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

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Smoked Brisket Taco Plate/Solemn Oath Scare-Ball/Kyng "Burn The Serum"

So we were looking through our brisket recipes seeing if we've done brisket tacos and we quickly realized that although we haven't done tacos yet, we've created a virtual hall of fame of brisket recipes: Brisket grilled cheese, nachos, burgers, flatbreads, you name it.   Search "Brisket" and all of these recipes and more are there at a click of a button.  Back to these tacos though, the leftover brisket gets reheated and layered into charred corn tortillas.  We top each taco with shredded pepperjack cheese, blistered red peppers and a quick salsa that gets tucked into charred corn tortillas.  We paired these up with the Imperial Pilsner Lager Scare-Ball from suburban Chicago's Solemn Oath.  For the tunes,  we went back to the super talented Kyng and their new release "Burn the Serum"

Smoked Brisket Taco Plate - Obviously, the first thing you're going to want to make sure you have on hand is some leftover brisket, once that gets reheated we can put a nice pile to start off our plate.

The salsa is super quick.  In a blender combine a can of Ro-Tel, diced green chiles, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 4 chile de arbol, 1/2 yellow onion and a splash of white vinegar.

Next we slice red peppers into rings the broil them until blistered.

The last step is charring the corn tortillas over an open flame until soft and blackened in spots.  Now we can finish building the plate.  Fold three tortillas on the plate, then top the brisket with shredded pepperjack cheese.  Next up ladle the salsa into a cup and place the charred peppers next to the brisket.

The only thing left to do is to construct the DIY tacos.  We absolutely loved the barbacoa similarities the brisket possesses, while still bringing the BBQ smokiness to the table.  The cumin heavy salsa and sweet peppers just added additional levels to the whole incredible experience.

Solemn Oath Scare-Ball - Thinking we were relegated to only have offerings from this standout suburban Chicago brewery on drafts at our local watering holes, you can imagine our delight when we started seeing 22 oz. bombers of their delicious brew showing up on store shelves.  Our first bottle we cracked open was Scare-Ball, that came adorned with a label that could double as heavy metal album art.  An imperial pilsner lager that true to its name pours a pale yellow with foamy top and a lot of effervescence.    The aroma as well stays pretty true to a classic European pilsner, yeasty and lemony but with a hoppy nose that hints at things to come.  After the first sip, it becomes pretty apparent that this is not your ordinary crisp and light lager.  It hits a bitter hoppy note almost immediately followed by a malty sweetness lending itself to a more viscous mouthfeel than your average pilsner.   Upping the ante even more is the booziness of the beer, putting the "imperial" in the Imperial Pilsner.  The beer clocks in at close to 9.5% ABV which means; drink these pilsners like you would a regular pilsner and you're pretty much guaranteed a night you will not remember.  It's a great (albeit deceptively strong) beer and a totally unique style that fit the bill nicely when it came to pairing up the tacos.

Kyng "Burn the Serum" -  The sophomore release from this incredible California power trio rivals their debut "Trampled Sun" meaning no sophomore slump here.   In fact, "Burn the Serum" starts off with the blistering title track that picks up where the debut leaves off.   Heavy and melodic, it follows the same formula as "Falling Down",  the best track off the debut.  Sharing some similarities with The Sword and Red Fang, the song slams.  The band doesn't let up either, "Lost One" is a heavy number with really melodic vocals.  "Electric Halo" starts off with a dark Dio-era Sabbath riff but then mellows out to a catchy medium-paced track.    The band tunes down and sludges out a little with "Faraway" save for the summery 90s alternative vocals.   "The Ode" sounds like classic Pepper-era CoC, featuring an absolutely killer riff while "In the Land of Pigs" is nice slice of Mastodon-style prog-metal.  "Big Ugly Me" is a huge number with arena worthy vocals behind a wall of guitars is the trademark of the song until a cool, dark little shuffle shows up in the bridge.  The album closes with the chill and acoustic "Paper Heart Rose" having more in common with Blind Melon than anyone else.   The band again shows their versatility on an album that has a little bit of everything with the common thread of being really catchy and melodic hard rock.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Grilled Bison Meatloaf with Sweet and Spicy Glaze/Red Betty IPA/Neon Warship "Neon Warship"

