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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Garlic and Ancho Chile Sauce/Only Child Brewing Co. Eat Your Damn Vegetables American Wheat Ale/Clutch "From Beale Street to Oblivion"

This was supposed to be a quick, 5 ingredient weeknight meal, but with the hour and a half roasting time for the garlic, it wound up being a two day affair with us getting all of the ingredients ready on day one then cooking and eating on day two.  Here boneless and skinless chicken thighs are seasoned and grilled until slightly charred and juicy then served with this addictive roasted garlic and ancho chile sauce that we lifted from the June 2009 Food & Wine.  The sauce combines roasted garlic with a rehydrated ancho pepper that both get blended together with chicken broth, soy sauce and olive oil.  The only other accompaniment needed is fresh lime wedges. We paired up this light and spicy dish with the American Wheat Ale Eat your Damn Vegetables from local brewers Only Child Brewing Co.  The tunes are courtesy of one our all time favorite bands, Clutch.  Tonight we spun their excellent 2007 release "From Beale Street to Oblivion".

Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Garlic and Ancho Chile Sauce - With only two components, chicken and sauce, you'd think this dish could be whipped up in minutes.  Not so.  It's not hard, but it does take some time to roast the garlic and soften the pepper.  The garlic does take a little longer, so let's start there.  Cut the top off of a bulb of garlic and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap in foil and bake at 375 degrees for an hour and 20 minutes.

In a small sauce pan pour in 1/2 cup of chicken broth and add a dried ancho pepper. Add enough water to cover the pepper.  Bring the liquid to a boil and turn the pepper often until it softens.

With those two components done, the sauce comes together very quickly from here.  In a blender add in 1/4 cup chicken broth and 2 tablespoons soy sauce to the roasted garlic and ancho chile.  Blend the mixture then drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil until it becomes smooth and glossy.   Cover and refrigerate.

To the grill we go with chicken thighs that have been seasoned generously with salt and pepper.  We grease up the grates with grape seed oil then place the thighs over medium-high heat coals.

Let these cook for several minutes per side until a nice char forms and the interior is cooked through.

Remove from heat, baste the thighs with the garlic-ancho sauce, return to the grill for another 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat again, cover and keep warm.

To serve,  cut the thighs into bite sized chunks and place on a platter with a scattering of lime wedges.  Serve the reserved sauce on the side.   This dish is all about balance; a bite size chunk of chicken, a squeeze of lime and a quick dip in the garlic and ancho sauce achieves this perfect storm of smoky, earthy, tart and spicy that made this dish completely addictive.

Only Child Brewing Eat Your Damn Vegetables Wheat Ale - These 22 oz bottles were on display at a local fruit market with a sign that said "locally brewed in Northbrook, IL".  That was enough for us to get a few in the cart, reading that it was an American Wheat Ale just got us all the more excited.  When we cracked them open and started pouring, the beer came out super thin and a really light, yet cloudy yellow.  There was a good amount of effervescence in the glass and the white foamy head billowed over the rim of the glass.   Let's talk aroma, which pretty much smacks you right upside the head after the pour.   Delicious sweet mango, citrusy grapefruit and earthy grass greet the nose right away.  As for the flavor, it stays true to the American Wheat style, meaning it is brings the hops big time to go along with the light and easy drinking wheat.   This beer is so light, it is nothing short of amazing that they were able to pack that much hoppy goodness into this beer.   We also loved that being a small batch brewery, the beer had that super fresh homebrew taste that made this beer climb even higher in our books.  Pairing wise, things were spot on.  The beer and food were both way up there on the lightness scale making this a perfect end of summer BBQ meal.

Clutch "From Beale Street to Oblivion" - You would have thought by now that we would have featured the entire Clutch catalog here, but not quite.  "From Beale Street to Oblivion" is our sleeper Clutch album.   We can play it over and over and marvel at just what an amazing album it is, but then the next time we're in the mood for a little Clutch, it gets looked over like yesterday's mashed potatoes, usually for Blast Tyrant, Robot Hive or Earth Rocker.  Well, no more.  We're prepared to put this album in the A rotation so it never will be forgotten again.  The album begins with the psychedelic funk of "You Can't Stop Progress".  The track combines Parliament and Sly Stone with that classic Clutch groove.  "Power Player" is firmly rooted in a deep and heavy groove and has a definite "Robot Hive" feel to it.   If you dig the blues, look no further than "The Devil & Me".  The bluesy riff and big organ sound make this one of the best tracks on the album.   One of Clutch's many trademarks is their penchant to toss in a slower, outlaw-ish rock song on an album.  On this album, "White's Ferry" is that song.  This one differs a little from the formula, as only the verses have the slow, smoky tumbleweed feel.  The chorus rocks out in typical Clutch fashion.  It's back to the blues on possibly the band's most popular song, "Electric Worry".   Interestingly, this hadn't been one of our favorite Clutch tunes UNTIL they closed one of the most incredible live shows we had ever seen with it.  Now, every time we hear it, we're immediately transported to the House of Blues show.  Normally the words "Clutch" and "Classic Rock" don't go together, but they do on "When Vegans Attack".  The track delivers a heavy old school 70s riff with some sweet Hammond organ to boot.  The album ends with the organ and spoken word intro to  "Mr. Shiny Cadillackness" which quickly turns into a downright cool, slow, burning groove with great lyrics.  What can we say?  "From Beale Street to Oblivion" is just another classic album from one of the best bands in the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Grilled Kefta Kebab Skewers/Southern Tier Live/Steak "Slab City"

