BEEF NOODLE SOUP SUCKAZ!

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There really is nothing more comforting and delicious than a big bowl of hot broth with noodles and meat. Bonus points if there is a layer of fat on top of the broth, waiting to coat the noodles with flavorful stickiness as you lift them out and up to your mouth. Gawd I love noodle soup. Except for udon.

Beef noodle soup is a popular Chinese dish with many different iterations, depending on where you get it. You can have it with dark broth, with light broth, with ox tail, with shank, with hand drawn noodles, with shaved noodles, or with store-bought ghetto noodles. My personal favorite is the dark, soy sauce based broth, with stewed beef shank and tendon. If you order it from a restaurant it’s called hóngshāo niúròu miàn (I copied and pasted that from eatingchina.com so I think it’s right). Literally translated, it means red braised beef noodle. It gets its name from the red color the beef gets after being braised in soy blah blah blah who cares. It’s effing delicious is all you need to know.

I hardly took any pictures during the cooking process this time around… I was cooking for a group of people and just didn’t have time. It’s pretty straight forward though, and you can cook it all in one pot (the best kind of cooking).

I DID however take a couple pictures of the special/hard to find ingredients. Here are the noodles I used:

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You can use Wei Chuan noods too, they are fantastic.

Here is the hot bean paste I used:

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And here is how to assemble:

Noodles.

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Top with bok choy and beef chunks. Also, I added pork belly to the recipe because I’m an American, dammit.

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Top with broth, garnish with cilantro and sliced green onion.

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Have at it!

INGREDIENTS:

Soup:

2 lbs beef chuck or beef shank, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
1 lb pork belly, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes (the piece I got was still on the bone, so I threw the bone in as well. That was a good choice)
1 cup soy sauce (I used a combo of about 80% low sodium and 20% dark soy sauce)
1/2 cup dry red wine
2-3 tbsp turbinado sugar (sorry, wasn’t measuring.. start with 2, then add more to taste later on)
2 star anise
2 tsp of ground schezuan pepper
1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced thin (about 2″ long, 1″ diameter)
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, quartered
6 cups of water

Noodles:

Wei Chuan Noodles, cooked per package

Garnish:

Bok Choy, leaves peeled off individually and blanched for 1 minute
Cilantro, chopped
Green onion, thinly sliced
Hot bean paste

DIRECTIONS:

Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot of water to a boil. Add your beef and pork belly and blanch the meat for about 1 minute. The water should look a little cloudy and the meat cooked on the outside. Remove the blanched meat and reserve for later. Dump the blanching water.

Fill the pot back up with all the soup ingredients except the meat and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Return the meat to the pot and bring the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for about 3 hours.

Add the tomatoes to the pot, cover and simmer for another 30 minutes. If you want your broth spicy you can add a tablespoon of the hot bean paste at this point as well.

When the soup is done cooking, bring a smaller pot of water to boil. Blanch the bok choy leaves for 1 minute and remove. Cook your noodles according to the package (usually about 5 minutes), and place in bowl.

ASSEMBLY:

Place your bok choy on top of the noodles, fish out a few chunks of beef and pork belly, then ladle a good amount of stock over the whole thing.

Garnish with sliced scallions and cilantro and dig in, you animals.

 

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Sliders- 2 ways

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Burgers may seem like humble food but listen up- burger making is an art. There is certainly technique and timing involved if you want a juicy, crisp on the outside, juicy on the inside patty, a lightly toasted bun, and cold, crisp veggies that crunch with each bite. Listen, if you’re gonna make a burger, do it right or don’t do it at all.

This post is more about tips and techniques to help you make a better burger. For fun, I did make two different kinds: a classic American, and a teriyaki shiitake with spicy pickles. See below for the teriyaki sauce and pickle recipes, but if you want to up your burger-making game, read the whole post. To help you in the reading of this post, I’ve put all my burger-making rules in bold italic. Take notes.

Let’s start with the meat:

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They say 80/20 is best (80% lean, 20% fat), and I agree. Start by rolling the meat into even-sized balls.

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Smash each ball into a 1/2″-thick patty, smoothing out the edges so it doesn’t fall apart on the grill. Here’s a good rule of thumb: whatever size burger your making, always make your patty slightly bigger than the size of the bun, because there’s a lot of fat in those meat pucks and they WILL SHRINK as they cook. There are few things I dislike more than an excessive bun to meat ratio, so do this and you will thank me. Or I will thank you, whatever.

