Friday, October 12, 2012

I embraced the hop

I have to admit something.

I used to drink Corona. It was my beer of choice. The fridge was always stocked, and even my parents kept some on hand for my visits. Back in those days, when I wasn't drinking a cosmopolitan, I was drinking a Corona.

I hope you still love me, Cleveland Craft Beer Community.

The thing is, I had no idea that there was anything better out there. I certainly wasn't into beer enough at that point to explore new brew horizons. But then I became pregnant with my first son. Liquorless for 40 weeks, I developed a serious, unexpected, and powerful craving for beer. All I wanted was beer. None of that stereotypical ice-cream-and-pickles garbage for me. No. Beer.

When my first dude was born and I was once again free to imbibe, I started looking past the Corona to see what else was in the beer case. It started innocently enough, with Great Lakes Christmas Ale. At the time, I was pretty certain that this was the finest beer ever made. I bought cases of the stuff. I think there might even be a bottle left in the back of the beer fridge from this introductory binge. We drank it all through the holidays and then, when the calendar page flipped from 2010 to 2011, Husband and I signed up for the Winking Lizard's World Tour of Beers. (Husband wasn't a hardcore beer person, either, as I distinctly recall his late-'90s fondness for Icehouse. But he was more than happy to come along with his wife on this journey.) We plowed through 100 beers each, finishing the Tour in mid-July with nearly six months to spare.

I stopped being afraid of dark beers. I embraced the hop.


Somewhere on the path from Corona to CBS -- and this is the point of this post -- we met an amazing group of people bound together by love of beer. And though love of beer brought us together, I suspect love of hanging out together -- and love of Steve Lawn -- keeps us together. It's a diverse group: some extremely excellent bloggers, teachers, marathon runners, dentists, elementary school principals, Browns fans, Jets fans, R.A. Dickey fans. Though we've only known them a year, it feels like it's been a lot longer. When our beloved dog Jet passed away in March, beer friends brought us our favorite sandwiches, leaving them on our doorstep with a note of condolence. When our second son was born in August, beer friends raised glasses to us across Northeast Ohio (and across social media). If they've got a bottle of rare beer, beer friends open it and pour you a taste. These are quality people, people.

So in honor of the Cleveland Craft Beer Community, as Cleveland Beer Week approaches, as I reflect on how lucky we are to have met such a group of fun, welcoming, and kind people, I'd like to share this recipe for maple-stout bread. I suppose you could make it with Guinness, as the original recipe suggests. But do yourself a favor: find an exceptional stout and use it instead. Then drink the rest of the bottle. Then seek another beer, perhaps something you've never tried before. 

The world of fantastic brews awaits, my friends. And speaking of friends, don't be surprised if you make a few new ones along the way. 


n.b. If you also have a fridge full of Corona but desire something greater, please consult the following authorities. They will never steer you wrong on the road to beer nirvana:

Bobby Likes Beer
Brewer's Daughter
Cleveland Food and Brews
Hop Bunnies

Also: If you'd like your love of cooking to collide with your love of craft beer, check out The Beeroness for some phenomenal recipes.

Adapted from Cooking Light

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
6 T. butter, softened
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. good-quality stout beer (such as Founders Breakfast Stout)
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. plus 2 T. real maple syrup, divided
5 T. powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 9" x 5" metal loaf pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Place butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat at high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. 

In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine beer, sour cream, and 1/4 cup maple syrup, stirring well with a whisk. Beating at low speed, add the flour mixture and the beer mixture alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until combined.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons syrup; whisk until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cooled bread; let stand until set, if desired.

Eat, for breakfast, while drinking remaining Breakfast Stout.

Makes 1 cake.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: spaghetti with herbed turkey meatballs and pesto
Two years ago: homemade meat pies
Three years ago: plum and McIntosh tart
Four years ago: breakfast cookies

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Burying the lede

People, seriously. Seriously, people.

