Beer and Food Pairing: Charkoota Rye and Molasses Coffee Marinated Pork Chops

I’ve wanted to try something new with pork chops. Mostly it has been brine, brine, and more brine, then grill. During my Good Eats watching, I saw him make a marinade application for pork chops that uses molasses.  That is good since I have molasses for the ginger snap cookies I made several years ago, and… nothing else. I mean, what do you ever use molasses for anyway?

I’ve had the New Holland Charkoota Rye Smoked Dopplebock since I recapped it after drinking half of the bottle during lent. The New Holland website is all about pairing this with pork, so I figured why not. I wasn’t sure the beer would will still be good, since the head space was now filled with oxygenating air instead of a barrier of CO2, but it seems to have done alright.

The Pork was a no brainer. It was almost like somebody designed the beer to go with this pork. The pork takes on a bit of smokiness, although not as much as with a proper barbecue. The beer takes your backyard grilled pork chop and adds the flavor of a nicely smoked pulled pork sandwich, with a tad bit more charring. The malt sweetness  of the beer mingled very nicely with the molasses and coffee flavors of the pork. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a second date between all the flavors.

The rice took on a lot of the flavors and sweetness of the reduction sauce made from the pork marinade. Brown rice generally has a pretty nutty flavor, and with the sauce it became almost like a nutty winter treat. Pairing it with the beer brought you right back to the middle of summer with campfires and Independence Day grill fests. It was kind of like Christmas in July.

I also had lemon glazed kale. I have never had kale, but it is a more hearty green than something like romaine, red leaf, or the other leafy greens generally used for salads. My theory was that it could therefore stand up to a more substantial beer than the Weiss and witbiers a salad would best with. I’m not sure it would have worked out so well if it  didn’t have that lemon honey glaze. It also had a pretty good kick from the red peppers and garlic, and I most definitely over salted it. In light of the over salting, the beer was a life (food) savor, as the sweet malt flavor blunted the saltiness of the kale.  If you remember from my last post on the beer, it has a very smoke forward taste and aroma, which I think at times is overpowering. The lemon glaze cut through the smokiness of the beer.  The kale turned out decently sweet as well from the lemon glaze. There was, quite frankly, a lot of competing flavors in the kale, and the beer did its job of bringing them all together.  I can’t really see the beer going with very many leafy greens, but if you cooked them with strong flavors like I did, then you might be good to go.

All in all, it was a pretty good meal. After I sent the dog away I was finally able to enjoy its full gastronomic potential, where the food and the beer became greater than the sum-total of their parts.

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Barley Salad and Barley Beer

If you don’t keep Barley in your pantry, I think is the time to start. Never thought of eating barely outside of the occasional Campbell’s Beef and Barely soup? What better to eat with a beer than the main grain in beer. It’s time to expand your horizon. Just let us monkey’s help you to a more diverse gastronomical experience.

The major problem is that most grocery stores I come across only have pearled barely. Pearled Barley is the white rice of Barley. Bland, tasteless, and sad (not to mention far less nutritious). You need to look for hulled barley, which simply has the hulls taken off. One more step than the barley that goes to your local malster to become the malted barley that a brewer uses. To find Hulled Barley I ended up at Whole Foods. Usually Whole Foods is on the expensive side, but if you head to the bulk section you’ll find all sorts of grains, nuts, legumes, seeds, and dried fruit in more variety and at a cheaper prices than at the grocery store.

Since it was such a nice day, I decided on a Barely and Fennel Salad which I got from Good Eats. I haven’t had a lot of fennel but it is tasty. It is incredibly aromatic and sweeter than your run of the mill onion. More like a Vidalia onion than your traditional hot white onion, with a more floral smell. I added Parsley which has I think has a pungent minty taste to it. Obviously not as minty as a mint leaf and not as sharp as something like cilantro. It is more like a memory of mint, with some other herbal notes thrown in. I threw in some toasted pine nuts and some crispy bacon. I have never toasted pine nuts before. I failed two times by burning them before I got it right. Kind of a shame really since pine nuts are so damn expensive. I finished it off with a dressing I made from fresh squeezed orange juice and extra virgin olive oil.

I paired it with one of my last Guinness Stouts I had from St. Patty’s Day. I thought, Barley Stew goes go perfectly with a stout and is often made with it, why not Barley Salad? Of course a salad with fennel and citrus is a bit different from the earthy flavors that go into a stew. Don’t get me wrong. With the hulled barely, toasted pine nuts, and the bacon it had plenty of toast and earthiness to match up with the roasty toasty flavors of the stout.

One thing you might not know about Guinness is that they sour 3% of their beer and then mix it in to the rest of the batch. 3% isn’t enough to make you go, this is a sour beer like an Oud Bruind or an unflavored Lambic. It is just enough to say “Hmm, there are some nice layers to this beer. I can’t put my foot on what makes it like this, but I like it.” It is just like the Barley Salad. There are 3 tablespoons (3 tablespoons and 3%, coincidence?) of orange juice in the dressing which is not enough to make me think of it as a citric dish, but enough to give is a little extra complexity. The beer also does a nice job of cutting right through the aromatic Fennel and any bits of parsley you might get.

Beer and Fried Chicken

Usually this Blog is all about beer, but we can’t forget the food, for without the other half of the meal are we really enjoying the gastronomical experience to its fullest? This weekend I pan-fried my first chicken completely from scratch.

And I mean completely from scratch.

When sitting down to a meal, you might want to take a moment to think about what kind of beer you are going to drink with the food at hand.

This is the first time I ever butchered anything.

Think about the flavors in the food and the flavors in the beer. If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog, you have some idea of the great complexity of flavors that can be found in different kinds of beers. And if you’re a loyal eater of food, I’m sure you know the great complexity of the flavors that can been found therein.

At least one piece didn’t get totally “butchered.”

In his book Tasting Beer, Randy Mosher suggests that in matching your flavors between the beer and the food, you either want to try to compliment the different flavors or contrast them.

A mixture of kosher salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.

For instance, he suggests that if you are eating something spicy that you go for a beer that doesn’t have a lot of bitterness, as bitterness will enhance the spiciness. So instead of the IPA, reach for the porter that will balance out the spiciness of the dish.

Starting to look delicious.

On the other hand, Garret Oliver, in his book The Brewmasters Table, suggests pairing a pale ale or IPA with a spicy mexican dish. Not only will the hops play off the spiciness, but the bright citrus character of American hops like Cascade or Chinook, will find no better friend than the lime and cilantro flavors found in the kind of Mexican dishes I get around here. It also goes to show you that people have different tastes, and the best way to figure out what pairs good for you is to experiment. A tough experiment indeed.

Almost done, I can’t wait.

I chose to pair the fried Chicken with O’Fallon’s Hemp Hop Rye. It’s an amber ale, so the mildly roasted malts play nicely with the tasty fried bits of the chicken. The rye adds a certain spiciness to the beer. The fried chicken gets a bit of a kick from the cayenne, garlic, and paprika. A match made in heaven? I think so. And of course, it has a bit of a bitterness from the hops. I tend to favor Oliver’s theory on hops and spice. Give me spiciness all day long and I am a happy fellow.

Finally

An unexpected plus came with the last-minute recipe for the artichoke dip. It was a tangy heavy kind of mayonnaise dip. The brighter flavors of the beer cut through the heaviness of the mayonnaise, and the dark flavors from the amber maltiness was able to temper the tangy flavors of the dipping sauce. It was just one of those little surprises you get from fully enjoying the gastronomic experience.