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

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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stuffed Coconut Banana Fosters Pancakes/Pig Minds Brewing Joe Daddy Coffee Stout/Elder "Lore"

This is yet another recipe made from ingredients that we wanted to use up.  In this case, we had some frozen bananas, a can of coconut milk and the last quarter of a container of whipped cream cheese.   We fostered the bananas in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon then pureed it with a can of coconut milk.    That mixture gets blended with oats, flour, eggs, baking powder, salt, honey and milk.  We griddle up these pancakes in a buttered skillet then each pancake gets spread with a cream cheese frosting sweetened with brown sugar and vanilla then hit with a shot of rum.  A topping of crunchy diced bacon and real maple syrup are the finishing touches.  What better beer to pair with pancakes then a coffee stout?  We went with the fairly local Pig Minds Brewing from Machesney Park and their boozy take on the style.  For the tunes, we spun the latest "Lore" from the Boston doom trio Elder.

Stuffed Coconut Banana Fosters Pancakes - We start by making the cream cheese frosting which is just 1/2 cup of whipped cream cheese, a tablespoon of brown sugar, a dash of vanilla and a shot of rum.  Whip well until smooth and combined.

Now we can move on the pancakes.  We start by melting a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan and add in 3 large bananas with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon.  Cook the mixture down until the bananas turn to mush and the sugar and butter have thickened into a caramel.

Place the banana fosters into a blender with a can of coconut milk until thick and smooth and reserve.

In a large bowl combine 1 1/4 cups of quick cooking oats, 1 cup of the coconut banana mixture, 1 cup of milk and tablespoon of honey.  Whisk well.

Now the dry ingredients.  We add 1/4 cup each of whole wheat and all purpose flour and teaspoon each of baking powder and salt.   Then we add two beaten eggs and whisk well.

We get a non-stick skillet warmed up and grease it up with butter.  We pour enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan.

Cook the pancakes until bubbles form on the top and the bottoms turn a golden brown then flip over.

Stack the pancake on a plate and smear it with the frosting.

Place another pancake on top with a scoop of the cream cheese frosting and some chopped bacon.    A drizzle of real maple syrup and these babies are good to go.   These were so good and decadent, almost like eating dessert for dinner.

Pig Minds Brewing Joe Daddy Coffee Stout - We'd still like to consider this beer a local, Machesney Park is only a couple hours west of Chicago and their beers made it down to one of our local liquor stores.  We opted for this Imperial Coffee Stout as our maiden voyage beer from Pig Minds.  The beer pours like a cup of black coffee, pitch black with slight tannish bubbles bouncing on the surface. The aroma smells like liquid chocolate rum balls. The flavor is super boozy and a tad sweet. There is a definite coffee richness to the beer.  All of these flavors played in perfectly with the sweet and boozy pancakes.

Elder "Lore" - The melodic doom that is the mighty Elder puts forth quite possibly their best release to date with 2015's "Lore" which is no easy task considering the band's impressive discography.   The disc is comprised of five perfectly crafted tunes providing a little over an hour of musical enjoyment.  Grab some beers, turn it up and enjoy the journey that begins with "Compendium".  Right off the bat you're treated to some ridiculous fret work first with some clean classical scales then again when the hammer drops on some seriously heavy riffage.   The vocals are super catchy in a Red Fang kind of way making this the perfect opening track for the album.  "Legend" begins with a chill, atmospheric instrumental that builds and builds before ratcheting back down when the vocals kick in.  The tune is a complex, layered mix of Ozzy and Mars Volta.  The title track begins with a bullwhip of a riff and a locked in heavy groove immediately before spiraling into some proggy/doomy territory.  At almost 16 minutes long, this tune has a lot of layers to it.   "Deadweight" is a dark, heavy number with a Tool-like feel.  The guitar work is menacing and the whole track slams like there's no tomorrow.   The album closes with "Spirit At Aphelion".  The intro is features some beautiful guitar playing then transforms to cool, groove oriented rocker featuring quite possibly the best riff on the album.  The song may actually be the best track on the disc.  These guys also kill it live if you get the chance to catch them on their current tour.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Grilled Chicken Pita with Banana Pepper Ratatouille, Jalapeño Yogurt and Feta/Anchor Brewing Winter Wheat/Ruby the Hatchet "Valley of the Snake"

This recipe we created to use up a quart of jalapeño yogurt dip we had in the fridge.  The dip serves two purposes here, first as an ingredient in the marinade for the boneless chicken thighs and also as a spread for the finished sandwich.  The marinated chicken thighs get grilled over charcoal then tucked into warm pitas that have been smeared with the jalapeño yogurt.  The pitas get topped with a grilled banana pepper ratatouille and fresh crumbled feta.  For the beer, we went with the Winter Wheat from Anchor Brewing.  On the speakers was the highly anticipated album "Valley of the Snake" by Philly's Ruby the Hatchet that not only blew our speakers but blew our minds.