The thought of meatloaf in July, would normally make us shake our head and question our menu planning prowess, but with a summer that is masquerading as fall, meatloaf didn't sound bad at all this evening.  The last time we made this we plank-smoked the meatloaf, this time around though we forego the plank and just grill it over indirect heat.  A seemingly hodgepodge mix of ground bison, shredded squash, soy sauce, milk, garlic, panko, parsley, jalapeño and egg gets mixed together and folded into a thick square.  After 50 minutes of indirect grilling, the meatloaf is done and cut into think slices.  We brush both sides with a Asian-inspired glaze and grill over direct heat to form a crust.  The meatloaf is served with the traditional sides of mashed potatoes and corn along with some extra sauce for dipping.  The beer for the evening was our first from outside the U.S. border that has been featured here, with British Columbia's Red Betty IPA.  The tunes were provided by Ohio's awesome Neon Warship and their self-titled EP.

Grilled Bison Meatloaf with Sweet and Spicy Glaze - There may be no more simple (or more maligned) dish than meatloaf.    Thankfully this dish had made a resurgence in the kitchens of some great bars and taverns in recent years in very creative and delicious ways.  No longer does the word need to conjure up a brick of dry beef that is covered in congealed ketchup.  In our version, we use the lean and flavorful bison as the base along with some grated squash to ensure it stays moist as well as a little milk and egg.  The meat mixture gets seasoned with garlic, soy sauce, jalapeño, parley and black pepper.

Mix all the ingredients well into a ball then press the mixture into a large, thick square.

To the grill this thing goes over indirect heat.  Cover and cook at about 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes until browned on the outside.

While the meatloaf is cooking, we can work on the sweet and spicy glaze.  In a medium bowl combine 1/2 cup of ketchup with 1/4 cup of sweet chili paste and 2 tablespoons of sriracha.  Mix well and set aside.

Back to to the meatloaf.  Slice it into 3/4" slices, brush with the glaze and grill over direct heat until char marks appear. Brush more glaze on, then repeat on the other side. Remove from heat.

Although the meatloaf recipe is not traditional, we went old school with the sides because frankly these two sides just go best with meatloaf.  Now, we realize there are two camps when serving mashed potatoes and corn.  Those that separate the two on the plate and those that pile on the mashed potatoes, form a well in the middle and ladle the corn into said well.  Being non-divisive folks, we'll leave that up to you, but you can see our preference from the picture below.  The real star was the meatloaf though, specifically the glaze, which was sweet and familiar enough but also provided a fantastic spicy kick and  a level of umami you don't typically get with meatloaf.

Red Betty IPA - For our first beer to feature outside of the U.S., we could do a lot worse than this Red Betty IPA from BC, Canada.   A two-time Brewery of the Year winner, these guys make a pretty legit IPA.  The beer pours a cloudy sunburst orange color with a thick but airy soapsudsy-like head.  The aroma is certainly hop-forward with both pine and citrus notes.  The flavor, while definitely hoppy, also  has a strong malt component making the beer not necessarily sweet, but it definitely adds body and little more heaviness to the mouthfeel.  The finish, while hoppy, doesn't possess that crisp and bitter wallop of a west coast IPA, but that doesn't takeaway from the beer still being excellent.  That little extra burst of malty sweetness played well with the meatloaf, sweetened in its own right by the squash.  The beer was also hoppy enough to stand up to the spicy glaze.

