Thursday, December 30, 2010

Flying Fish Exit 13

Flying Fish brewery released their latest exit beer this month, and this time they take us to the City of Elizabeth via Exit 13. Casey, Flying Fish's head brewer, designs the exit beers to match the season they get released and he came up with a full bodied stout to keep us warm for the upcoming winter months. Here is the description from Flying Fish's website:
"For our sixth stop on our journey to celebrate New Jersey, we travel to Exit 13. This exit is probably best known for it’s view of the Newark airport, but it is also home to the Port of Newark-Elizabeth Marine Terminal, one of the busiest in the world. Elizabeth was also New Jersey’s original capitol. Many food products come through the port, including the Belgian chocolate we’re using for what we’re calling an import/ export stout.

This fuller “export style” stout gives a sturdy base for the rich chocolate flavor. More than 600 pounds of Belcolade chocolate went into this brew. A mix of imported and domestic malts are highlighted by roastiness from dark wheat. An Irish ale yeast and Pacific Northwest hops combine to create an excellent dessert beer as well as one to share in the cool weather with friends."

The first indication of the weight of the beer shows as you pour it. The beer flows dark and thick, almost like ink. When the liquid hits the glass a large bubbled, dark brown head forms and hangs around for a while. The chocolate really came through on the nose, but the dark wheat and malt featured more in taste. I enjoyed the balance of the hops and the 7.5% alcohol really warmed me up. Serve on the warmer side ~50 degrees for best flavor.

FF put together a video of the Exit 13 bottling line which can be found here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cranberry Sauce

For the love of all that is good and tasty, can we all agree to ban the "cranberry log" from our tables this holiday season. Really, there are indentations from the can!!! The really unfortunate thing about the log, is that it only takes ten minutes to make real cranberry sauce that not only tastes better, but actually looks appetizing.  I never ate cranberry sauce until about five years ago, when mom made some from scratch.
Cranberries are in season right now so get local ones if you can, otherwise Ocean Spray distributes nationally.  Fortunately for me, my local supermarket sells Jersey Fresh produce, otherwise many farm markets have them as well.
  • Cranberries
  • Orange Juice
  • Sugar
  • Measuring cups
  • Saucepan
  • Spoon
  • Stick Blender (optional)

Making cranberry sauce is simplicity defined. Rinse an bag of cranberries (about 12oz) and put them in a medium saucepan. Add a cup of orange juice and a cup of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes depending on how thick you want the sauce to be, cool and serve. The sauce will still be thin when you first take it out of the pan, but it thickens as it cools.

Probably the best part of making your own cranberry sauce is that the above recipe is just a guide. The OJ and sugar are just suggestions. If you like more tart cranberry sauce, use a cup of water and less sugar. Or try pineapple juice, or honey instead of sugar, or half water, and half OJ. My favorite is 3/4 cup OJ and a 1/4 cup Grand Marnier, definitely for adults.

Let us know how you like it, just don't tell me you prefer the log. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grilled Buffalo Wings

It's football season again and, as everyone knows, the absolute best food to eat while watching a game is PIZZA. Buffalo wings, however, run a close second and are the most requested item for me to bring to football parties. Over the years, I have cooked wings every method conceivable. I started by putting oil in an 8qt pot and frying them on my (electric) stove which is very, very messy. Eventually I bought a deep fryer and used that for a long time. At one point, I owned two deep fryers just for making wings. After Wifey came along and complained the house smelled like oil when I fried, I took to baking the wings, but it took forever (over an hour) and the wings never seemed crisp, so I moved to the grill. First I grilled the wings and after they completely cooked, tossed them in sauce, but no one liked them. My cousin Mike told me how he and his brother grilled wings once, and the rest, as they say, is history. The technique is to cook the wings by alternating between grilling and braising, which imparts both the grilled smokiness and sauce spiciness into the wings. My grill is close to my back door, and as long as there isn’t snow on the ground I don’t mind grilling all winter. I make this recipe all the way into December (they are a must for my annual Army-Navy game bash)

