Light the Grill....Crack a Beer....Crank the Tunes

Light the Grill....Crack a Beer....Crank the Tunes

Friday, April 18, 2014

Plank Smoked Chicken Saltimbocca with Grilled Tomato and White Bean Ragout/New Belgium Brewing Spring Blonde/The Graviators "Motherload"

For as long as boneless, skinless chicken breasts have been around, people have been trying to figure out ways to make these bland pieces of meat tastier.  Adding smoke and prosciutto is not a bad direction to go in.  In our version of the classic Italian Chicken Saltimbocca, we slice the breasts into thin cutlets then season with pepper, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes.  Next, we place a fresh basil leaf on top and place the chicken on two thin pieces of prosciutto.  We roll the prosciutto around the chicken to create little cigar-shaped rolls.  These get smoked on a cedar plank then placed in a warm sauce made with chicken broth, white wine, ricotta, lemon and basil.  We serve these little medallions atop a ragout of grilled cherry tomatoes, parmesan cheese and white beans.  We paired the meal up with the refreshing Spring Blonde from Colorado's New Belgium Brewing.  For the tunes, we had the highly anticipated new release from Sweden's The Graviators, "Motherload" turned up loud on the stereo.

Grilled Chicken Saltimbocca - These may look fairly elegant, but in actuality they are pretty rustic.  We start off with boneless, skinless chicken breasts that we thinly slice horizontally into 3-4 cutlets.  Season with pepper, garlic powder, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Next we take two paper-thin slices of prosciutto and lay them down on a piece of wax paper, slightly overlapping.  Place a fresh leaf of basil in the center of the prosciutto then a chicken cutlet on top of the basil.

Starting on one side of the prosciutto, start rolling length-wise over the chicken until you get to the other end.  The end result will look like a ham and chicken cigar.

We can head out to the grill with a soaked cedar plank in hand.   We get a medium-sized fire going on one side of the grill and place the plank full of chicken on the other side.  Cover the grill and let these cook for about 20-25 minutes.

As the chicken is smoking, we can knock out the ragout and the finishing sauce for the chicken.  In a grill pan toss in a couple handful of grape tomatoes and shake the pan consistently until the tomatoes soften slightly and start to char.  Remove from heat and bring into the kitchen.

To complete the ragout, in a sauté pan soften some chopped garlic in warmed olive oil.  Toss in the tomatoes along with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock and gently crush the tomatoes.   Add in a can of drained white beans and some freshly shredded parmesan then season with salt and pepper.  The final touch before we remove from the heat is a sprinkle of fresh basil chiffonade.

We still have a few minutes before the chicken is done, just enough time to get the finishing sauce done.  In a small sauce pan add in 1/3 cup each of chicken stock and white wine and bring to a simmer.   Mix in 1/4 cup of ricotta cheese and the zest of one lemon and whisk constantly until thick and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to it's lowest setting to thicken slightly.

Pull the chicken off the grill and place them in the sauce for a minute or two just to keep them warm while we plate this meal up.

In a shallow bowl ladle some of the grilled tomato and white bean ragout on the bottom.  Arrange the Saltimbocca on top and garnish with additional parmesan cheese.  The marriage of the salty and crispy chicken with the tart, slightly acidic and creamy bean ragout was perfect.  The components worked together in such a way that it reminded us of an Italian version of a cassoulet.

New Belgium Brewing Spring Blonde - We've lost count on the number of New Belgium beers we've featured here, but what we haven't forgotten is just how consistently good their beers are.  Their spring seasonal, aptly named Spring Blonde is no different.   The beer looks unassuming enough; a light golden color with a good amount of effervescence and a pillowy head that resembles a poached egg.   The aroma is bright and lemony with a bit of grassiness.  With the look and aroma, our brain was anticipating a straight forward lager-like flavor, but instead we were treated to a fresh aromatic ale that is at the same time earthy and slightly hoppy.  The beer is light enough and easy-drinking enough to have a few of these without batting an eye.  It was just what we were looking for in the pairing with this hearty meal.  The summery ale provided a nice balance to the saltiness of the dish and cut through the richness.

