Blue Hills Brewery Quarter Mile IPA

Quarter Mile IPA

NAME: Blue Hills Brewery Quarter Mile Double IPA
TYPE: American DIPA
ORIGIN: Canton, MA
ABV: 8.00%
REVIEW: Golden brown, slightly opaque. Smells like fresh cut grass and orange juice. Nice and bittersweet, a little nutty, smooth well balanced and not too sweet for a double IPA.

goodwtilltasting grade: B+

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Sam Adams Nitro Stout

Sam Adams Nitro Stout

NAME: Sam Adams Nitro Stout
TYPE: Stout
ORIGIN: Boston, MA
ABV: 4.8%
REVIEW: Pours jet black, beautiful thick foamy head, fresh roasted malt smell, sweet, slightly tart on the tongue with a little smokiness, and a little vanilla, watery finish. The head is the best part of this beer. Tasted like a root beer float. The rest of it, not so much.

goodwilltasting grade: B-

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Brew Dog Libertine Black Ale

Libertine Black Ale

NAME: Brew Dog Libertine Black Ale
TYPE: Black Ale
ORIGIN: Scotland
ABV: 7.2%
REVIEW: Pours like black coffee, light bubbly head. Nice pine-y hop aromas, with a little smokiness at the end. The taste has nice roasted maltiness up front, then a bittersweet grapefruit finish. Really interesting beer! It’s kind of a best of both worlds if you like both stouts and IPAs. I highly recommend trying this one.

goodwilltasting grade: B+

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Newburyport BrewCo Green Head IPA

Green Head IPA

NAME: Newburyport Brewing Co Green Head IPA
TYPE: American IPA
ORIGIN: Newburyport, MA
ABV: 7.2%
REVIEW: Opaque golden brown, creamy foamy head, sweet tangerine peel and pine smell, a bitter and sticky up front bittersweet finish that lingers. Nice, full bodied IPA. A little too bitter at the end but solid to eat with some Boston pizza. Also you don’t bite beer.

goodwilltasting grade: B

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Wonton Soup

So… this happened yesterday:

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This winter is turning into that awkward friend who just won’t leave your house long after the party has ended. It just won’t take a hint! Look man, THE BEER IS GONE, THE HOUSE IS A MESS, JUST GO HOME SO I CAN SLEEP!  This is the LAST time I invite that guy.

Anyway it’s a good thing I have some of these handy:

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Those are frozen homemade wontons my friends. Mrs. Willtasting and I made a batch of them earlier this winter and I think they’re just what I need to forget this bizarro winter-in-April.

First, you’ll need some ground pork:

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Next some peeled, deveined shrimp. I got lazy and bought mine already peeled, but chances are you’ll find fresher and cheaper shrimp if it hasn’t been peeled. Your call, boss.

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Chop up the scrimps (or however you want to pronounce them) and add to the pork. Green onions come next.

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This is important, folks: the rice wine. This is also important: do not drink this.

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Sesame oil, egg, mix.

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Your wonton filling should look like the above picture… YUMMYYYYY. Everything should stick together, not crumble apart, almost like a dough. If it doesn’t look like that, slowly add more sesame oil and rice wine until it does.

Now, check it. This is how you fold your wontons:

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Wet one corner of the wonton skin, place about a half tablespoon of meat filling off center towards that corner, then fold over and pinch the edges together to make a triangle. Bring one of the smaller corners up to the larger corner and pinch together, then do the same with the other corner. That’s it! If you want to freeze some (which you most likely will, since this recipe makes A LOT of wontons), wipe a little oil over the surface of a large dish, place the wontons on the dish, and freeze in the freezer.  Once they are frozen you can keep them in zip lock bags and they will keep for 6 months.

To cook, just boil them in some chicken broth for about 10 minutes, or until the skin is tender and the wontons float to the surface.

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Serve with some green onions and thinly sliced fried egg, and quit beating around the bush and tell winter to go home already.

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WONTONS:

1 1/2 lbs ground pork
1/2 lbs shrimp
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced (about 6 green onions, both white and green parts)
1/4 cup Shaoxing cooking rice wine
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 egg
1 tsp white pepper
2 packages of wonton skins

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, mix well until the filling sticks together like a dough. To assemble wontons, place skin in one hand, wet the edges of one corner, place a half tablespoon of filling off-center towards that corner.  Fold skin in half, pinching edges together to form a triangle. Bring one side of the triangle up to the top corner, pinch together, then do the same with the other side. Or just look at the pictures up top because this is getting really hard to explain in writing.