  • Wings
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot sauce of choice

  • Grill
  • Pan
  • Tongs
  • Meat Thermometer

Tyson, Purdue, and other companies sell bags of individually quick frozen wings in supermarkets. Defrost the wings, and season with salt and pepper, or a dry rub if desired. Heat the grill until it has a medium high heat (350-400 degrees if you have a thermometer on your grill). Grill the wings for about a minute per side directly on the grate. Put the wings into a roasting pan and cover with sauce. Leave the pan on the grill and cook with the lid closed for about five minutes. Return the wings to the grill for another couple minutes, then back in the sauce for five. It usually takes three or four cycles for the wings to get fully cooked. Use an insta-read meat thermometer if you want to make sure the wings are done (160 degrees F).

Notes on sauces: You can use any sauce you want. I like Steve and Eds Buffalo Wing sauce, because it gives some heat, but my mom will eat them.

Homemade sauces can be cooked right in the roasting pan. Just put the ingredients in while the grill is preheating and turn the wings over the first time you put them in the pan.

A note on the thermometer: A good insta-read thermometer is indispensable in the kitchen. I recommend ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen (now Splashproof). Simply the best cooking thermometer I've ever had.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Steamed Clams

Instead of Flügtagging, Wifey's dad held the annual Stahl Crabfest, this weekend. After three years of being in the family, he offered me the honor of helping in the cooking. While Dad-in-law steamed two bushels of crabs, I took to the grill and steamed 500 clams (minus the ones we ate raw).

I really enjoy steaming clams, because it’s easy, and the number of ways you can influence the flavor of the clam. All you really need is a cooking vessel, a liquid, and heat. The liquid imparts the most flavor to the clams. Water gives you a true clam flavor, but beer, wine, chicken broth, or any other clear liquid work great and add flavor. Beyond that, you can add any number of things to the liquid to impart more flavors; aromatic vegetables, seasonings, or butter give the best results. I steam with water when I am using the clams as part of another recipe (clams over linguine, pork in clam and garlic sauce) but when we are eating the clams as an appetizer, I usually cook my clams in white wine with butter, red and green bell peppers, and garlic. This time I kept it simple and steamed with white wine, except for one batch I steamed in beer.

The size of the steaming pan depends on how many clams you are cooking and what you plan on using to heat the pan. On a stove-top, I use a large frying pan or a stockpot. In the oven I use a cast iron pan, a roasting pan, or a casserole dish. On the grill, I use a roasting pan, or sometime just put the clams on the grate. I like using the “foil-ware” lasagna pans or steaming trays in the oven or on the grill when I am cooking more than one batch, since I can use a new one instead of cleaning the pan when switching liquids, or when serving the clams in the juice.

  • Clams
  • Liquid of choice
  • Flavorings of choice
  • Water
  • Corn Meal
  • Ice
  • Pan
  • Tongs
  • Knives and cutting boards to prep flavorings (if necessary)
  • Storage container
Prior to cooking, any bad clams (broken shells, chipped, barnacled) should be discarded. The remainder need to be cleaned by soaking them in ice water with some cornmeal added to it. After about a half hour the water will be cloudy and dirty, but the inside of the clams will be dirt free. Pick the clams out of the water, don’t pour them through a strainer or you will just be pouring the dirt back over them.

Pick a cooking vessel which fits over your heat source, and is over an inch or two deep. Fill the pot with one layer of clams.  Don’t stack clams on top of each other, or you risk over-cooking the bottom clams. Pour about an inch of liquid, and add any flavorings into the pan, and cook over high heat until the clams start opening. As each clam opens completely, remove them to your serving plate. Discard any clams that don’t open within a few minutes of the rest of the clams. Eat right out of the shell or dip in drawn butter and enjoy.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The __T Sandwich

Tomato Sandwich 20100801 003

That's right; no B or L. If you want to make a good BLT go see Lisa's post on EatingInSJersey. IMHO, bacon and lettuce aren't worthy to be on the same sandwich as fresh, ripe, in-season Jersey tomatoes. Save the bacon until you need to overpower early season, late season, or *cringe* out of state tomatoes. I keep a cutting board and knife at my desk, bring in a loaf of bread and jar of mayo to the office every Monday, and carry in a tomato every day and make the sandwich fresh for lunch for as long as I can get good tomatoes. Yes, I do get funny looks at work, but once you try the sandwich, you'll agree the looks are worth it.