Another good rule of thumb (literally): After forming your burgers, stick your thumb into the middle of each patty to create an indentation, so that the center of each patty is thinner than the outside. Burgers tend to swell up in the middle as they cook, and if you have a completely flat raw patty, you will end up with more of a football-shaped patty when cooked. Making this little divot in the middle counteracts this burger phenomenon. This rule right here might be the only good thing I’ve gotten from Bobby Flay.

One last patty forming rule: try not to work the meat too much. The more loosely-packed the patty, the more tender it will be when you bite into it. The patty should just hold together so you can gently scoop it up without breaking it in half. Grease some foil on a cookie sheet and lay your patties on there as you wait for the grill to heat up, then the next important step:

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Place your patties in the freezer for a good 5-10 minutes so they chill and firm up. This is important for a couple reasons: 1. It makes handling your loosely-packed patties easier since cooling them down will firm them up and keep them in one piece, and 2. Chilling your meat and then placing them on a HOT grill will allow the outside to caramelize and crisp up before all the fat heats up and renders out, giving you JUICY burgers.

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SO, once your grill is SEARINGLY hot, drizzle a little olive oil on your patties, season liberally with S&P, and get those bad boys cooking. Listen- a lot of people like to fancy up their burgers with minced onions, chopped herbs, Worcestershire sauce, etc mixed into the meat. STOP THAT! I would say it’s permissible if you’re using other types of meat (like turkey or lamb), but if you’re using ground chuck (or better- chuck/rib/sirloin blend), just let the beef speak for itself. Salt, pepper, maybe some garlic powder is all you need.

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Ashy, glowing coals = HOT. Place your patties seasoned-side down, then season the other side while the bottom is cooking. 1-2 minutes on each side should do it.

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Flip your patties. This is the time you want to brush on any sauces if you’re going for any specialty burger (e.g. teriyaki burger). If you’re going classic, wait another minute as your burger continues cooking.

If you’re gonna add cheese, which I suggest you do, wait till the burger is almost done to your liking, then lay your cheese (I prefer good ol’ gooey American) on each patty and cover the grill for about 15-30 seconds to allow the cheese to melt. If you’re using a thicker or heartier cheese (like swiss or sharp cheddar) put it on a little earlier because it takes longer to melt. Personally, I don’t know why you would ever use swiss though. That cheese is the worst.

Okay, that about does it for the burger cooking portion. Let’s work on some accoutrements:

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These are thinly sliced persian cucumbers with some salt added.

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This is what happens when you leave salt on thinly sliced cucumbers for 10-15 minutes.

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These are the salted cucumbers after you have squeezed out as much water as you could from them. Coincidentally, they are now ready for (quick) pickling.

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Add your vinegar, your sugar, your sesame oil, and voila!

By the way, this is what spicy sesame oil looks like: IMG_4681

I also sautéed some sliced shiitake mushrooms for this burger but forgot to take pictures. It’s pretty straightforward: sauté some thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms in olive oil and a little salt and soy sauce, reserve for burger topping.

OKAY let’s talk construction. For goodness sake, TOAST YOUR BUN. Having a nice, crispy, buttered and toasted inner bun will add a little more depth in texture, and also protect your bun from getting too soggy and mushy once your patty is on there and dripping those delicious juices.

Another thing: BUN BREAD IS IMPORTANT. Any health benefit a dry, mealy, whole wheat bun can offer will not make up for the soft, pliable, toothsome and slightly sweet goodness you would be missing out on if you had a Martin’s Potato Bun instead. It’s no secret that these are the buns used by my beloved Shake Shack, so if it’s good enough for the Shack, then it’s probably way too good for me. But whatever I’m using it.

So yeah, toast your bun. You could simply slather a little mayo or melted butter on the inside of your bun and throw it on the grill (open side down, of course).

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Then assemble! I like to keep all the raw components nice and cold– lettuce, tomato, and pickles stay in the fridge until time to build. My beloved In-N-Out keeps their veggies cold and crisp, and if it’s good enough for them… you get the idea.

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Yum. I just like a little mayo on my burgers, but feel free to add whatever sauces you like. If you want a Shack Sauce clone recipe, check it out here: epicurious’ secret sauce clone.

