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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Ultimate Breakfast Burger/Finch's Brewing Hardcore Chimera IIPA/Lo-Pan "Colossus"

This breakfast burger is a little more traditional than the Carnitas & Egg Waffle Burger we featured awhile back.  We dubbed this The Ultimate Breakfast Burger because every component gets the star treatment.  The patty is a 50/50 mix of grass-fed ground beef and pork sausage, the bacon is pork shoulder bacon that is glazed with a cherry jalapeño jelly and the cheese comes in the form of a cheesy jalapeño hash brown.  The final touch is an over-easy egg on top.  This big spicy, sweet and salty burger gets served up on a buttery brioche bun.  Of course a burger this big requires an equally big and hoppy IPA.   We went with the new Hardcore Chimera Imperial IPA from Chicago's Finch's Brewing. On the stereo was the brand new release from melodic rockers Lo-Pan, "Colossus".

The Ultimate Breakfast Burger - Our mouths are watering again just looking at the above picture and getting ready to describe the process, especially this first part of making the bacon.   We found this pork shoulder bacon that looked phenomenal, so we started with a few strips of that and brushed it with a cherry jalapeño jelly.  The glazed bacon goes in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the bacon is crisp and the glaze is cooked into the bacon.

Now we can move on to the cheesy jalapeño hash brown.  We mix equal parts shredded potatoes and shredded colby jack with a diced jalapeño pepper.   We press the mixture into patties and cook in a frying pan with some warmed olive oil.  Cook the hash brown on both sides until browned and slightly crisp.

With 2 of the 3 toppings knocked out, we can turn our attention to the burger itself.  We're using 1/4 lb of grass fed ground beef and a 1/4 lb. of pork sausage.  Combine the two meats and press into a patty.  Season with salt and pepper.

To the grill we go with these guys.  The fire is a two-zone fire with one side cool and the other at a medium hot and the patties go over the flame side of the grill.   Char the patties on both sides and move them over to the cool side and cover.   With the pork sausage component we want to make sure this burger is cooked all the way through.

Now to construct this burger.  Place the grilled patty on a toasted brioche roll and place a cheesy jalapeño hash brown on top along with two slices of the glazed bacon.

The last piece is that runny fried egg.  Of all the burger toppings that have been trendy over the last however many years, the fried egg has to be our all time favorite.  Most burgers we cut in half, when there is an egg involved we mostly keep it intact so that our teeth punctures the yolk rather than a knife to get everything all nice and messy.   We used "ultimate" in naming this burger and that wound being true and then some.

Finch's Brewing Hardcore Chimera IIPA - We're not just being homers, but we'd put the hoppy pale ales, IPAs and IIPAs from our beloved Chicago breweries up against any other city's any day of the week.    Give us our Daisy Cutter, Anti Hero and the like and we are happy campers.  Finch's makes some stellar hop bombs as well, and tonight we rolled out their IIPA Hardcore Chimera complete with bad ass Iron Maiden font.    The beer pours a super cloudy dark orange, almost brown with a firm sudsy white head.   The aroma is all citrus peel, mostly orange and grapefruit, and is unbelievably inviting.   The flavor is delicious; crisp and bitter and overflowing with hoppy goodness.  It's fairly smooth for an IIPA even given its hefty 9% ABV.   It's actually pretty easy drinking which raises the danger level a little more on this beer.  The pairing was spot-on, the big spicy burger and the big hoppy beer is a match made in food heaven.