  • Tomato
  • Bread
  • Mayonnaise
  • Salt
  • Peppercorns

  • Cutting board
  • Serrated knife
  • Butter knife or rubber spatula
  • Pepper grinder

To make the sandwich, slice the tomato horizontally (not from top to bottom) so you get full round quarter inch (6mm) slices. Spread the mayo on both slices of bread and season each with salt and pepper. Stack the bread and two tomato slices (bread, tomato, bread), cut the sandwich in half if desired, and enjoy.

  • A medium sized tomato (three inch diameter) should yield enough for two sandwiches and a little leftover around the stem to eat (just salt, pepper, and yum) or put toward a salad.
  • The mayo not only provides flavor, but creates a barrier between the tomato juice and the bread, keeping the bread from becoming a pink soggy mess.
  • You can use any bread you want, including rolls, but I like whole wheat sandwich bread.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Flying Fish Exit 6

The next stop on Flying Fish Brewery's trek up and down the New Jersey Turnpike is Exit 6 Wallonian Rye. Flying Fish released the beer last month and should still be widely available for purchase. Here is the description from the Exit Series site:
For our fifth stop, we journey to Exit 6. This part of Burlington County was settled by Dutch Walloons (now Belgians) whose first order of business was to build a fort–and then a tavern. The area has always had a rich agricultural heritage and we’re using locally grown rye as an appreciation of our farmers past and present.

Exit 6 starts out as a deceptively simple recipe–pale malt augmented by 20 percent rye, fermented with a classic Belgian yeast. But then it gets interesting with the hops: English East Kent Goldings, Slovenian Styrian Goldings and Japanese Sorachi Ace.

The result is a rich saffron color with a spicy character from the rye and lemony citrus notes from the unique Sorachi Ace hops.
The beer poured with a beautiful golden color with a small head which dissipated unsurprisingly quickly considering Exit 6 is 7.5% ABV. The beers I poured for Wifey and I stayed rather cloudy, I'm not sure if that was because of the rye or if my pour included most of the yeast used in bottle conditioning.

For taste, I did get a light citrus taste, but didn't get any of the spiciness Flying Fish described above. The most distinguishing taste characteristic we both found was a slightly sour finish. Again, not sure if that comes across normally with the beer or if my yeasty pour brought the sour to the table. Overall a good beer, and one which should pair well with summer foods.

Update August 1, 2010

I tried another bottle today and got a better pour, without any yeast sediment in the glass. The beer still had a cloudy, medium straw color and a slightly sour taste. While I like it, some people may not. I took a photo of today's pour, below, and you can see the coudiness. Also, I poured the beer so the top of the head reached the top of the glass, and I took the shot below about 90sec after the pour, so you can see how quickly the head dissipates.

Monday, July 12, 2010

What to do with all those Blueberries

I can't believe how good this year's blueberry crop has been. Big, plump, and well... BLUE. The wet, cool spring (which yielded to a balmy summer) gave us great berries. While Wifey just likes to eat them right out of the package, I had to cook with them. So far, we used over 30 pints, and here are three simple, yummy ideas.

Blueberry Vodka
As promised, I brewed up some infused blueberry vodka. I used the exact same recipe as my strawberry vodka so I won't repeat it here, except blueberries don't need to be cut so, you don't need as much prep time, but they are better after a week and a half to two week soak. For some unknown reason I seem to prefer drinking the blueberry out of a snifter over a martini glass.
Blueberry Muffins
Obviously the standard thing to cook with blueberries are muffins. I base my muffing recipe on the "Old School Muffins" in Alton Brown's baking cookbook. For today's blueberry batch, I wanted healthier muffins so I modified the recipe to make whole wheat muffins and used Sugar in the Raw instead of white sugar.

