Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Dinner with @ColumbusSalame @CarillonAustin, Drool Away!

The few days before the Austin Food and Wine Festival was kind of like the few days before Christmas.  Parties and meeting were going on all day long. The Columbus Salame dinner the Carillon was a real treat.  A big thanks to Columbus Salame for hosting a lovely meal.  Most photos by John M. P. Knox.

The evening started off with some bubbly, straight up salame, and a salame education.  Columbus Salame is produced in a number of sizes and flavors.  The basic flavor of salame is pork and pork fat.  When you cut into a piece of salame, it should have distinctive areas of meat and fat.  If it looks emulsified, you probably need to upgrade your salame selection.  Other flavors that can be incorporated in salame can be spices and herbs. 

Salame can be big or small.  Slice thin or thick for different textures.  Thicker slices for chewier, meatier textures.  Thinner slices for a more delicate flavor.  You can see in the picture below that the meat and the fat are distinct, and not blended into something pink and homogenous looking. 

Photo by John M. P. Knox
The dishes were prepared by Chef Josh Watkins and crew at the Carillon, and they are bound to make you think twice about salame as an ingredient in dishes.

This first dish is mache, watermelon, secchi, and minus 8 syrup.  It was absolutely fantastic.  Fatty meat with freshing watermelon was a fantastic way to cleanse and wake up the palate.  Photo by John M. P. Knox

Hawaiian Blue Prawns, finocchiona, charred tomato, corn butter, and cilantro was my favorite.  It reminded me of Cajun cooking - shrimp, corn, butter, and pork fat flavor - with a well-balanced flair.  This dish was not so complex that the flavors were lost, but rather all the flavors blended together like a Piano Guys melody.  Also, like a true Texan, I sucked the shrimp heads.  I know it isn't ladylike, but it is a shrimp with the head on.  That's the best part.  Keep in mind that you're supposed to such the heads of crawfish too.  A good foodie does not let the best part go to waste.   Photo by John M. P. Knox

This dessert was a combination of some of my favorite flavors.  I love almond.  I love almond cake.  I love just about anything almond.  And I really like almond scented soaps.  This dessert was Almond cake, fennel butter, hot sopressata caramel, fennel chips, hot sopressata brittle, and olive oil ice cream.  Almost cake plus salame brittle was comfort food in several ways.  The almond cake reminded me of desserts I ate growing up, and brittle made of pork and fat needs no words.  This was a fantastic way to end a fantastic meal.  Thank you to @ColumbusSalame and @CarillonAustin for hosting such a fantastic dinner! Photo by John M. P. Knox

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taiwanese Black Pepper Steak Recipe

Black Pepper Steak over noodles with fried eggs is a popular dish all over Taiwan.  On nearly every corner, you'll see a black pepper steak shop.  The most popular chain of them is called "My House Steak" translated from wǒ jiā niúpái.  The jiā in the word can be construed as my house or my family's.  Either way, this is a pretty tasty dish.  I order it often at the China Gourmet in Houston, and I'm not aware of any place in Austin that serves this dish.  So I make it at home. 

Traditionally, it is served on top of noodles, with some veggies like bok choy, and a fried egg on a cast iron skillet like a fajita skillet.  Most places serve it with the popular flat noodles, though I use whole wheat spaghetti at home.  I also don't really like bok choy so I opt to leave it out.  The traditional version also does not have onions or spice, and you're free to alter it as you like.  You could probably also add some beer into this or have this with a beer, but I digress. 

  • 1-2 large onions (sliced or diced)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • Steak, any kind though beef and chicken are popular.  Traditionally, the cut of meat is an inexpensive one.  I've used ribeyes, sirloin, and skirt steaks. You'll need one per person.  This recipe is enough for six servings. 
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/4 tablespoon Siracchi Sauce or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar
  • Drizzle of Sesame oil
  • fresh black pepper, as much as you like
  • Egg (one egg per person)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • Cornstarch slurry - 1/4 cup of cold water mixed with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 lb noodles
1. In a large pot, heat water to a boil for the noodles.  You might be tempted to salt the water at this, though the sauce is pretty salty already.  Move onto the next steps as the water heats. 

2. In hot skillet, sear the protein on both sides.  Cook the steaks to your liking.  I typically like medium rare.  Remove from the heat and reserve the liquid for flavoring the sauce. Some people might also marinate the steaks in soy sauce and sherry vinegar for several hours prior to cooking.  However, I didn't think it makes a big difference given that this dish is heavily sauced anyways. 

3. In the same skillet (preferably with the liquid retained), add the chopped garlic.  Fry until aromatic and nutty.  It will generally take 60 -90 seconds on high heat.  Add the onions to the skillet and cook on medium until transparent.  The water for the noodles should be boiling by now.  Add the noodles to the pot.  You might set a timer for 7-10 minutes depending on how al dente you like the sauce. 