Lo-Pan "Colossus" -  A new Small Stone Records release is always a cause for a celebration and we couldn't wait to crank up this new release from Ohio rockers Lo-Pan.  Some good time tunes for a good time beer and burger feast.    The opening track "Regulus" is a nice synopsis of the band themselves; heavy yet melodic, bringing elements of Tool in the vocal department to go along with some catchy grunge-like groove and riffage, in a free flowing  "Ten"-era Pearl Jam kind of way.   "Land of the Blind" is a little darker and a little heavier, but still carries with it a lot of melody.    The best track on the album is "Black Top Revelation".  As the name implies, the tune is custom-made for the open road.  The song slams and features some killer vocals, sharing some similarities with label mates Freedom Hawk.   Another pedal to the metal track is "Marathon Man", complete with the intro of a key going to the ignition and the car starting up.  "N.P.D" is a quick little punk-tinged number with huge soaring anthemic vocals.   The title track is another highlight featuring some incredible drum work and vocals.  The groove on this track is sick as well .  "Vox" brings a Jane's Addiction feel with it, with some similarities to "Mountain Song".  The band cools the engines a bit on the somewhat chill "Eastern Seas" and its hypnotic mix of Perfect Circle meets Kansas.  The album closes with "The Duke" that features a heavy, dark but extremely catchy riff as well as a smokin' solo.  "Colossus" is just a fun album to crank up nice and loud.  You'll need your air drums and air guitar ready as you're going to need them when you spin this disc.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Irish Stew Sandwich/Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout/Astralnaut "Thieves, Beggars and Swine"

One of our favorite cold weather dishes is Irish stew, but seeing as though it's not that cold here yet, we had to improvise when the hankering for it set in.  What we concocted was a deconstructed Irish stew sandwich made with brisket that gets reheated in a tomato and stout sauce and mixed with hash brown potatoes.   The meat and potato mixture is piled onto crusty, rustic sliced bread and topped with grilled onions and slices of Dubliner cheese.  The sandwich goes under the broiler for the cheese to melt.  The top half of the bread gets spread with a creamy homemade horseradish sauce to finish it off.  What better to pair an Irish stew sandwich than a delicious stout.  We went with the big imperial stout Dark Truth from the always excellent Boulevard Brewing.  Rounding out the evening perfectly was the latest EP "Thieves, Beggars and Swine" from Ireland's own Astralnaut.

Irish Stew Sandwich -  For this recipe, we're using leftover smoked brisket but we don't need to start there.   Let's begin with the homemade horseradish sauce.  In a medium bowl combine equal parts mayo, horseradish and plain Greek yogurt with a small handful of chopped fresh parsley.  Whip together then cover and refrigerate.

Now let's move on to the grilled onions which is just thinly sliced yellow onions that get sautéed in butter until golden brown.

Moving right along, we can start on the tomato and stout sauce which consists of a can of Rotel, a splash of stout, 4 garlic cloves and 6 pearl onions that have been diced.  All of these go in a small pot and cooked to a simmer.

Add in a small amount of finely chopped parsley and cook down slightly.  Add the tomato sauce to the leftover brisket and mix well.

The last thing to add to the meat is some shredded and browned potatoes.

Now we can finally build the sandwich.  On some sliced crusty bread pile the beef, potato and tomato mixture along with some grilled onion on the bottom piece of bread.

Top with sliced Dubliner cheese and stick the sandwiches under the broiler for a couple of minutes for the cheese to melt.

On the top slice of bread, spread a generous amount of the horseradish and close this beast up.  We were hoping this concept would work and translate well into a sandwich and that is exactly what happened.  The tender stout-tinged brisket and onions melts in your mouth and the cheese and horseradish provides just the right amount of kick.  It was awesome.

Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout - Well of course we had to pair a sandwich like this up with a stout, right?   We didn't do an ordinary stout with this though, we went with a heavy hitting,  >9% ABV imperial stout.  The brew wizards at Boulevard Brewing strike gold again with their Dark Truth stout, part of their Smokestack Series, which to us means great beer sold in 22 oz bottles with really cool labels.  Thankfully, what's inside these bottles is always pretty killer as well.  Dark Truth pours, well, dark.  Really dark, like motor oil and almost as viscous.  The head is really pronounced, light brown and fluffy.   The aroma is rich, earthy and slightly sweet with a good amount of roasted malt.  The first sips unveiled a vanilla sweetness with a delicious bourbon oak flavor.  The beer is super smooth but packs a wallop on the strong finish.  As for the paring, even with it's booziness, there was enough balance and stout-like qualities to team up perfectly with the sandwich.