Happy Grilling!

BURGERS:

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 lbs ground 80/20 chuck (80% lean, 20% fat, grass fed if you can swing it)
House seasoning (equal parts salt, pepper, and garlic powder)

DIRECTIONS:

Get the charcoal going on the grill.

Divide beef into 12 equal balls. The easiest way to do this is to divide all the beef into 2 halves, divide the halves into threes, and divide each third in half again. Roll each portion into a loosely packed ball.

Press each ball into a patty between your palms, then using your thumb, press a little indent into the middle of each patty. The patty should be slightly bigger in diameter than the buns you use (I’d say about 10-15% bigger).

Throw the patties in the freezer for 5 minutes, pull them out, season tops with garlic salt and pepper. Make sure the grill is HOT HOT HOT*, then throw them seasoned-side down on the grill. While grilling, season the other side the same way. Flip each burger once the bottom is browned and there are visible grill marks (about 1-2 minutes, depending on how “done” you want your burger, I like mine medium-just a little pink in the middle).

After flipping, add your cheese (for the classic burger) or brush with teriyaki sauce (for the shiitake burger), cover, and grill another 30 seconds or so until the cheese melts.

*chilling the patties, then grilling them on a super hot grill will let the patties brown and caramelize without all the fat rendering out right away. This is how you get juicy burgers, boiiiiiiii.

EASY TERIYAKI SAUCE:

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup rice wine (sake or shiaoshing cooking wine is fine)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup pineapple juice

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients and simmer over medium low heat until the sauce has thickened slightly and reduced about 10% (10-15 minutes).

QUICK SPICY PICKLES:

INGREDIENTS:

1 Persian Cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp spicy sesame oil

DIRECTIONS:

In a bowl, sprinkle salt over the cucumbers. Let sit at room temperature about 20-30 minutes as the moisture gets pulled out. When you see about a tablespoon of liquid at the bottom of the bowl, stir the cucumbers around and in small handfuls squeeze out any remaining liquid from the cucumber slices.

In a separate bowl, mix the squeezed out cucumber slices with the vinegar, sugar, and both sesame oils. Refrigerate until ready to use.

SAUTÉED SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS:

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt

DIRECTIONS:

Saute the mushrooms in the oil over medium high heat, sprinkle salt and a splash of soy to the mushrooms, cook until tender.

Beer Pairing Recommendation: Anything. Really. It’s a burger. Go crazy! Okay if you’re really lost on this, I’ll give you a suggestion: Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye. Hoppy, peppery, but not so bold that it will overwhelm the burger. Enjoy!

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Garlic and Herb Oven Fries

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Doesn’t that look good? And to think, it started out looking like this:

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Well that looks pretty good too but we can’t eat it like that, can we? So how do we turn those ingredients into delicious fries? Well I’ll tell you.

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Peel the sweet potato and cut all potatoes into 1/2″ wide fries. Coat with olive oil, season with S&P

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I’m using a silpat here because the last time I made these, the potatoes totally burned on the bottom and a lot of them stuck to the pan, leaving the crispy delicious crust to be washed away in the sink like so many bowls of soggy cereal. It was a travesty. The silpat will allow the potatoes to cook and get slightly crisp without sticking or burning.

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After about 15 minutes the potatoes should be pretty soft. Ditch the silpat at this point to let the potatoes come in direct contact with the pan, letting them really get that crispy crust that I know you all want in your fries.

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MEANWHILE, start heating your olive oil over LOW heat. This is for your garlic and herbs. We’re not here to cook them, just get their flavors infused into the oil.

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When stripping the herbs off their branches, it’s easiest to hold the top of the sprig (the end the leaves are pointing towards), then with your other hand, lightly grasp the branch and pull down, plucking the leaves off as you go. Do this with the rosemary and thyme. You know what to do with the garlic.
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Chop up your herbs and throw it into the warm oil with the garlic. If you hear a sizzle, IT’S TOO HOT. Turn down your heat or just take the oil off the burner. Let the garlic/herbs steep a bit.

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After the fries have browned a bit and crisped up on the bottom, flip them all over and throw back in the oven. Bake a little longer.

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Throw your fries in a bowl, pour the garlic/herb/oil mixture over them, and toss. Bonus points if you can toss them by only flicking the bowl and not using any utensils.