The Graviators "Motherlode" - We've mentioned this on here quite a bit lately, but this fact bears repeating: 2014 is shaping up to be one incredible year for new music.  Tonight we spin the new album "Motherload" from Sweden's The Graviators and it is right up there with the year's best releases.  The opening track not only has a Sabbath-y sound thanks to the dark and heavy Iommi-esque riff, but it also follows the Sabs' propensity of naming tracks with multiple titles with "Leifs Last Breath/Dance of the Valkyrie".  The best track on the album and one we can't get enough of is "Narrow Minded Bastards". The song starts off in sludgy fashion but then this killer riff kicks in along with the perfect head banging groove.  The track sounds very similar to fellow Swedes Terra Firma, who are in our mind one of the most underrated Swedish stoner rock bands.  Things get a little darker on "Bed of Bitches" which has a certain sinister Alice Cooper vibe to it.   "Tigress of Siberia" is a little more experimental.  It mixes a jazzy proggy beat with some atmospheric and tripped out guitar work and a little spoken word thrown in for good measure.  This lasts for roughly the first third of the song then the tune starts to pick up steam.  What the track turns into is a nice slice of early 80s NWOBHM.  The 11 minute "Lost Lord" is the epitome of a sludgy. groove-oriented jam complete with infectious riff.  Bringing things over the top are the excellent soaring vocals. The back and forth between the huge and heavy chorus and the chill, bluesy versus as well as the downright funky jam, make this one of the best tracks on the album.  The band is back to the sledgehammering fuzzed out rock on "Corpauthority", at least to start off the track.  The song then settles into a Scorpions "The Zoo"-like riff and groove.   The song remains heavy, but super catchy.   "Drowned in Leaves" is an instant doom classic in the same vein as vintage Pentagram.  The song is dark and eerie with an undeniable heaviness to it.  If it's possible, "Eagles Rising" gets about as slow and sludgy as Electric Wizard going as far as mimicking the same fuzzed out vocal effect.  The album ends with the 13+ minute "Druids Ritual".  The album finishes as strong as it starts with this mid-tempo rocker.   The highlight of the track is the stellar vocals which really have a chance to shine in front of the fuzzy atmospheric noodling.  The heavy jam that ends the track flat out slams putting a loud exclamation point on this unbelievable album.    

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Les Chaussettes Burger/Horny Goat Wisconzin IPA/The Socks "The Socks"

Before you Google Translate the name of this burger, let us explain.  We wanted to do a theme for tonight's menu which was all centered around the music.  We can't stop listening to the self-titled debut from France's The Socks, so we created a French-themed burger that we name after the band (spoiler alert: Les Chaussettes translates to "The Socks", but somehow calling this a "sock burger" just didn't sound as appetizing).   Fans of the famed Kumas Corner will recognize that this burger creation has some similarities with their Lair of the Minotaur burger.   We steep fresh Bosc pears in a sweet red wine and place atop a grilled grass-fed patty that has a shallot and bacon hash pressed into it.  The burger then gets topped with a chili pepper chevre cheese and is served on a grilled pretzel bun.   We know the French are more known for their wine than their beer, but thanks to Wisconsin's Horny Goat Brewing we got the best of both worlds with their IPA brewed with Zinfandel grapes making this a perfect beer to pair with the burger.  As mentioned, we had the self titled album from The Socks as loud as it could go on the stereo rounding out this perfect evening.

Les Chaussettes Burger - Stick with us on this burger, the ingredients may seem a little strange, but they work together in perfect harmony atop this burger.  The strangest of which is probably those pears, so let's start there.   All we need is two peeled and sliced Bosc pears and a bottle of sweet red wine.  Bring the wine to a simmer in a small saucepan and add in the sliced pears.

We can let the pears simmer for a little while we complete the rest of the meal.  Next up, we can work on that hash that will become part of the burger.  All that is needed is 1 small shallot and three slices of precooked bacon.  Finely dice both the bacon and shallot.

Mix the bacon and shallot together then press the hash into a burger press.  Top with a 1/3 lb of grass fed ground beef and press down to form a patty.

Carefully remove the patty from the press and season with Back of the Yards.  Bring the patties out to the grill.

We're breaking one of our cardinal grilling rules with this burger.  Normally we go super high heat when grilling burgers, but since we have one side of the burger full of bacon and shallots we don't want that to burn.  We get the flame going to a medium/high heat which is still hot enough to get a great sear without incinerating the hash.  The other key here is to generously oil the grates so the hash does not stick.  Place the patties down with the bacon and shallot side up.