  • All purpose flour
  • White whole wheat flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Large egg plus one egg yolk
  • Blueberries
  • Regular size muffin tin (12 muffins)
  • Mixing bowls
  • Oven (pre-heat to 375F)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Pam for Baking
Muffins are one of the simplest things you can bake. Since they are chemically leavened (baking powder reaction) they don't require proofing yeast. You simply mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet ones in another, pour the wet into the dry, stir, and scoop. For this and many baking recipes sugar counts as a wet ingredient since it liquefies when it gets heated. Also, only stir just enough to mix all the flour in. Over-mixing leads to flat muffins because the bubbles being formed by the baking powder/soda escape. Let the dough stand for 5 minutes before scooping into a lubed muffin pan

Dry stuff:
163 grams (1 1/4 cup) all purpose flour - The most accurate way to measure flour is to weigh it because it can get compressed in the measuring scoop and you can add too much and get dry muffins
140 grams (1 cup) whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Egg and egg yolk
1 cup plain low fat yogurt
1 cup blueberries

Mix, let stand, scoop and bake for 18-20 minutes at 375F. I turn the pan around after 10 minutes to make sure the cook even. The next time I make muffins I plan to use only whole wheat flour (315g) since you don't need any gluten in the muffins.

Blueberry Sauce
Without a doubt, Bryers Natural Vanilla Ice Cream is the best ice cream you can buy at a store. The off season standard for toppings is, of course Hershey's Chocolate Syrup, or maybe Magic Shell. During berry season, I make a fruit syrup with either strawberries or blueberries (same recipe) that really compliments the already great vanilla ice cream. The syrup would also go great with some of the Whole Wheat Pancakes from Alton's baking cookbook.

  • Blueberries
  • Sugar
  • Pure vanilla extract
  • Saucepan
  • Stovetop
Combine a pint of blueberries (or cut strawberries), a half cup of sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar melts and the juice starts to cook out of the berries (about 8-12 min). Reserve 1/3 - 1/2 of the fruit and blend the remaining fruit/sauce in either a blender or with a boat motor stick blender. Put the liquefied sauce and reserved fruit back together in the pan, lower the heat to medium low and simmer until desired thickness.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strawberry Infused Vodka

I'm not a fan of cold rainy weather in the spring, but it has one benefit: great berries. A couple weeks ago, Wifey went to the local farm stand and brought home some of the best looking strawberries I've seen since, well, last year. Large, plump, and juicy, the berries worked great in my first attempts at strawberry vinaigrette, and strawberry syrup (Bryers Vanilla anyone). I may have issues, but I had to make some strawberry infused vodka for chilling on the hot summer days.

Strawberry infused is the second of the three infusions I ALWAYS make each year, apple cinnamon and blueberry (in a month or so) are the others. Like the apple-apple I often drink strawberry in a martini glass, but a snifter's worth after dinner is really nice.
  • Strawberries
  • Sugar
  • Water
  • Vodka
Infuse It
I use the same basic process as the Apple-Cinammon infusion: clean and cut fruit and fill jar with fruit and vodka. To enhance the strawberry flavor, I add a little simple syrup to the jar with the berries and vodka.

Simple syrup is, unsurprisingly, simple to make. For my 204oz jar, I make about 3/4 cup of syrup. Bring a quarter cup of water to a boil in a small pan, then stir in a half cup of sugar and stir continuously until the mixture is clear. That's it; let it cool a little and pour the syrup over the berries with the vodka.

Let the mixture sit for at least a week, then strain and serve. Keep any extra in the refrigerator so it stays fresh and can be served at a moments notice.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finger Steaks with Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes

This is another “stolen recipe" which also happens to be from Graiziano’s. They serve it as lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer without the potatoes. I like to make it on Sunday’s with fresh bread and meat, and also because it takes a little more time to cook than I have after work.