SOUP:

2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup baby spinach, loosely packed
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 egg, beaten and fried into a thin crepe, then sliced thin.

To cook, boil 2 cups of chicken broth to boil, then add 12 wontons and boil for 10 minutes or until they float to the top. Put spinach in bowl and pour hot soup on top. Garnish with sliced green onions and egg.

Eat your winter blues away.

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Russian River Pliny The Elder

Pliny The Elder

NAME: Pliny the mutha-shut-yo-mouth Elder
BREWERY: Russian River
ORIGIN: Santa Rosa, CA
ABV: 8.0%
REVIEW: This is a special one fellas. Honey color, white foamy head with moderate lacing, rich citrus and tropical fruit smells hit you right away, sweet taste up front with a red grapefruit-y bitter finish. It’s bitter but balanced, sweet but smooth, complex but super drinkable. This is the gold standard my friends. Only to be enjoyed in the presence of a globe and leather-bound book.

goodwilltasting grade: A+

EDITOR’S NOTE: When I lived in California a few years ago, you could get this beer at almost any beer store, specialty market, and basically any Whole Foods. It was still just as good but I guess demand wasn’t as high so it was relatively easy to get. The last time I visited California I had to call around to a couple markets to find it in stock and even when I did find one they had a 1 bottle per customer limit.  One bottle!  I have friends back on the East Coast who have been dying to try this beer so they could have tripled their sales right then but they said no.  I get it, demand greatly exceeds demand. Pliny is gaining quite the following and I am happy for Russian River for creating such a wanted beer.

First of all, I want to say this: I liked it before it was cool. Sorry there aren’t many things I can say that about so just wanted to get it out of my system. Second: If you are hoarding this beer, please do not. It’s a heavily-hopped beer and time is of the essence to drink it at it’s peak taste. Third: If you are a price-gouging reseller, please stop. I saw an ad on craigslist selling bottles of Pliny for $20 a pop. You sir, are the worst. You ruin it for everyone else. And while I’m at it, the same goes for ticket scalpers and people who sell their cronuts for $50 in Manhattan.

For everyone else who has since starting enjoying Pliny the Elder and thus created such a beer drought, I commend you.  You have chosen wisely.

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Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout

NAME: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout
TYPE: Stout
ORIGIN: Lexington, KY
ABV: 8.0%
REVIEW: Pours black like coffee, almost no head. Smells strongly of coffee, vanilla, molasses and a little charcoal. Sweet, smoky, a little caramel and coffee tastes towards the end. Mouthfeel is a little flat and sort of watery but otherwise a pretty complex tasting stout. BTW pairs figure skating is manly, right?

goodwilltasting grade: B

 

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Shipyard Prelude Ale

Shipyard Prelude Ale

NAME: Shipyard Prelude Ale
TYPE: English Strong Ale
ORIGIN: Portland, ME
ABV: 6.8%
REVIEW: Clear, dark brown color, fresh, crisp smell with with a little coffee and brown sugar on the nose. Unfortunately it smelled a lot better than it tasted. Unpleasantly bitter from the get go, a little funky at the end with a stale, dry, sticky finish. Had on draught so can’t really say if it was the beer’s fault or the bar’s fault. In any case, it was not great. 

goodwilltasting grade: D.

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Tomato Parmesan Soup – Grilled Cheese Crouton

Ah, the after school special. Was there anything better than coming home after a long day of physics tutoring, marching band practice, and hours of working on your friend’s failed cable access television show than a hot bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese? Okay, maybe your high school experience was different from mine, but I’m sure your feelings are the same for the soup and sandwich.

Well, we’re not in high school anymore, so it’s time to put away those Campbell’s condensed tomato cans and make yourself some big boy soup. Lucky for you, it’s a pretty easy recipe it will make enough soup for days. DAYS!

So I usually don’t spring for the San Marzano’s because, well, I’m cheap. But since the tomatoes are really the star of this soup those extra 3 bucks per can are gonna be worth it. Plus these were on sale so it was actually only an extra buck per can. Totally worth it.