Let a nice a char form after about 3-4 minutes then flip the patty over.

Grill the other side for another 3 minutes or so then shuffle the patty to the cool side.

The cheese we're using is a chèvre that is laced with chili pepper threads adding a little heat to the creamy yet tart cheese.  To the top of the patty we add a few crumbles of the cheese.

Close the lid and let the cheese melt slightly for a minute or two.  Next carefully grill the sliced pretzel buns until just toasted.  Place the patties on the buns.

The poached pears should be perfect by now.  We're looking for fork tender on these, just enough so that it's not hard to chew through when you bite into the burger.  Add a couple of pear slices to the top of the bun.

Close the burger up and dig in.  The first thing you'll notice is just how perfectly the wine-soaked pears and cheese pair up with each other.  The sweetness and tanginess is balanced nicely by the salty bacon. Add in a delicious charred grass-fed beef patty and soft pretzel bun and you are pretty close to burger nirvana.

Horny Goat Wisconzin IPA -  Having been around for awhile now, the shock value of this Wisconsin's brewery's name and labels have all but worn off.   When we sampled their Hopped up and Horny IPA, it was purchased mainly on the name,  this time we bought their Wisconzin IPA just because we had to taste what an IPA brewed with Zinfandel grapes would be like.  Well that, and also it seemed like a perfect beer given this evening's theme.   The beer pours a shiny jewel-like reddish orange with a frothy pure white head.  The aroma is a tantalizing mix of raw sugar and mango sweetness along with fresh and citrusy grapefruit.  The flavor is not to be believed, it's like a cross between a really citrusy IPA and  a good quality Sangria.  You might not think that sounds very good, but we're here to tell you different.  It's pure genius.  The sweetness detected on the nose all but goes away in the taste department making way for a delicious winey booziness that comes through and ratchets the ABV percentage north of 7%.   The awesome combination of hops makes the beer addictively drinkable.  There couldn't have been a better beer to pair up this burger with, every single nuance of the beer seemed to work in tandem with all of the components of the burger.

The Socks "The Socks" - Every once in a while we come across album where not only can we not stop listening to it on a constant basis, but we use so many superlatives to describe it to people that we actually run out of them.   This debut release from France's The Socks is one such album.  The album is loud, garage-y, good time rock and roll in its finest form.   The album doesn't start off with a guns a-blazing though,  instead they lead off with the chanting march of "Lords of Illusion".  The song builds up the anticipation for the rest of the album to come, serving as an intro song of sorts to the rocking "concert" that begins shortly.  "Some Kind of Sorcery" is the album's first single and right up there with one of its best songs.    The song slams hard behind the sinister, yet powerful vocals of Julien Meret.  Things slows down a bit for the catchy chorus which shows off the band's great harmonization skills.  Speaking of harmonies, the AIC-esque start of "Next to the Light" has a dark, grungy feel to it.  The use of the organ just adds to the slightly eerie experience.  Fans of "Radar Love" will appreciate that same locomotive drum beat and groove starting off "New Kings".    The groove slows down into a sludgy pocket showcasing some great vocals.  Rounding out this fantastic track is an electrifying solo.  The slow and trudging "Holy Sons" builds and builds until it becomes a huge full-fledged anthemic rocker.   "Electric War" may be the heaviest track on the album mixing classic Sabbath riffage with the classic metal sound of Early Man.   Another nominee for the disc's top song is the retro sounding "Gypsy Lady" which at the same time sounds like The Doors and Elf, possibly due to the liberal use of the organ in a hard rock boogie tune.   "We Live" sounds right at home against some of the best of AIC and Soundgarden, delivering that heavy fuzzed out "Seattle Sound" like pros.    The disc's closing track is "The Last Dragon" which starts off with a fierce riff before settling into a slower bluesy groove.  There is a certain doom aspect to it, which recalls Pentagram/Witchcraft.    This entire disc is so ridiculously good, it's already a nominee for 2014's album of the year in our book.  Not only are there no songs to skip over on this disc, but every song is incredible and needs to be played at maximum volume.   We can't wait to see what's next for this band.