Neon Warship "Neon Warship" - Why did it take us so long to feature this incredible band from Dayton, OH?  No idea, we're idiots.  Neon Warship has been on our radar (no pun intended) for awhile, but we're just getting around to featuring this album now.   This self titled EP is so good, we've played it over and over and over again and are just blown away by it.  All it took was the opening track "Carry You Away" to completely hook us in.   Sharing many similarities with fellow Ohioans Valley of the Sun, Neon Warship excels at the southern-tinged fuzzed-out boogie sound.  Every aspect of this song rocks; the huge sledgehammer riff that begins the song, the tight and fat rhythm section and the killer vocals of one Kevin Schindel which are a cross between a helium-voiced Joe Walsh and a gravelly Craig Riggs.  "Weather Breeder" starts with a thrashy "Hit the Lights" type riff with a deep bass groove that you'll feel in the pit of your stomach.  That heaviness is countered by the extremely melodic and high-pitched vocals.  The song picks up even more steam and grooves like nobody's business taking on an almost Iron Maiden approach, thanks mostly to a Steve Harris-like rolling bass line on the jam that ends the track.   Speaking of bass, "Paralyzed" has it in spades to start the song.  At over 10 minutes in length though, the track has a lot to cover.   Things start slow and sludgy musically behind some huge, bombastic vocals.  At about the halfway point, things slow down into a wave of dark psychedelia highlighted by some phenomenal blues guitar work.  The track ends much like it began, in super sludgy fashion.   "In Waves" is another perfect thrash song musically and another perfectly melodic song vocally, just a really cool tune with a really cool sound.  It features a great solo too.   The album ends with the almost 10 minute long "Burn the Breeze".   The song starts with a jazzy beat and bass line to go along with some atmospheric guitar work for the first couple of minutes.  What the song transforms into is a near perfect highway tune with its driving beat and road-focused lyrics.  The song slows down a little, but makes it no less road-worthy.  These guys recently signed to Small Stone Records, which given their awesome sound, makes them a great compliment to an already stacked stable of bands.  Looking forward to that first label release, which can't come soon enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Stacks/Southern Tier Imperial Compass/Black Nasa "Black Nasa"

The first harvest from Pop's garden yielded a bunch of beautiful eggplants that he dropped off to us this week.  Not being the biggest eggplant fans in the world, we got to work looking for a recipe.  Turns out, the reason we've never liked this tubular vegetable has less to do with the recipe and more to do with how it gets prepped.  We got some great advice on how to prepare it, by salting and pressing the eggplant for 1/2 hour or so before cooking it.  This little trick takes the bitterness right out, leaving a delicious vegetable that is ready to be jazzed up.  In this instance, we take a page out of an old Gourmet magazine for their take on a deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan.  We make a crunchy egg, cheese and panko patty that serves as the base then stack alternating slices of seasoned and grilled eggplant, fresh mozz, tomato basil marinara and top them with sautéed spinach and freshly grated Parmesan.  We found a sparkling ale from Southern Tier that is brewed with rose hips that we thought would pair nicely with the dinner. For the tunes, we went back to one of our favorite frontmen in Chris Kosnick of Atomic Bitchwax and Black Nasa fame and the latter's self titled debut.

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan Stacks - The eggplant will take at least 30 minutes to prep, so let's start there.  Slice the eggplant into 1/4" slices and place on a cookie sheet.  Liberally salt both sides and place a cookie sheet on top then press down with a heavy cutting board.

While those are doing their thing, we can get to work on the tomato basil sauce.  In a small sauce pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is warmed add in red pepper flakes, 1/2 small onion coarsely sliced and 4 garlic cloves smashed.  

Sauté the aromatics until soft and fragrant then remove from heat.   Add 1 can of whole tomatoes with juice to a blender along with the sautéed onion and garlic and purée until smooth.  

Transfer the sauce back to the pan, season with salt and add a few leaves of chopped basil.  Cover and keep warm.