See what we did here for this pic?  It's like the glass popped out of the label!
Astralnaut "Thieves, Beggars and Swine" - An Irish Stew sandwich and a 22 oz. stout, what better album to spin with this combo then the kick ass new EP "Thieves, Beggars and Swine" from the heavy dirty groove-based rockers from Northern Ireland, Astralnaut?   The EP starts off with "Ego Eccentric", a heavy, dark number that shares some similarities with the southern doom of King Giant and the biker rock of Orange Goblin complete with excellent raspy guttural vocals.  It is a great tone setter for the rest of the album.    "Mac Tire" is a slow and sludgy number that recalls the Nola sound, specifically Down, with its swampy, electrifying riffs.   Things get even heavier on "Neopium", at least at the beginning where the pace is frenetic and the song slams like nobody's business.  The song slows to a sludge-like crawl about half way through, though is no less heavy.  The vocals also turn a little more Anselmo-like as the song goes on.  Very cool tune.   "Utopian Dawn" is a riff-heavy tune with elements of BLS running through it.  Heavy yet melodic with great guitar work and groove.   The EP ends with "Dethroned" which has even more of a Zakk Wylde-feel to it, mostly due to the gravelly vocals that accompany the fuzzed out riffage that is featured in the song.  "Thieves, Beggars and Swine" is a great album, filled with sick riffs and killer grooves all over the place.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Cream Cheese Stuffed Malted Milk Stout Oatmeal Pancakes/Dogfish Head Punkin Ale/Spiral Shades "Hypnosis Sessions"

The title of this dish is about as much a mouthful as the meal itself.  The two components that make up the pancakes are equally delicious on their own, but put together the flavors are mind-blowing.  First, the oatmeal pancakes that are made with the malt flour from a recent batch of the Slades Brewing Co.'s Scott Stout, milk stout.  These pancakes are moist from the Greek yogurt in the batter and sweet from the honey and malt that is also part of the mix.  The pancakes are cooked in melted butter until golden brown then smeared with the second component, this completely addictive maple bourbon pumpkin cream cheese.  We whip cream cheese, pureed pumpkin, bourbon, maple syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg into a smooth icing.   We stack the pancakes on a plate, covering every layer with the pumping cream cheese and finishing off the stacks with some real maple syrup.   For the beer, we stepped out of our comfort zone, with the super popular pumpkin ales.  We went with one of the flagship pumpkin ales, Dogfish Head's Punkin.  On the stereo, the new release "Hypnosis Sessions" from the Norwegian/Indian duo Spiral Shades brings the big Sabbathian sound to this killer album.

Maple Bourbon Pumpkin Cream Cheese Stuffed Malted Milk Stout Oatmeal Pancakes - We start with the cream cheese in the recipe since it can be made ahead and refrigerated.  In a large bowl combine 1 cup of whipped cream cheese, 1 cup of pureed pumpkin and a couple shots of bourbon.

Stir the ingredients well and add in 2 tablespoons of maple syrup and a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Whip the mixture until smooth.   Cover and refrigerate.

Now on to the pancakes themselves.   This recipe came from the back of an Irish oatmeal box years ago and it's one of the best pancake recipes out there.  In a large bowl combine 1 1/4 cups oats with a cup each of plain Greek yogurt and low fat milk and a tablespoon each of cinnamon and honey.

Stir to combine then add a 1/4 cup of all purpose flour and the malt flour along with a teaspoon each of baking powder and salt.  Whisk to combine.

The last item to add to the batter is two beaten eggs then we again whisk the batter to combine.  In a medium non-stick skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter and add 1/2 cup of the batter to the melted butter.

Cook the pancakes on medium/low heat until bubbles start to appear on the surface and the bottom turns golden brown.  Flip the pancake and repeat on the other side.  Remove from heat.

