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: I got invested in the Baker Street Irregulars, and my investiture name is Kitty Winter.

[The above announcement was made with--or so I hope--all necessary simplicity, poise, and gravitas, the sort of quiet and staid declarative befitting a person newly invested in a historied literary society, one who knows the value of elegant understatement and gracefully puts that minimalism into best effect.]



I feel moderately justified in assuming that I will be forgiven the above outburst, as I distinctly recall the word "enthusiasm" being a key descriptor of my Sherlockian ethos just before Wiggins (Michael Whelan) gave me a shilling (the symbol of BSI investiture). And believe me, when it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I have the enthusiasm of the Portland Trailblazers outside a medical marijuana clinic. When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, I have the enthusiasm of John Boehner passing a spray-tan salon.

Here you see me pictured in the dress that Susan Dahlinger declared a fashionable inter-species arranged marriage between a parasol and a red velvet cupcake. She didn't seem to think miscegenation of the cupcake/feminine accessory variety in any way troubling, for which I was grateful. More pictures of this dress are probably forthcoming, as it was recently the star of one of our Let's Play Pretty Princess While Drinking Manhattans photo shoots.

I more or less feel as if I won an Academy Award, if the Academy Awards were a clubbable group of erudite people who inexplicably find your presence charming and want to continue chatting with you forever. It's a crazy, crazy thing. To my knowledge, I'm currently the youngest, though not the youngest ever invested by a very long shot. And they even let me in despite the fact I write pastiches, and comic books, and set up shameless games of Pin the Pillow on Robert Downey Jr, and refer to Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch as:


(He's gonna get wind of this title one of these days, I just know it, and then I'll have to face the music. I know how small the hardcore Sherlockian world is. It's not impossible that I might one day be called upon to explain why I think it's okay to affix laperine nicknames to perfectly respectable leading men.)

(Yes, I said laperine.)

(It means "like a bunny.")

(Shut up. Because it's more fun than typing a portmanteau such as "rabbitlike.")

But, I mean to say...look at that. Just...hmm? Who is he? Ah, he's the very talented actor currently playing Sherlock Holmes in BBC's new adaptation Sherlock. You've never--what are you doing reading my blog, then? Go watch BBC Sherlock at once, and try not to overdose by mainlining awesome, or trip over Martin Freeman's Afghan War vet badassery, or pass out at the unprecedented Mycroft levels, or cut yourself on the Cumberbunny's cheekbones.

Seriously, all due caution. They're very sharp.


I could read lists of British names all day. Doubtless, I am the person for whom The Awl posted 68 Fantastic British Names Gathered While Watching BBC Credits Over the Years (and the Glorious Cumberbunny isn't even on it!). But they're really magical, the proper British names. They make everything better. They can make terrible writing vastly entertaining, in fact, which is my secret, in case you were wondering. Watch me type a terrifically dull passage using Brit names picked at random from The Awl's list:

One morning as Fionnula Tambling-Goggin took a turn about her garden, she spied her dear friend Prunella Scales approaching from the lane beyond on the arm of her cousin Mervyn Pinfield, recently arrived from East Kent. It occurred to Fionnula that she ought really to ask Prunella to tea that afternoon, as both Lulu Popplewell and Imogen Millais-Scott had promised attendance, and the two were notoriously set against one another ever since competing for the heart of Nigel Humphreys the year before. It would take more than the giddy invective of Royston Farrell and good old Pip Torrens--himself a cousin of Lulu's, as everyone is getting to be cousins these days--to provide a distraction, and so Fionnula ran to the gate with Prunella's name upon her cherry lips.


That just wouldn't work with Jill, Bob, and Jessica, now would it?