Next up is getting those crunchy cheese cakes done.  In a medium bowl add 1 cup panko, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 1 tsp garlic powder and salt and pepper.

Add in 6 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup of water.  Mix well until combined into a batter.

Heat some oil on a griddle and add the batter into pancake size circles.  Cook until browned on both sides then remove and keep warm.

The last thing to prep is the spinach.  In a large sauté pan warm some olive and add 2 cloves of crushed garlic and some red pepper flakes.  Add in 1 bunch of baby spinach and cook until just wilted then remove from heat.

With all of the components done, let's go back to the eggplant.  By now, much of the moisture should be out of it and it is ready to be seasoned and grilled.  We brush each slice with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and oregano.  These go down on a medium grill into a grill pan until char marks just start to appear on each side.  Remove from grill and (you guessed it), keep warm.  

Finally we can start constructing these things.  On a greased cookie sheet add 6 of the cakes and ladle some marinara on each.  Top with an eggplant slice, slice of fresh mozz, more sauce, the spinach then freshly grated Parmesan. 

Bake at 450 until cheese is melted browned.  Drizzle a little of really high quality olive oil on top and dig in making sure each bite has a little bit of each component.  The whole thing was great, but the star of the show was the cheese and panko cake, it provided the perfect "crust" to this dish making it truly addictive.

Southern Tier Imperial Compass - It's been so long since we've had a beer from this excellent easy coast brewery, we almost forgot about them.  Thankfully, their beers are so good, it makes forgetting about them almost impossible. Tonight's beer was going to be a challenge though. We've played it pretty safe with their offerings up to this point, but Imperial Compass is not one of those.  The beer is a sparkling ale brewed with rose hips, which is something we'd like to brew with in the fall once the those hips are out on the rose bushes.  Imperial Compass is a light yellow ale that is super bubbly with a foamy head that resembles marshmallow fluff.   The aroma shares attributes from both a Belgium pale ale and a pilsner, that is yeasty, fruity and citrusy.  Before the taste hits you, the mouthfeel of the "sparkling" part of this beer grabs your attention, rendering your taste buds almost numb for a split second.  After that initial carbonated shock, this delicious crisp and fruity sweetness from the roses appears on the front end and the malt on the back end.  The finish is bright yet bitter from the good amount of hops utilized.   For such a light and easy drinking beer, it is deceptively complex.  As we were hoping, the sparkling ale paired up great with the acidic sauce and rich cheese in the dish.

Black Nasa "Black Nasa" -  Having already featured this band's sophomore album "Deuce", we decided to go with their self-titled debut this evening.   Whereas "Deuce" was firmly cemented as a more straight-forward rock and roll album compared to the psychedelic rock of Atomic Bitchwax, the debut was an album in transition with plenty of retro psychedelia to almost make it sound like an Atomic Bitchwax album.  Almost.  The opening track "Holy Crap" features a serious surf-rock guitar riff with a heavy groove.  The song would fit in perfectly on either of the first two Bitchwax albums.  "I Don't Have to Hide" takes a page out of the Clutch book of slow outlaw rock to kick off the song before it starts jamming out in a grooved out frenzy.  Aside from being a cool track name, "Hot Van" is a great summery cruising tune that rolls along at a bouncy, airy clip for the entire song.   "Monkey Knife Fight" is a punk-tinged rocker that is fast and heavy but evened out by the melodic vocals.  The bluesy, psychobilly of "Ribeye Love" is a great change of pace track that grooves just as hard as it rocks.   The best track on the album belongs to "Diamond Girl" which makes it onto almost all of our BBQ playlists.  An absolutely killer riff starts off the song in perfect head banging fashion.  The song is heavy as a mother and flat out slams.  The layered vocals are the perfect fit for the song.   The album ends with "El Segundo", a desert rock number that is equally parts KISS and Fu Manchu and a downright fun, good time party track.  As with anything Kosnick has put his hands on, the album is stellar and a fun summertime listen.