To finish these off, we spread a liberal amount of the pumpkin cream cheese on the pancake and top with another pancake and repeat until desired height is reached.  Top the stacks with maple syrup, serve with a side of bacon and be prepared to be wowed.  One of the best pancakes we've had, hands down.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale - There was a quote by Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione about the macrobreweries trying to tap into the craft segment by creating beers that appear to be from an independent craft brewer but in reality are made in the same factories that produce the fizzy yellow lagers.  The example that he used and how this really hurts the true microbreweries was the fall seasonal favorite, pumpkin ales.   The macrobrewery sees the popularity and creates a pumpkin ale set just below the price point of a microbreweries pumpkin ale.  The big difference is that the macrobrewery is using substandard ingredients, pumpkin flavoring, etc… however most consumers look at the price and wind up going with the cheaper option.  Normally the consumers conclusion is that they don't like pumpkin beers and most likely will not choose to purchase another one in the future, thus hurting the microbreweries that make a true pumpkin beer.  We say all of this for two reasons; one, that consumer was us for a long time.  We swore off pumpkin beer after one bad experience with a fairly large brewery.  Two, to point out that this Punkin ale along with many of it's microbrewed counterparts is almost like a baked good with the real pumpkin and spices used and shouldn't even be in the same category as the mass-produced pumpkin ales.  Ok, we're off our soapbox, now let's get to the beer.   The pour is copper colored and cloudy with a wispy off-white head.   The aroma is full of fall spices, most notably clove and nutmeg to go along with a fairly decent hop pungency and sweet maltiness.  The flavor is, well let's just say we've heard pumpkin ales being described as "pumpkin pie in a glass", however most of the time that was not the case, with Punkin that is exactly what you get.  If such a thing as mulled spiced cold alcoholic pumpkin cider existed, this would be it.  First and foremost those baking spices hit the nose and tongue and automatically transport you to a crisp autumn day.  A slight sweetness follows but quickly finishes with a boozy and hoppy bite while those warm spices stay on the palate the entire time.  These beers go down so smooth and when paired with the breakfast dish, they went down even smoother.

Spiral Shades "Hypnosis Sessions" -  When we see an album described as Sabbath-y, we almost always jump on the chance to check it out.  Such was the case with "Hypnosis Sessions" from the cross-continental duo Spiral Shades. What we were treated to was an absolutely killer release full of huge riffs, great soaring Ozzy-esque vocals and grooves that are as dirty as as pen of x-rated pigs.  The crowning moment of the album is also the opening track "Frustrations".   The beat is slow and heavy but slams ridiculously hard.  Add in the squealing guitar intro that morphs into a sweet head banging riff and some incredible helium-lunged vocals and you've got a Mammoth Volume meets Black Sabbath tune that will have your wall art begging for mercy as it clings to the wall when this is played at maximum volume.   "Illuminati", in a very Sabbath-like way, is a couple of songs in one.  The track starts off with  the dark, slow and churning doom of Pentagram.  At the half way point, things kick into gear and the song takes off into a groove-induced frenzy with vocals that recall classic Ozzy.   The 13 minute "Grim Rituals" takes you on a virtual tour of the different facets of heavy psychedelia, from the trippy atmospheric instrumental to the fuzzed out garage rock to the heavy blues, this marathon track keeps your interest the entire time.   "Wizardry" starts out with a heavy Doors meets Witchcraft feel but quickly picks up steam to morph into a fuzzed out rocker complete with an electrifying solo.  "The Slowing Deep" is a clinic in slow, heavy sludge with a pace that is about as slow as a crawl.   Another one of the album's top tracks is "Abstract Illusions" beginning with the evil sounding "Black Sabbath" intro then moving on to a slow and heavy groove that also features some of the best vocals on the album.  "Torment" is another stellar track that has similarities with Sheavy and Terra Firma due to the heavy fuzzed out riffs and soaring vocals.  The album closes with the chill acoustic instrumental "Fading Sunlight" putting the brakes on an album that flat-out smokes the whole way through.