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Season with a little more salt and pepper and dig the heck in.

INGREDIENTS:

1 large sweet potato
3-4 Yukon Gold potatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 long sprig rosemary
4-5 sprigs thyme
About 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 deg.

Peel the sweet potato. Cut potatoes into 1/2″ wide fries. Toss them in a large bowl with 1-2 tbsp of olive oil and the salt and pepper. You don’t have to be exact here, just make sure each fry is coated and seasoned. Place the fries on a large silpat placed in a cookie sheet, trying to keep each fry separate from the others. Roast for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes get soft.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan over LOW heat. Strip the leaves off the herb sprigs, and give them a good chop. Add the garlic and herbs to the olive oil and let them steep in the oil. The oil should be warm but not hot enough for the garlic/herbs to fry. If you hear a sizzle when the herbs hit the pan, it’s too hot.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, then ditch the silpat. Pull the silpat out from under the fries, drizzle a little more olive oil on them (or use cooking spray), and again make sure the fries aren’t touching. Return them to the oven for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and start flipping the fries over. The bottom of the fries should be browned by now. Continue flipping all the fries then return them to the oven for another 5 minutes.

Once the fries are browned top and bottom, remove them, then return to a large bowl. Pour the garlic/herb oil over the fries and toss quickly. Serve!

NOTE: if you don’t have a silpat, or if you want crispier fries, you don’t have to use one. Just check on them more often to make sure they’re not burning.

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Italian Sausage and Orzo Soup

So this happened today:

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Yes, #Juno was going on all day today outside my window. What’s a home cook to do? Cook I guess.

Lucky for us, I just happened to have all the ingredients for this delicious, soul-warming soup:

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This soup is so easy and so good. It’s one of my favorite things to whip up in the winter, and the great thing about it is that it’s made up mostly of things I usually already have on hand, and you should too.

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Start with the sausage. I actually don’t usually have this on hand, but it’s not a bad idea to have a couple packs in your freezer handy for pizzas, pasta sauces, etc. Remove the sausage from its casings. For me, it’s easiest to do this with a serrated steak knife.

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Once you’ve browned the sausage, add your onion and garlic. Those are two things you should always have on hand, BTDubs. Those are staples that you can throw into almost anything and it’ll be good.

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Once the onions become shiny and translucent at the edges, add your chicken stock. I always have boxed chicken stock on hand because it can add a lot of flavor to simple dishes like mashed potatoes, stir fry vegetables, pasta, and soups (case in point). In a pinch you could also just pop open box and boil up some wonton soup with it. It’s a must have.

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Throw in a parmesan rind. I usually have whole parmesan on hand because it’s just so much better to have fresh grated parmesan than the dry, powdery, pre-grated stuff. Parmesan is great too because it lasts forever in the fridge and once you’re through you can save the rinds in the freezer. Add the rinds to soups, tomato sauces, whatever you want to give it an extra savory, funky hit.

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Add your can of diced tomatoes and orzo pasta. Canned diced tomatoes are always in my pantry for a quick tomato sauce or chili or for this particular soup. I also usually have orzo… not really as versatile but it goes great in this soup and I do love a good orzo pasta salad.

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After the tomatoes and pasta have been cooking for 5 minutes, add your escarole and canned white beans. Canned white beans make a great bean dip (think hummus but with white beans), and are great just stir fried with kale or thrown into a bean salad.

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Let it bowl down and that’s it! It’s even better after it’s been sitting a while and the starch from the pasta thickens it all up. Serve with fresh grated parmesan and dig in.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb Italian Sausage (hot or mild, up to you), casings removed
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced small
1 10-oz bag of chopped kale or escarole
1 15-oz can of diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 15-oz can of white beans (low sodium), drained
1 32-oz box of chicken stock
1/3 cup of orzo
1 parmesan rind
1 tbsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and heat, then add the sausage. Saute the italian sausage, breaking it up into small pieces. When the sausage is browned, add the garlic and onion and saute until the onion starts to glisten and turns translucent at the edges. If there is excess oil, remove some of it so there is about a tablespoon remaining. Add the entire box of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Throw in the parmesan rind. Bring back to a boil.

Add the can of diced tomatoes and bring back to a boil. Add the orzo and boil for another 5 minutes.  Add the kale/escarole and the white beans and boil for another 10 minutes, or until the greens are tender.