This traditional middle-eastern kebab is similar to the lula kebabs we did a while back.   Well, not entirely.  This kebab features ground bison heavily seasoned with cumin, paprika, cayenne, oregano then mixed with pureed onion, parsley, garlic and lemon.  We thread the mixture on traditional long metal skewers and grill them over hot coals.  These get served up over a bed of rice with a side of banana peppers and sliced plum tomatoes.  The final touch is a homemade pomegranate tzaziki on the side.  The beer we paired this dish up with was Southern Tier's bottle condition ale Live.   For the tunes, we were super stoked to spin the latest release from England's Steak "Slab City".

Grilled Kefta Kebab Skewers - This recipe relies on the pureed onions and garlic to not only season the meat but also tenderize and keep the lean bison moist.  In a large bowl combine 1 pound of ground bison, a teaspoon each of paprika, oregano and cumin, a 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.

In a blender combine 1 medium yellow onion, 3 garlic cloves, a small handful of parsley and the juice of a lemon.   Blend until smooth.

Add the pureed onion mixture to the meat and mix well.  Shape the mixture into long thin rolls.  

Thread the meat onto kebab skewers.  Place the kebabs over a hot charcoal grill and grill until just charred on the outside, about 4-5 minutes per side.

Remove the kebabs from the grill and let rest a minute or two, which is enough time to knock out the pomegranate tzaziki.   In a blender combine 1/2 English cucumber, 1 8 oz container of plain greek yogurt, the juice of a lemon and 2 garlic cloves.  Blend until smooth then stir in a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate seeds.

To serve, we spoon some yellow rice on a platter and place the kefta kebabs right on top.  On the side goes the pomegranate tzaziki, some whole banana peppers and sliced roma tomatoes.  These kebabs were super flavorful and juicy made even better by the delicious charcoal flavor.

Southern Tier Live - This east coast brewery kicks out some amazing beers and this unique bottled conditioned beer Live is just another in a long line from them.  The beer pours a dark yellow, almost orange with a white foamy head.  The aroma is super complex, which, when you brew with four different types of hops and malt, is bound to happen.  There is definitely some booziness and lemon but also a berry-like sweetness.  The flavor is light and crisp at first, possessing some lager-like qualities but then a nice burst of bitter hops hit in front of a smooth slightly sweet malty background.  There is also a pleasant herbalness to the beer which just further adds to its complexity.  Live is an excellent beer, hard to classify, but excellent nonetheless.  It also worked amazingly well with the middle eastern meal, not being so heavy that it overpowered the food.

Steak "Slab City" - This extremely talented four piece from London has simply outdone themselves on their latest release "Slab City".  This time around, the vocals are grittier, the grooves are dirtier and the guitars are fuzzier making this one stellar slab of southern stoner rock and one of the best releases of the year.   The album opens up with the building "Coma" that begins with mostly atmospheric instrumental noise along with some distorted spoken word in the background.  That atmospheric noise and spoken word pick up to a heavier groove with some cool distorted vocals before the track finishes out.  "Liquid Gold" is a classic heavy grunge track, recalling early "Loud Love"-era Soundgarden.   It's one of those songs that grooves and rocks and you totally get into it from the opening note, but you can just feel that the band's holding back on the reins a little.  Sure enough, the doors get blown off about halfway through the track.  This would be a killer tune to hear live.  The title track has a Truckfighters feel to it, showcasing some great guitar work and vocals.   "Pisser" gets down, dirty and fuzzy highlighted by the guest vocals of the one and only John Garcia.  The raucous "Roadhead"  shares the same gene pool as southern stoner rock stalwarts  Halfway to Gone, adding a good dose of grit to this dirty bluesy rocker.  Things slow down a bit on "Machine".  The track is still heavy, but the plodding tempo allows you to slowly head bang along to it.   The album's best track may very well belong to "Hanoid".  Backed by a great Sabbathy riff, the song is a heavy slice of Orange Goblin-like biker metal.  "Rising" features a downright low and heavy groove that's about as tuned down as it gets but also has an amazing groove and great vocals to round out an incredible track.  The album features a bonus track "Old Timer D.W." that closes things out.  It's boot-stomping southern-y good time complete with slide guitar.   "Slab City" is going to be one of those classic albums that you have in your rotation forever and every time you spin it, you have to turn it up nice and loud.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grilled Skirt Steak over Garlic Rosti Potatoes, Blistered Tomatoes and Aleppo Pepper & Avocado Cream/Tyranena Brewing Rocky's Revenge/Planet of Zeus "Vigilante"