Grilled Chicken Pita with Banana Pepper Ratatouille, Jalapeño Yogurt and Feta - We start by marinating the boneless chicken thighs in a cup of jalapeño greek yogurt dip, 1/4 cup white vinegar and some cracked black pepper.  These go in the fridge overnight to marinate.

We get a grill going to about a medium heat, grease the grate and place the chicken thighs over direct heat.    Grill for a few minutes per side until the outside is nicely charred and the inside is cooked.  Remove from heat and keep warm.

Place a few banana peppers on the grill and char on all sides.  Remove from heat and gather the rest of the ingredients which are a can of drained Ro-tel, a small handful of cilantro and a teaspoon each of dried cumin and coriander.

Place in a mortar and pestle and muddle until well combined.

Lastly place the pitas on an oiled griddle until warmed through and remove from heat.

To build these sandwiches, spread some jalapeño yogurt dip on the bottom of the warm pita.  Roughly chop the chicken and layer on top of the yogurt.  Top with the ratatouille.

 All that's left to do is a sprinkling of fresh crumbled feta and serve.  This was a monster-sized chicken pita but also insanely delicious.  It hit all of the Middle Eastern /Mediterranean notes we were looking for and then some.

Anchor Brewing Winter Wheat - San Francisco's Anchor Brewing has been steadily growing their line that not too long ago only included a few different beers.  Tonight we sampled their seasonal Winter Wheat.  For some reason, when we saw the word "wheat" we envisioned a lighter color beer, but it actually pours a dark brown like cola with an equally foamy light brown head.  The aroma is yeasty with a little lemon and cocoa notes. The flavor is rich and chocolately with a pleasant raisiny sweetness. The mouthfeel is fairly heavy with a booziness to it that puts the "winter" in winter wheat.  Even though this beer is billed as a "winter warmer" it stood up well to the lighter, Mediterranean fare.

Ruby the Hatchet "Valley of the Snake" -  This new album from Philly's Ruby the Hatchet has been all over the stoner rock webisphere since its release and for damn good reason.   All it took was the first 4 bars of the opening track to jump on their band camp page and snag this on vinyl immediately.  They are so ridiculously heavy and groove oriented but with vocals that are about angelic and melodic as humanly possible.  The opener "Heavy Blanket" not only will have you cranking this tune up to the point your speakers might in fact blow, but you will find yourself singing this at the top of your lungs just randomly throughout the day quite often.  It's a combination of the heavy groove that slams like few other songs do, the powerful doomy organ and those magical vocals that waft over the sludge like a haze of harmonic smoke.   "Vast Acid" keeps the groove going in pure fuzzed out fashion.  The vocals here have a cool retro Blondie-like feel to them which again are layered behind a wall of heaviness.  A better 1-2 punch to kick off an album is hard to find.   A beautiful acoustic intro begins "Tomorrow Never Comes" before you get pummeled with a riff so low and slow that you'd think the record was on 11 rpm.  It's a dark, evil sounded tune that evokes a little Black Sabbath not only its darkness but also in its penchant for changing tempos the way this song does essentially making it a couple of songs wrapped up on one.    "The Unholy Behemoth" is another great showcase of Jillian Taylor's vocals that again seems to be custom made for the unbelievable music the band kicks out.   Letting loose a little from the heavy. sludgy doom is "Demons"  which picks up the pace quite a bit to start off then chills out to a Doors-y psychedelic number about halfway through before resuming to being the all out rocker again.  The album closes with the title track that has a lot of Zeppelin to it with its eastern beats, beautiful acoustic arrangement and huge vocals.  Its only March which seems premature to declare an album of the year, but without a doubt "Valley of the Snake" will either wind up being it or right up there.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Greenbush Roast Beef/Greenbush Indispensable/Hot Lunch "Hot Lunch"