Remove the parmesan rind, ladle into bowls, serve with fresh grated parmesan and grilled crusty bread.

Enjoy. Winter has come.

Beer Pairing Recommendation: BEER WITH SOUP? WHY NOT? Anderson Valley Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale

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100% All-Beef Stew

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Does anyone else think it’s funny that McDonald’s still advertises it’s burgers to be made with 100% all-beef patties? Like they should get a prize? Well done Mickey-D’s! You could have just stopped at 95%, which we all know is well within A-range, but instead you went above and beyond and went for the FULL 100% of what really should be the only ingredient in any burger. Just wondering, what percentage of your burger patty would you, the American consumer, be okay with not being beef? 2%? 0.05%? What would that 0.05% even be if not beef? If it’s rat feces then no thank you.

Let’s be real though, I’m pretty sure 0.05% of everything we ingest is probably rat feces. Just saying. Also, I like McDonald’s. Really. Give me a Big Mac and I’m a happy man. Also also, should we be worried about the fast food chains that DON’T advertise their burgers to be 100% all beef?

Anyway, here’s a recipe for beef stew:

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I splurged and bought a beautiful grass-fed chuck roast the other day and decided I was going to make one of my favorite winter foods: stew. Nothing is better on a freezing day then a bowl of beef, potatoes, and carrots, in a savory gravy with crusty bread on the side. NOTHING.

Couple things: This is the first time I’ve tried making beef stew starting with a full chuck roast, rather than buying already cut up stew meat. This is also the first time using grass fed for beef stew. I am being honest here: IT TOTALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Buying the chuck whole and cutting it myself not only let me control how big I wanted the chunks to be (they’re usually too big for my taste when you buy stew meat already cut up), but it allowed me to keep as much or as little of the fat on the meat as I wanted, and it also let me cook the meat as soon as it was cut, instead of letting it sit out for who knows how long, with tons more surface area to dry out and collect microbes. Also grass fed really does taste better and is better for you. Check it out.

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It’s so beautiful.

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This is all you need to start. Don’t forget that bacon. You have been warned.

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Brown the bacon, leave the fat. If there’s too much fat leftover, spoon some out but leave about 2 tablespoons. Yes there’s one full piece of bacon in there that was just for me. Get off my back. Oh and I hope this goes without saying, but don’t throw away those bacon bits. Reserve for later.

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LISTEN TO ME. BROWN YOUR BEEF IN BATCHES, IN A SINGLE LAYER. In this 5 qt dutch oven I was able to brown them all in 2 batches. If you don’t do this, it won’t brown, and if it doesn’t brown, then you might as well just give it to your dog. This is serious, folks. Once all the meat is browned, set aside with your bacon.

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Here’s where it starts to get a little tricky. Saute your onions and garlic in all the leftover fat (again remove some of it’s excessive, leaving about 3-4 tbsp).

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Once the onions are shiny and starting to turn translucent, add your tomato paste. Let that brown for about 5 minutes, mixing with the onions.

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Add your flour. I know, there’s a lot, but we’re also adding a lot of liquid, so it’ll thicken it all up. If you like a runnier stew, you can use less flour, but I wouldn’t go less than 3 tbsp. Let the flour mix with the fat and tomato paste, letting it continue to brown. There will probably be some burned bits at the bottom of your pot but it’s okay. Just keep everything moving.

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Add your wine. I just used a red table wine. You can use any dry red wine you like, but the rule of thumb is use a wine you would actually drink. Mix it all together and try to dissolve as much of the flour as you can. FYI: It’ll get pretty sludgy.

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Add your beef broth and mix to dilute the sludgy red wine, then return the beef and bacon back to the pot.

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Add a few dashes of this.

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Add a tablespoon of that (this is my secret guys, you’re welcome).

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And last but not least, your bouquet. I also threw in 2 bay leaves but I forgot to take a picture of it. Cover it with a tight-fitting lid, then throw it into your oven for 1 hour 15 minutes at 300 degrees.

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It’s gonna come out looking reduced and smelling like delicious. This is when you add your carrots and potatoes, so they don’t overcook and dissolve into your stew. Add a little water if needed to make sure everything’s submerged. Cover, and throw back into the oven for another 45 minutes, or until the veggies are tender. When it’s done, remove your thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and serve it up!