  • Baking potatoes
  • Jalapenos
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • French bread
  • Steaks
  • Mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Paprika
  • Seasoned Salt
  • Pot for boiling potatoes
  • Grill or oven safe pan for cooking steaks
  • Oven or toaster oven
  • Torch?
  • Knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Insta-read thermometer
Hot Pepper Mashed Potatoes

The mashed potatoes take the longest to cook. Peel the potatoes, cut them into chunks and place them in a pot of cold water. Try to make the potato chunks the same size so they will cook at the same rate. Boil the potatoes until they are fork tender and drain them.
While the potatoes are boiling, roast the peppers. I prefer jalapenos, but you could use any pepper, or use crushed red pepper flakes, which is what the restaurant uses. Coat them in oil and either put them on a grill, directly on a gas burner, broil them in an oven, or torch them. I used the broiler setting in the toaster oven this time. Cook the peppers until the meat is tender. Jalapenos have a thin skin which will blister and may black. Peel off the skin and dice the peppers, discarding the stem and seeds.

Mash or whip the peppers into the potatoes with butter, milk, salt and pepper. Use just enough milk and butter for the potatoes to be fluffy. I made three pounds of potatoes and used about 3 tablespoons of butter and ½ cup of milk.

Finger Steaks

Chop and sauté mushrooms in butter (tastes better) or oil (better for you). I season my mushrooms with salt, fresh ground pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. I often cook the mushrooms first, leave them in the pan, and heat them right before serving.

Garlic toast

Like the potatoes, the garlic toast takes a while to make, and like the mushrooms, they can be made early and set aside. Cut a loaf of French bread into slices about a half inch thick. I cut mine on a bias to get a slightly longer piece. Butter both sides of the bread and season both sides with garlic powder and paprika. Similar to roasting the peppers, there are multiple ways to toast the bread. I put them on a sheet pan and into a 350 degree oven until they are browned, and turn them over to brown the other side. You could also put the pieces in a toaster oven, or toast them on a grill.


I’ll go into my theory of steak making later this year in another post, but the bottom line reads: simple is better. You can use almost any cut of boneless steak. I use NY Strip steaks, but filet works well, and London Broil could be wonderful. Prep the steaks by seasoning them on both sides with salt, fresh ground pepper, and season salt. Normally I grill my steaks, but it was raining so I pan seared and oven finished the steaks, which uses a similar heat profile to how I grill. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees and heat a cast iron or other oven safe pan on the stove over medium high heat. Grease the pan with butter or oil and cook the steaks for 1-2 minutes per side, then put the pan and steaks into the oven (if your pan isn’t oven-safe use a separate baking pan). Bake the steaks for about 8-10 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads the temperature you prefer your steaks. I like medium rare or medium which is from 135 – 145 degrees. Remove the steaks from the pan and allow them to rest on your cutting board for 3-5 minutes. The rest period is important for the steak to be more flavorful, and to prevent the juices from running out of the meat and soaking the garlic toast. Slice the steak, on a bias again, and place each slice on a piece of garlic toast.

Serve and enjoy.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Flying Fish Exit 16 - Hop Heads Rejoice

Wifey and I go to at least three "beerfests" each year and consequently we drink more craft beer than macro-brews anymore. Cherry Hill, NJ (local to me) based Flying Fish brewery's beers fill most of my pint glasses, especially since they stated making their Exit Series beers. As a Jersey native, I love the concept of the exit series: "a multi-year brewing experiment to brew a series of beers as diverse as the great state of New Jersey. These big beers–in size as well as flavor–will celebrate each exit of the state-long artery that connects us." Flying Fish brews one batch of each beer and releases them in wine sized (750ml, 25.9oz) bottles and that's it. Well, it was supposed to be it, but Flying Flying fish recently re-released the first one, Exit 4 (an American Trippel and Flying Fish's nearest exit), in 12oz bottles (nice). There's no word on if Exit 11 (Hoppy American wheat and the best beer I've ever had) or Exit 1 (Bayshore Oyster Stout and brewed with 100 NJ oysters), will also see the 12oz treatment. Please guys, more Exit 11.
The liquor store near us Canals of Berlin received their shipment of the fourth and newest release, Exit 16 (Wild Rice Double IPA), today and we bought some to try. The Exit 16 website gives the brewers notes:
"Although usually identified with landfills and pipelines, the Hackensack Meadowlands is an amazingly diverse ecosystem providing vital animal and plant habitat. In a nod to a once common food plant here, we've brewed this beer with wild rice. We also added organic brown and white rice, as well as pils and pale malts.
'Rice helps the beer ferment dry to better showcase the five different hops we added. Lots and lots of them. We then dry-hopped this Double IPA with even more-generous additions of Chinook and Citra hops to create a nose that hints at tangerine, mango, papaya and pine. This beer pairs extremely well with spicy foods and all kinds of seafood. And of course, it's quite enjoyable all by itself."