4. Add the oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, Siracchi Sauce, sherry vinegar, and a drizzle of sesame oil into the skillet with the onions.  Add 2.5 cups of water to the skillet to cook the sauce.  Add fresh crack black pepper to your liking.  I tend to like a large amount of black pepper.  Adjust the sauce as needed.  Add the cornstarch slurry once the sauce is to your liking.  Allow it to come to a boil to achieve the full thickening.  It should be a thick sauce that clings to noodles.  Add the steaks back to the skillet and spoon the sauce over to smoother in the flavor.  Remove the skillet from the heat. 

5. Heat a non-stick frying pan on high.  Cook at least one egg per person, traditionally sunny side up.  This way the yolky goodness can run all over the noodles. 

6. The noodles should be almost done by now.  You'll want to drain the noodles well and serve immediately.

7.Traditionally, this dish is served on a sizzling hot cast iron skillet.  Noodles on the bottom, steak on top, and smother with onions. Add cooked Asian veggies if you like, and top with the fried egg. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

#Beer Carne Guisada Recipe with @UncleBillys Baltic Porter

I'm weird.  Yes, I am.  I do not judge a Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant by their tacos. *GASP!*  I judge based on carne guisada.  Growing up on the Southern coast of Texas, I had my fair share of carne guisada, and like many other ethnic dishes, everyone has their own opinion and version of it.

Here's my personal, possibly completely unauthentic recipe for beer carne guisada.  I do not add potatoes to my recipe, though you could.  This is the way I like it.

I did have a few tweaks when I made this particular batch.  Uncle Billy's was out of the Smoked Baltic Porter.  I tend to be pickier when it comes to cooking with beer.  Cooking with the wrong beer can sometimes lead to excessively hoppy meals.  I was also too lazy to peel and chop garlic so I used some bacon fat confit garlic I had in the fridge.  Slow cook whole garlic cloves in bacon fat to make your own confit.  *Salt and pepper to taste as you please.  The supertaster in me tends to be easy on the salt. 
2-3 lbs ribeye
2 medium onions, diced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon fresh chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Olive oil
2 cups beer - I used Uncle Billy's Smoked Baltic Porter
45 oz canned tomatoes - I use several cans of the fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 jalapeños, seeded and chopped

1. Sear those ribeye steaks just until they get those grill marks.  Remove the steaks from heat and allow to cool.  Slice the ribeyes into bite sized pieces discarding the excess fat.

2. In a large pot (could be a Dutch oven or soup pot), add a tablespoon of olive oil to coat bottom.  Allow the pot the heat on the stove over medium heat.  Add the chopped garlic, onions, and jalapenos to the pot.  Sautee the garlic and onions until translucent and the jalapeños are soft.  In the photo below, you'll see the bacon fat garlic confit I used instead of the fresh chopped garlic.  The bacon fat garlic confit gives the dish a sweeter, milder, and smokier flavor.

3. Add the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne to the pot and allow it to cook and sizzle with the veggies.  Once the spices have filled your kitchen with some awesome aromas, add in the seared and sliced ribeyes.  Give the ingredients a good mixing so that the smoky spices have coated the meat and allow to cook for about 2-3 minutes.

4. Add in the beer.  If the beer is "fresh," it ought to foam and bubble up releasing beer and spice aromas.  Add in the tomatoes, and allow the pot to come up to a simmer. You can taste it now and add salt and pepper as needed.  I tend to like my carne really spicy, so beware if you have this dish at my house.

5. At this point, you can add the mixture to a slow-cooker or you can continue to cook on the stove top.  If you decide to use a slow cooker, you'll probably need to leave it for 4-5 hours on medium.  If you cook it on a stove top (be sure to check on it frequently so the bottom doesn't scorch), you'll probably need 2-3 hours on a simmer.  Regardless, cook until the meat is fork tender.

You can serve the carne guisada now, or you can serve it the next day.  Traditionally, it is served with warm tortillas.  I also like to serve it with chopped cilantro.  You might also serve it with traditional Tex-Mex fixing such as rice, beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.  It is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day.  You can also freeze it for later.  Now do enjoy my beer carne guisada!

Searing the steaks.

Seared steaks.

Onions and the garlic confit cooking in the pot.

The bottom of my jar of bacon fat garlic confit.  I keep this in the fridge until I need it. 

Sliced, chopped, and ready for the pot.

This is the face that Mouse makes when I'm trimming the meat.  He gets the scraps. 

I've added the beer to the pot.  I should have added the spices by now. 

Here's the canned tomatoes I use.  You can use fresh tomatoes, but to each their own.

Everything is in the pot and it is time for the simmer. 

I took this particular batch to a stew party.  There was Irish style stew, American stew, boeuf bourguignon (French made with red wine), and my carne guisada. 

Another shot of the stews.