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INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 1″ cubes
4 slices of good quality bacon, sliced
1 medium onion, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz beef stock
1/3 cup flour
1/2 bottle of good dry red wine (about 2 cups), I used a malbec
3 medium potatoes, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 medium carrots, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tbsp tomato paste
5 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
5 sprigs thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Season beef liberally with salt and pepper. Let sit.

Heat a large dutch oven (5 qt) with the olive oil over medium-high heat, brown the bacon, rendering the fat out. When the bacon is browned, remove it from the heat and reserve in a large bowl for later. Remove some of the fat but leave about 2 tbsp in the dutch oven.

Brown the seasoned beef in the remaining fat IN BATCHES (keeping beef in a single layer each batch). Remove the beef and set aside with the bacon.

Again, if there is a lot of fat left in the pot, remove some of the fat so about 4 tbsp remain, then add your onion and garlic and sautee until the onion starts to become translucent, about 7 minutes.

Add tomato paste and brown for another 5 minutes.

Add the flour and brown that for yet another 5 minutes.

Add the wine and stir, letting it incorporate with the flour and tomato paste, until it reduces slightly and thickens up to a sludgy consistency.

Add all of the beef stock and stir so the whole mixture dilutes.

Return the beef and bacon back to the pot along with any juices that collected in the bowl. Add worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, throw in your thyme and bay leaves, give it a stir, and cover the dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Put the entire thing in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

After 1 hour 15 min, throw in your potatoes and carrots, adding some water if necessary so everything is covered with liquid. then throw back into the oven for another 45 minutes.

Remove bay leaves and thyme. Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy your 100% beef stew!

Beer Pairing Recommendation: Anchor Steam Christmas Ale. Not sure what style this year’s beer is, but I think the flavors they tend to put into their seasonal will match the deep, earthy flavors of this stew.

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Goodwilltasting’s Pumpkin Beer Roundup!

Well folks, I’m still slacking on the posts and I apologize, but I thought I would put up a little something for my favorite holiday of the year: THANKSGIVING.

We are less than 2 days away from all the indulgence and deliciousness that is Thanksgiving Dinner. There are few things I enjoy more than a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, surrounded by good friends. The great Ron Swanson once said “Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon.” I’d like to add the sight of a Thanksgiving spread to that list.

So what beer goes best with Thanksgiving Dinner? Some might say something boring and light to balance with all the heavy, rich food, like a dry pilsner or light-bodied stout. I’m gonna say, “hey jackass, it’s the holidays!” and go with something a little more festive: PUMPKIN BEERS.

I love pumpkin beers.  I love pumpkin beer season.  I love Thanksgiving… have I mentioned that yet? One important note for pumpkin beer n00bs: PUMPKIN PIE SPICE ALONE DOES NOT A PUMPKIN BEER MAKE! For me, pumpkin beer isn’t legit unless there is actual pumpkin added during the brewing process.  So many beers out there masquerading as pumpkin beers when all the brewer did was add a little nutmeg, allspice, and cinnamon to the beer before they bottled it. You should be outraged.

So without further ado, here are 5 of the most recent pumpkin beers I’ve tried, ranked from most hated to most favorite. Take a look!

Pumpkinhead

NAME: Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead, Portland ME.
ABV: 4.5%
REVIEW: Disclaimer: I drank this on tap at a bar a few weeks ago and wrote down my tasting notes there. They read: “Shipyard pumpkin head. Coors light with essence of pumpkin. D.” Light smell of pumpkin pie spice on the nose, unpleasantly light bodied, short, fizzy finish.  I recommend Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin instead. It is LEAGUES better.
GRADE: D

Pumple Drumkin

NAME: Cisco Brewers Pumple Drumkin, Nantucket, MA
ABV: 6.0%
REVIEW: Drank from the bottle so not sure about appearance. Sweet citrusy smell with a hint of nutmeg. Subtly spicy, high carbonation, sweet finish. For a pumpkin ale it’s not very pumpkin-y. Kind of a pilsner with hint of pumpkin pie.
GRADE: C

Uinta Pumpkin

NAME: Uinta Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin, Salt Lake City, UT
ABV: 10.31%
REVIEW: Dark copper color, deep caramel, clove, and cinnamon smell and taste. The spices kind of overpower the whole beer but overall a solid pumpkin beer to go with your thanksgiving leftovers. Kind of boozy probably from the oak barrel aging but whatever, it’s the holidays!
GRADE: B