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Start with the butter onion, garlic, and thyme. Tie the thyme sprigs together with some butchers twine or just string without any dyes. You’re gonna need to fish that out later on and tying them together will make your life a whole lot easier. Don’t worry about how big or small you chop everything, since that’s gonna be all blended up later on.

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Once the onion is translucent, add your tomato paste. Brown that junks and it’s gonna give you flavor for days. DAYS!

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Add your tomatoes, some broth, some water, and let the magic begin.

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Oh yeah, don’t forget the secret ingredient: Parmesan rinds! Sounds weird but those things are totally edible.  I mean, I wouldn’t eat them straight up, but it’s great to add some body to soup or… stews. I don’t really know what else. If I think of anything I’ll let you know. So they sell these now at Whole Foods for like $50 or something ridiculous because it’s Whole Foods and they think they can sell you essentially kitchen scraps for top dollar.  They make me so mad sometimes!

…anyway I got these at Whole Foods.

If you buy fresh parmesan regularly (which I strongly suggest you do), you can always save the rinds yourself in the freezer and you’ll be good to go.

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After simmering for an hour or so, fish out your thyme and parmesan rinds.  The parmesan swells up, darkens in color, and kinda looks like pork belly at this point, but do not be fooled! It won’t be pleasant to bite into.

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Just got this immersion blender and I love it. Just a standard $30 Cuisinart, nothing fancy. It’s awesome.

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Add a little more parm, some S&P, let simmer a little longer, and you’re all set.

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It might be a little dumb to put up instructions on how to make a grilled cheese, but there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over my many years of grillin’ up cheeses that not all my know.

First thing: butter your bread FIRST. That way you’ll get a nice even brown on both sides with less chance of burning.

Second: I usually prefer good ol’ American cheese for my grilled cheese because it’s classic and when it’s melted it’s just so damn good. But since I’ll be cooking this a bit longer to make it crisp up, I’ll be using a sharp white cheddar that melts slower and will actually give you a nice crisp crust the longer you cook it.

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Remember: Butter side out!!

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Cut it up into crouton-sized bites, throw it on some foil, pop ’em into your oven.

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The more you know.

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TOMATO PARMESAN SOUP:

2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
10 sprigs thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup basil leaves loosely packed
2-3 Parmesan rinds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 cups beef stock
6 cups water
Salt and Pepper

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomato paste. Keep cooking, stirring often, until paste browns in spots, about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes with juices, sugar, beef stock, and water to pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Add the parmesan rinds and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until soup thickens and reduces by 20%, about an hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Remove thyme sprigs and parmesan rinds, discard… or eat… or do whatever you want with them. Add basil leaves, then using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth, about 45-60 seconds.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, work in batches and purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot. Heat and bring back to simmer for 10-15 more minutes.

 

GRILLED CHEESE CROUTON:

2 slices crusty italian bread
1-2 slices of white cheddar cheese
Butter

Pre-heat an oven to 250 degrees.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread, butter-side down on the hot skillet, put cheese on top, then place the other slice of bread butter side UP on top of the cheese. Butter-side always OUT!

When the cheese is slightly melted and the bottom slice is evenly browned, flip the whole sandwich over and brown the other side.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Cut up the sandwich into crouton-sized bites, place on cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the bread is dried and crisp.

SERVING:

Ladle soup into bowls, top with 2-3 croutons, garnish with fresh chopped parsley.  Enjoy with some Lifetime Original After School Specials.

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Carne Asada Tacos – Pico de Gallo – Creamy Tomatillo Salsa

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” -Mark Twain (supposedly)

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a winter in Boston.” -William Sam

So we’re a good 4 weeks into spring here in frigid Boston and this past weekend gave us the first semblance of mild weather in what seems like years.  I have long forgotten what warmth feels like, and I’ve worn my winter boots for so long that wearing sneakers now just feels like I have a pair of heavy socks on.  Here’s to warmer days ahead and to the beginning of slowly repressing all bad winter memories.