We went back 4 years and took page out of an old Food & Wine Grilling Issue.  Literally, we actually ripped the page out for this gaucho-style steak and potato recipe.  This meal consists of a dollop of Aleppo pepper & avocado cream that goes down on the plate first.  Next up is a crunchy, garlicky and buttery rosti potato patty that lays on top of the cream.  A seasoned, grilled skirt steak goes on top of the potato along with some charred grape tomatoes.  A big dish like this calls for a beer that can stand up to the rich and buttery steak and potatoes, so we went with the bourbon barrel aged brown ale, Rocky's Revenge from Wisconsin's Tyranena Brewing.   For the tunes, all the way from Greece comes the heavy groove based rock of Planet of Zeus and their latest release "Vigilante".

Grilled Skirt Steak over Garlic Rosti Potatoes, Blistered Tomatoes and Aleppo Pepper & Avocado Cream -  There's only four components to this dish, but we need to start with the potatoes.  We pierce some fingerling potatoes with a fork and microwave until soft.  We toss the cooked potatoes in a bowl with 2 Tbls of butter, a tablespoon of garlic powder and season with salt and pepper.  Finally we toss a rough mash on these, leaving some chunks, we don't want mashed potatoes.

In a non-stick skillet, warm some olive oil over medium/low heat.  Add enough of the potato mixture just to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook over low heat for 15 minutes then flip and repeat for another 15 minutes until browned on both sides.

Keep the rosti potatoes warm in the oven while we head out to the grill.  First with the tomatoes, which we toss with a little grape seed oil then sauté over the open flame until they start to blister.

Now on to the beef.  A nice long piece of skirt steak that we cut into three pieces roughly the same size as the potato cakes.  These get seasoned up with salt, pepper and garlic then on to a scorching hot grill they go for 5-6 minutes per side.

Remove the steak and let rest for 5 minutes or so.

As the steak is resting, we knock out the Aleppo pepper and avocado cream.  In a blender combine 4 avocados, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 teaspoon of ground Aleppo pepper and 1/2 cup of olive oil.  Place a couple of tablespoons of the puree on a plate.

The rosti garlic potato goes on top of the cream as does a big chunk of the grilled steak.

The final touch is a scattering of the char-grilled grape tomatoes.   The only way to eat this is cutting straight down through every layer and ensuring each bite has a little bit of all the components.  They all work in perfect harmony with the bright and sweet tomatoes and cool avocado cream providing just the right balance to the rich steak and potatoes.  Incredible.

Tyranena Brewing Rocky's Revenge - Tonight we sampled another beer from Wisconsin's Tyranena Brewing Co.  This time we went with their bourbon barrel aged brown ale, Rocky's Revenge.   The beer pours a dark, dark mahogany with a slight tannish head.  The aroma is sweet and intense with notes of chocolate and oak at the forefront.  The flavor starts off equally sweet with a strong vanilla bean presence but then moves right into slightly bitter unsweetened chocolate territory before finishing off with some strong and warming bourbon qualities.  The combination of sweet and strong makes this beer primed for sipping, which we did as we thoroughly enjoyed taking our time pairing it up with this big meal.  The flavors complimented each other perfectly.

Planet of Zeus "Vigilante" - "Vigilante" is yet another highly recommended album that we got wind of and were completely blown away by.  Athens' Planet of Zeus combine both old school heavy Clutch and newer groove-oriented Clutch with near perfect results.  The album's opener is "The Great Dandolos" and features a downright sick groove with some cool vocal cadences not unlike Neil Fallon's.   "Second Coming" has a fuzzed out shuffle feel before the hammer drops on the super heavy chorus.   There's a southern stoner rock tone to "A Girl Named Greed",  The track is super catchy vocally, and has a bonafide head banging groove to it.   "Burn This City Down" is what you would get if you mixed the groove of Clutch with the funk of RHCP.   The album's best track belongs to "Tornado", a tune that you just have to crank up whenever it comes on.  "No Tomorrow" slows things down a bit with its sludgy blues.  The vocals really shine on this track, especially on the anthemic chorus which has a little Zakk Wylde-ness to it.  The title track is a southern rocker in the same vein as Five Horse Johnson, just good time boot stomping tune.  For a little of that slow and heavy NOLA sound the band delivers on "Disappointment Blues" with vocalist Babis channeling his inner Phil Anselmo.  The album ends with the appropriately named "The Beast Within", a brutally heavy track with powerful guttural vocals.  "Vigilante" is an amazing album start to finish with a ton of groove throughout but also keeping things pretty heavy.