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin

NAME: Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin (Pugsley’s Signature Series), Portland, ME
ABV: 9.0%
REVIEW: Light brownish copper color, foamy head. Nice notes of pumpkin and nutmeg on the nose, smooth velvety mouthfeel, rich pumpkin and spice flavors come through, sweet finish. Delicious. I don’t understand how the same brewery can also make the pumpkin-flavored garbage water they call Pumpkinhead.  Makes zero sense.
GRADE: A-

Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale

NAME: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Easton, PA
ABV: 8.0%
REVIEW: Beautiful dark amber color, smells like fresh pumpkin pie, tastes like it too. A little spicy and more well-balanced than the Smashed Pumpkin. Creamy mouthfeel, sweet lingering finish. This is pumpkin pie in a bottle. Enjoy!
GRADE: A-

SO I hope this helps guide those of you who are stressing over what to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. Whatever it is, throw in a six pack of pumpkin beer and you will be a Thanksgiving Champion!

Happy Turkey Day you filthy animals.

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Goodwilltasting’s Summer in Review

Well it’s been fall for a little over a week now and, admittedly, I have been skirting my blogging duties for much of the summer. I apologize profusely to you, my leagues of loyal readers, and now that the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder, and the souls of fellow Bostonians are getting slowly crushed by the impending threat of winter, I hope to spend much more time faithfully updating my humble food/beer/manliness blog.

So what have I been up to this summer? In a word, PLENTY.

In May I had the pleasure of volunteering at the American Craft Beer Festival. It was a great time of pretzels, neon t-shirts, and of course, beer samples.  So much beer.

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Love My Free Shirt

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Calm Before The Storm

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Beer Swaaaaaaaaag

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Probably the most interesting beer I tasted at the festival.  Indra Kunindra by Ballast Point. Stout brewed with curry spices.  Definitely different.  Definitely not drinkable.  I’m sorry. D. 

Took a few trips this summer as well. TAKE A LOOK!

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Thoroughly stocked up on Heady Topper up in Burlington, VT

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Incredible bar in Montreal, QC- Le Sainte-Élisabeth.

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Poutine is a Montreal staple. Fries, cheese curds, gravy. Comes with a referral to a cardiologist. 

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First time at Rising Tide in Portland, ME. Great little tasting room, and corn hole in the front! 

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Beautiful bike ride in Peaks Island off the coast of Portland

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Highly recommended- Portland Hunt and Alpine Club. Great cocktails and Scandinavian food. Match made in heaven. 

It’s been a great summer. When I’m suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder in a couple months hopefully I can look back on this post for a cheap pick me up.

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

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NAME: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust (Draught)
TYPE: American Pale Ale
ORIGIN: Munster, Indiana
ABV: 6.4%
REVIEW: Couldn’t believe my luck when I found this bad boy on tap at Farmhouse bar and grill in Burlington, VT!  Fresh smelling, lemon zest nose, apricot on the tongue, crisp juicy mouthfeel, nicely balanced, short sweet finish. Really enjoyable APA, but not quite sure it lives up to the hype. No offense y’all.

goodwilltasting grade: B+

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Fixed Gear American Red Ale

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NAME: Lakefront Brewery Fixed Gear (honestly I bought this beer for the name)
TYPE: Red Ale
ORIGIN: Milwaukee, WI
ABV: 6.8%
REVIEW: Dark copper color, foamy cream colored head, kind of a tart cherry smell even though it’s not a sour ale. Tastes a little biscuity, a little tinny, fruity bittersweet finish. Interesting beer. Kind of odd actually. The main reason I wanted to try this beer was because of the name. I want to like it but not really sure how I feel about it. Worth a try but I probably won’t buy it again.

goodwilltasting grade: B-

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Maine Beer Company MO Pale Ale

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NAME: Maine Beer Company Mo Pale Ale
TYPE: American Pale Ale
ORIGIN: Portland, Maine
ABV: 6.0%
REVIEW: Light golden brown color, opaque, fresh sweet smell, notes of pineapple. Fruity, juicy pale ale with a smooth, crisp mouthfeel and bittersweet finish. Gotta hand it to MBC. They make a fine pale ale. I’m between a B+ and an A- on this one and I just can’t decide.

goodwilltasting grade: A-

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