This meal was made as a result of picking up a growler of Greenbush's Indispensable then scouring the brewery's menu for some food ideas to pair it with.  We settled on their Roast Beef sandwich as we had some homemade italian beef in the freezer that we needed to use up.  The warmed italian beef is placed on a toasted kaiser roll then covered in a couple of slices of provolone cheese.  Under the broiler the sandwich goes until the cheese is melty and golden brown.  A huge scoop of hot giardiniera goes on top followed by a generous dollop of a homemade horseradish cream.  The beer as you know came in the form of a growler of the simply addicting IPA Indispensable from the always amazing Greenbush Brewery.  Blasting out of the speakers was the good time party rock of Hot Lunch spinning their self-tilted debut.

Greenbush Roast Beef -  Having the Italian Beef already made makes this dish about as easy as making a deli sandwich.   The only other preparation really is the homemade horseradish sauce which is just a 1/2 cup each of mayo and sour cream and 1/4 cup of prepared horseradish. Whip until combined and smooth and place in the fridge.

We're ready to knock this sandwich out now.  Slice some bakery kaiser rolls in half and pile on the Italian Beef on the bottom half then top with two slices of provolone.

Under a broiler for a few minutes these go until the cheese is melted and golden brown.

A huge helping of hot giardiniera goes on top and the horseradish sauce gets spread on the top bun.

Unfortunately, we haven't quite made it to this sandwich yet to try at the brew pub, so we can't compare  ours to theirs.  We can tell you that the flavor combination was spot-on, which is no surprise given all of the hits that have come out of Greenbush's kitchen over the years.

Greenbush Indispensable - Our eyes light up about as big as the stage set at a KISS show whenever we see a new IPA on the Greenbush beer menu which is exactly what happened when we saw Indispensable listed.   The beer pours a gorgeous, cloudy dark orange/auburn with a firm white head that sits atop.  The aroma is citrusy and bursts from the glass immediately after the pour.  The taste is super hoppy but also full of mandarin orange sweetness.  It's a bigger beer by ABV standards, but the taste is so ridiculously addicting and the beer is so easy drinking that you don't even notice until…well, you notice.  Picking a favorite Greenbush IPA is like picking a favorite Sabbath album.  It depends on the day and there is never a wrong answer.  The beer worked really well with the spicy giardiniera in the sandwich making for a great combination.

Hot Lunch "Hot Lunch" -  San Francisco's Hot Lunch produces one good time jam after another on this ridiculously catchy debut.  With a sound falling at times somewhere between Danzing and Bad Wizard combining super catchy punk riffs with a dark vocal edge.  The opening track is "Handy Denny" which is a sleazy rocker in the same vein as classic Rose Tattoo.  It gets the blood pumping and beers flowing for what is to come.  "Killer Smile" has a killer Thin Lizzy-esque swagger to it that turns into a downright boogie number.  It may just be the best track on the album.   The first glimpse of darkness sets in on the doomy "Ripped at the Seam" which is also downright heavy.  In the mood for a little trippy yet heavy psychedelia?  Look no further than "Knife Edge" with its garage-like sound and progressive beats.  The haunting yet melodic "Lady of the Lake" is pure early 70's rock gold, mixing southern rock, the british invasion sound and classic doom all flawlessly into one track.   An infectious riff and solo lights up the start of "You're Alright" recalling The Datsuns a little bit while still mixing in some of the 60s psychedelics on the chorus.  "She Wants More" is straight forward punk/metal echoing early Motorhead while "Tragedy Prevention" is equal parts Cream and Cage the Elephant in its heaviness and catchiness.  Another nominee for the album's top track is "Gold Lyre".  It's a fuzzed out bluesy rocker with some incredible wailing vocals and Skynyrd-worthy jam that has us cranking this tune up every chance we get.  It's all about the fuzzy groove on "Monks on the Moon" with vocals that are in between The Misfits and The Giraffes.  The albums ends with the heavy early 70s rock of "John Wilkes Kissing Booth" which not only conjures up Budgie in its pure rock and roll heaviness but also in its humorous pun-laden track name.  This entire album is such a blast to listen to, it's impossible not to have a good time when it's cranked up loud.