All the rice and hops yield a formidable beer at 8.4% alcohol by volume. The beer carries a deep straw color typical of an IPA. For a beer with a higher ABV the head holds nicely. The aroma hints of citrus and light tropical fruits. The citrus continues through to the taste, but only for a moment; then the hops takeover. After a second or two on the tongue the beer gets really bitter, but that's expected from a double IPA, and the bitterness lasts for a looooong finish. While double IPAs aren't my cup of tea, Exit 16 is a really good beer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Broiled Flounder Triple Threat

Broiled Flounder Triple Threat

The seafood counter at my local supermarket had some very nice JUMBO flounder, so I picked up a piece for dinner. Since one filet weighed in at over a pound, I knew I would have to cut it in some way to make portions for both wifey and I. I thought a flounder tasting dish would be nice, and I came up with the "triple threat." I portioned the fish into six pieces and cooked it three different ways: two classic and one not.

Broiling fish coated in oil and lemon is a simple, yet highly tasty, preparation. I seasoned the first piece with salt (always kosher), pepper (fresh ground), parsley, and basil. Then I coated it with olive oil and squeezed fresh lemon juice over it. To keep it moist and add more lemon flavor during cooking, I put a round of lemon on top.

Panko breaded
Breaded fish, either broiled or fried, is a staple at many restaurants. Instead of regular bread crumbs I used panko flakes. Panko breaded foods tend to have a slightly crunchier feel since the flakes are bigger than standard bread crumbs. To prep, I simply seasoned the fish with salt and pepper, dipped it in an egg wash, and then coated with panko.

Cocktail sauce
I accompanied the breaded flounder with some cocktail sauce (on the side, of course). I like my cocktail sauce simple and strong; no lemon or hot sauce here. Quality horseradish is the key, and I only use the best: Kelchner's. From Pennsylvania, Kelchner's only distributes to the Mid-Atlantic but you can mail order from their site. To make the perfect cocktail sauce, add some horseradish to a bowl and mix in ketchup until it isn't too hot for you. Simple, but only good with quality ingredients.

Parmesan encrusted
While my Italian heritage screams at me not to combine fish and cheese, my American upbringing says WTF, try it. For the last piece of flounder, I went little more daring, and used the leftover shredded parmesano/reggiano from the weekend's caesar salad experiments as a topping. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and Old Bay; then topped the fish with the cheese. Simple, yet different. Why the old bay? Why not? Plus flounder doesn't have a lot of flavor and I thought it would compliment the cheese.

Not much is easier than broiling flounder. Preheat the broiler, set the rack about 5 inches from the heat (second rack down in my oven) and broil on a cookie sheet until the fish is opaque, but not quite flaky. You don't want to cook all the way to flaky, because that is actually overdone. Since you can't see the fish in the broiler, you have to time it. My fish was HUGE (3/4 inch thick) so it took about five minutes to cook. Regular pieces of flounder only take a minute or two. I also put a piece of parchment paper on the pan to keep the fish from sticking.

The flounder came out perfectly cooked: opaque, moist, and easy to pull apart. The five or so minutes of cooking time was enough to just brown the panko flakes and melt the parm. Another minute or two would have given a better browning on both, but likely over-cooked the fish. One end of the parmesan pieces were thinner, and a little dry. All three tasted great, and Wifey said she liked the panko crusted the best because the different textures of the fish and breading gave a better mouth feel. She also said I made the cocktail sauce too spicy, but she always says that.