I hate how long I've been absent from this space. I hate that I couldn't manage to pop in at any time over the past three months, not even to tell you about the world's most simple and frugal cooking ingredient, tomato water. I hate making excuses. So I won't.

Save this one: I am a lazy ass.

I have spent the majority of the past three months napping, at least those hours when I wasn't at work. Frankly, I might have napped at work, but my office door has six windows set into it, and, dude, you can see through it. I can't even nap under my desk a la Constanza, as my desk is simply a table. 

Anyway, I'm burying the lede. I'm so freaking nappy because I'm once again expecting a little one, scheduled to join us in August, two years after his/her big brother was born. So basically, if you're not TiVoed episodes of "America's Test Kitchen," or the absolutely dreadful Sex and the City 2 movie being replayed ad nauseam on HBO in the middle of the night, or a "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" marathon, or the sofa, or my son, or my high-maintenance dog, then I have not been paying attention to you. (Note: Husband did not make that list. Neither did the dishes, or the laundry.) (Don't I have really great taste in television?)

All this doesn't mean I haven't been thinking of cooking, though. Because I have been. I've been thinking a lot about tomato water, ever since the maestro Ruhlman mentioned it on his site back in October 2010. As a lover of everything pasta and everything tomato -- and a staunch advocate of frugality in the kitchen -- tomato water speaks to me. Each time I'm using fresh tomatoes as the basis for a roasted tomato sauce, I now set them in a colander over a large bowl, salt them, and capture their water. The resulting more concentrated tomatoes make for an even richer, deeper roasted sauce, and the tomato water gets frozen, awaiting the next time I make the following dish.

You might think tomato-water spaghetti would be thin, watery, and flavorless. You would be wrong. It is delicate, fresh, tomato-y, and subtly salty. The tomato water, once it simmers a bit and mixes with the butter and the residual starch washing off the cooked pasta, turns velvety soft and smooth. It clings to the pasta beautifully, cloaking it with a pinkish, savory veil. It's a little beguiling, really, and its ability to charm and bewitch completely belies its frugal, otherwise-waste roots.

So apparently you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And you can get a pregnant lady off the couch long enough to share a recipe.


Adapted from Michael Ruhlman

Note: If you don't have tomato water waiting for you in your freezer, start stocking up the next time you use fresh tomatoes in a sauce or stew. Simply peel the tomatoes, cut them into chunks and place them in a colander set over a large bowl. Toss the tomatoes with a few pinches of kosher salt and let them drain. Freeze the water for use later, then proceed with however you were going to use the tomatoes themselves. I find that 6-8 large tomatoes will yield the 1 1/2 c. of tomato water called for in this recipe.

Another note: You'll want to serve this dish with plenty of crusty bread, for sopping. Sopping is key.

1 lb. spaghetti
2 T. olive oil
10 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 c. tomato water
1 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped, divided
3 oz. unsalted butter, cut into 3 chunks
Kosher salt, to taste
Pecorino, grated, to taste
1 c. fresh tomatoes, diced (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the spaghetti according to package directions until it is al dente.

While the spaghetti cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until the garlic just turns brown at the edges. Do not burn the garlic! Horribleness will ensure.

Add the tomato water to the garlic, swirling to combine. Cook the tomato water until it reduces and thickens slightly. Add 3/4 c. of the basil. Add the butter, one piece at a time, whisking it into the sauce until it melts.

Drain the pasta, and add it to the tomato-water sauce in the skillet. Using a pair of tongs, stir the spaghetti until it is evenly coated with the sauce. Taste, and season with a little salt, if you like. Add the remaining 1/4 c. basil.

Serve in big bowls topped with Pecorino and, if so desired, a few spoonfuls of fresh chopped tomatoes.

Serves 2-4, depending on hunger level. Frankly, I think it serves 2.


Previously, on A Stove With A House Around It:

One year ago: coffee liqueur barbecue sauce + homemade coffee liqueur
Two years ago: layered chocolate fudge cake
Three years ago: cinnamon ice cream + chocolate Valentino
Four years ago: chicken divan