Monday, July 27, 2009

Beer Tasting Dinner Part One

Fair warning...this will be a long one!
For New Year's Eve, we nearly went to a local BBQ place that does beer tasting dinners. The dinner for the holiday sounded great, but they didn't take reservations. Ack! Who wants to stand out in the cold for possibly hours waiting for a table on New Year's Eve? Not us, that's for sure. Heck, places that take reservations for parties of two get our business more often than not. (You hear that restaurant industry? Reservations are your friend! Have a policy to only hold tables for 10 minutes if you want. Just take the reservation for goodness sake!) But I digress. I offered to come up with a pairing dinner of our own instead. Most of the pairings came out well. If you have suggestions for any others let me know!

Yeah, I'm a geek. I make a menu for every holiday or special occasion. What can I say? (The pictures of the courses will come as soon as I get them all pretty and corrected for contrast and such.)

First course: Prosciutto Roulades with herbed goat and mascarpone cheeses Served with: Herr Buddy’s Kolsch (homebrew) Hollywood Blond Kolsch (commercial)

Very easy to make, and very yummy too! Take a small tub of mascarpone, about the same amount of goat cheese, and a touch of cream, and mix well. It helps if the cheeses are soft. Mix in some fresh herbs of your choice, and garlic if desired. I used thyme, marjoram, and oregano, along with a touch of salt, pepper, and garlic. Roll in a thin piece of prosciutto, top with a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and chopped parsley. You can make the rolls as big or as small as you wish, and if you roll the prosciutto like a log you can slice it in pinwheels and serve for a party. Since this was a holiday dinner, I got all fancy and plated it with a thin slice of lemon and some endive.

As of the beers, we discovered that the Hollywood Blond Kolsch wasn't really a Kolsch at all. It was some Americanized over-hopped sort-of version. Designed for IPA fanatics, it just didn't suit us. (It is the left glass in the picture.) Herr Buddy's was closer, but still not quite the beer of Koln. TheTooth will have to make another attempt soon. Both paired well with the dish, their crispness playing nicely off the richness of the cheese and ham. The lightness also cut through the tang of the goat cheese. This is a pairing to keep.

Second course: Cheese Stuffed Shrimp with Prosciutto and a Saison Dijon Cream Dipping Sauce Served with: The Bruery Tradewinds Tripel

This recipe comes from page 79 of the wonderful The Best of American Beer & Food by Lucy Saunders. If you like good craft beer and food, you need this book. She has a site with all sorts of great info: I made a couple of deviations from the recipe, mainly the use of prosciutto (oops, left the wrong pig on the menu) and I made a sour cream-saison sauce instead of the sauce in the recipe (a recipe I have for butter poached lobster has a Dijon sour cream sauce and TheTooth likes it better than the mayo version.) Here's the recipe, but it's the only one you'll get here! You need to buy the book for the rest. (Come on, you know how to find cheap copies on Amazon now.)

"Cheese-Stuffed Jumbo Shrimp with Bacon
18 slices pancetta
18 tail-on jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 count), peeled, deveined
1 cup grated Swiss cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400F. In large skillet over medium heat, cook pancetta until half cooked but still pliable, set aside to cool.

2. Butterfly each shrimp (slice lengthwise, about two-thirds through largest section of shrimp) and fill cavity with one tablespoon cheese.

3. Pinch shrimp closed around stuffing and wrap with 1 strip par-cooked bacon in a spiral, securing ends with toothpick. Place on baking sheet and bake until golden, turning once, about three minutes per side. Do not overcook as shrimp will continue to cook when removed from oven. Serve with Dijon Saison Sauce.

Dijon Saison Sauce
6 ounces saison-style ale
1 tablespoon salted butter
2 tablespoons hot water
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1. Decant ale and let carbonation settle. In medium saucepan, combine ale, butter, water, mayonnaise, and mustard; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer until reduced to a creamy consistency, about 30 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shrimp."

My cheat on the sauce was as follows: Mix sour cream and Dijon mustard in a ratio of 3:2. Stir in 1 tablespoon ale for each cup of sauce. Add in a pinch of garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

The Bruery's Tradewinds Tripel was a wonderful pairing. If you haven't had the treat of sampling one of this Southern California craft brewer's Belgian-style ales, find one. Beautifully balanced, with just a hint of the basil they use as a spice, it went nicely with the mild heat of the Dijon and the saltiness of the cheese and pig. Yeah, yeah, it is their summer brew but it is too tasty to limit to one season!

More courses in the next post...

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