To celebrate the first nice weekend of spring, we decided to have ourselves a cookout, Mexican style. And if you know anything about Mexican food in New England, then you probably know you’re better off cooking it yourself. So here it is, my carne asada taco recipe:

Normally I would use flank steak for this recipe but for some odd reason Stop and Shop didn’t have any, so I settled for some sirloin steak tips, which worked out nicely. Start off with your juices (OJ and lime juice), this is what really gives the carne asada that distinct, almost tangy flavor. I also add some soy sauce for a little savoriness.

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Then add your spices. That spice mix may look familiar.

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Smash some garlic cloves, mince, and chop some cilantro.

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Throw it all into your bag o’ meat, seal it, then refrigerate overnight. Here’s a tip: keep the bag in a bowl just in case there are any leaks in your zip-lock bag. I had to learn this the hard way. Meat juice all over my vegetables, never again.

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The next day, fire up the grill, and cook it all to a nice medium rare. I know there’s a lot of ash in that grill. I didn’t clean it out and guests were already arriving so I had to just make do. Turned out it was a bad idea because it was blocking the air vents on the bottom of the grill so the coals weren’t getting enough oxygen and cooled down a lot faster than normal.  The meat still cooked, only it was a lot slower, so there’s another lesson for you: clean out your grill!

BTW let’s hear it for natural lighting! I can finally take an overhead shot without my shadow covering everything.

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Here’s all you need for delicious tomatillo salsa:

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Tomatillos are weird. First of all, they have a husk. What’s up with that? Also when you remove the husk there’s this sticky film all over them and it’s a little unsettling. If they weren’t so darn good I would probably never eat them. Anyway, make sure you give them a good rinse to get all the sticky off.

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Cut them all in half, drizzle a little olive oil on top, and throw them under the broiler, along with the jalapeño and onion.

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After about 10 minutes you should have a nice char like so:

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Chop the stem off your jalapeño and throw everything in your food processor, including the fresh cilantro. If you’re not into spicy food you can remove the seeds and pith from the jalapeño before adding it. But just be a man and throw the whole thing in.

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Once it’s all pureed a bit, add your avocado and process for another 30 seconds or so, and there you have it:

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Pico de gallo is super easy and super delicious. Here’s everything you need:

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Chop it all up, throw it in a bowl, add your lime juice, and a little salt and pepper.

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Beautiful.

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Viva Mexico

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CARNE ASADA TACOS:

3-4 lbs skirt steak, flank steak, or sirloin steak tips
1 cup orange juice
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
corn tortillas

In a heavy duty zip-lock bag, combine all ingredients, seal it, then mix it all up with your hands. Put the bag in a large bowl and let marinate overnight, or for at least 6 hours.

The next day, take your meat out about 30 minutes before you’re ready to cook to allow meat to come to room temperature. Heat your grill, then cook carne asada to a medium rare. Let meat rest 10 minutes before chopping it up for tacos.

Heat up a cast-iron skillet with a little oil and heat your tortillas on the skilled for about 30 seconds before assembling your tacos. This will make the tortilla more pliable and less likely to break apart when you’re eating.

 

CREAMY TOMATILLO SALSA:

1 1/4 lbs fresh tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed clean
1 medium Spanish onion
1 jalapeño
1 large avocado
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about half a bunch, chopped)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Cut all the tomatillos in half and place them cut-side down on a baking sheet, along with the jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Drizzle with a little olive oil- you don’t have to coat everything completely, just as long as there’s a little oil on there. Turn on broiler to High and place the baking sheet with your ingredients under the flames, broiling for 8-10 minutes.  Make sure you check on them so they don’t burn TOO much. You do want SOME char but you definitely don’t want them decimated by the fire. Once they’re cooked, take the ingredients out and let cool. Peel the garlic, chop the stem off the jalapeño and do a rough chop to the garlic, jalapeño, and onion. 

Fit your food processor with a metal blade, then add the tomatillos, jalapeño, garlic, and onion. Process for about 30 seconds, then add the lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro, and avocado. Process for another 30 seconds or until it is a smooth consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or pepper to taste.

 

PICO DE GALLO:

4 Roma Tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Serve with tacos!

 

beer pairing suggestion: There’s a lot of citrus and spice going on in this meal, and we’re using a pretty lean cut of beef here, so a light IPA or a lager would go nicely with these tacos. Try Maine Beer Co Another One IPA or Brooklyn Lager or you can never go wrong with some Negra Modelo when eating Mexican!

 

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