Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brat In A Mojo Blanket ~ With Sweet Mustard Sauce and Grilled Onions

A gourmet Pig In A Blanket variation.  Bratwurst in a Mojo IPA Beer Bread Blanket with sautéed onions and sweet mustard sauce!  

     Writing Craft Beer Recipes
     Western craft beer recipes are currently en vogue and they are in demand.  Not all new craft beer recipes are created equal.  The worst new craft beer recipes call for pre-made food products and "instant mix" style ingredients.  Creating a new craft beer recipe that makes use of products that were created to suit someone else's tastes is like inviting a stranger to help design the recipe.  "Too many cooks in the kitchen, spoil the broth!"  
     Many new craft beer recipes are made by simply adding craft beer to an existing recipe.  Sometimes this strategy works and sometimes the idea is a complete flop.  Simply adding some craft beer to something like a tired middle of the road ground beef chili recipe is not really the way to go.  The chili will be just turn out to be an old worn out middle of the road chili that has a craft beer flavor.  Writing about boiling bratwurst in fancy craft beer is just too simple to even bother with writing a recipe.  Adding western craft beer to a great grandma's sacred spaghetti sauce recipe might not be such a good idea, because this could possibly cause great grandma to roll over in her grave.  
     There are two good courses of action to follow, when writing new recipes for craft beer.  One course of action is to create brand new recipe that features the craft beer in a tasteful way.  Designing a recipe with the goal of making a specific type of craft beer integral to the recipe does require experience and forethought.  The other way is to modify a traditional beer recipe, so it is well suited for the flavor of the craft beer.     
     As one can imagine, creating a brand new beer recipe that has never been made before is not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  Beer itself has thousands of years of history and cooks have used beer in recipes for an equally long period of time.  When a new western craft beer recipe is created, is it really brand new or is history repeating itself?  
     An experienced chef who has an extensive culinary arts education background can take one glance at a new craft beer recipe and is able to determine the origins of the recipe's geographical background, its cultural background, its culinary timeline, the cooking method background and the traditions that contribute to the flavor theme.  A chef who has an educational background in food history, cross cultural cuisine and gastronomy, plus many years of international cuisine working experience can easily accomplish this task.  The analytical information that the chef provides about a new craft beer recipe could be short and concise, or it could be so complex, that a book the size of Leo Tolstoy's "War And Peace" would be required to present the information. 
     Nearly every new recipe does have roots in historical cuisines, no matter how novel the new recipe idea is.  The better that a chef understands the timeline of culinary history, the better that authenticity is understood.  It is common practice for a chef to use culinary ideas of the past to design a new recipe in the present.  A recipe that makes use of this practice can be considered to be a cultured recipe.
     The history of beer really has no exact starting point.  Basically the first beer brew probably occurred when a mixture of grain, fruit, nuts and herbs were boiled together for a porridge meal, then the cooking process was interrupted.  The boiled grain mixture sat at room temperature and somehow yeast was introduced to the liquid.  More than likely, airborne yeast or yeast from the skin of fruit started the fermentation process.  After a few days or a couple of weeks, the cook returned to find that the porridge turned into a potent alcoholic beverage known as beer.  After feeling its effect, the liquid was more than likely poured off to be consumed and the soured grain mixture was fed to domesticated animals.   
     A link between the origin of beer and bread making is possibly another way that beer came to be.  Long ago, coarsely ground grain was used to make bread.  A wet sloppy crude yeast bread batter can ferment to become the start of an alcoholic beverage.  Yeast is the common link.  To find the origin of beer, one has to research the culinary history of yeast.  
     Beer Bread 
     Just like how there is no exact starting point for the history of beer, there is no exact time and place where beer bread was first made.  Since beer making and yeast bread making are common combined culinary traditions in many cultures, the origins of beer bread can be found wherever a history of culinary yeast usage existed.  
     Long ago, beer was not pasteurized.  Beer was alive and the yeast in beer was active.  All that a cook had to do was add a little bit of beer to flour to make bread.  When the traces of live yeast in old fashioned beer are introduced to a food source like flour, the yeast rapidly converts the sugars in grain, while feeding and reproducing.  As a result, a light airy bread is produced in a few hours.  Basically, the rule of thumb is, where there is beer in history, there is also bread made with beer.
     In modern times, there are three good sources for beer that has active living yeast in the brew.  Some European beer, like German wheat beer or Belgian white beer is not filtered or pasteurized.  The beer looks cloudy and the yeast is alive.  These kinds of beer are perfect for making beer bread the natural way.  
     The British Isles are another source of beer that contains active yeast.  There are many kinds of English bitter ales that actually have a few small lumps of active yeast in the keg.  Ireland and England both produce unfiltered unpasteurized beer that contain active yeast and this beer can be used to make natural beer bread.
     Western craft breweries have been making unfiltered wheat beer and unfiltered Double IPA beer in recent years.  These unfiltered beers are usually unpasteurized, just like many European and British Isle brews.  The yeast is still very active in these craft brewery specialty beers and this kind of beer is perfect for making natural beer bread.  
     Making beer bread naturally with beer that contains active yeast is good option, but it is not the only option.  The yeast in many beer brews, like traditional IPA Beer and many Pilsners or Lagers is no longer active or it is only marginally active.  Beer bread that is made with beer that contains no active yeast, will turn out to be heavy as a brick and it will not be a pleasure to eat.  Yeast can be reintroduced to the beer bread dough or baking powder can be added to create a light bread texture.  
     Just like how beer drinkers have their favorite beer, baker who make beer bread have their favorite choice of beer for making beer bread.  Often the choice is a beer that contains no active live yeast.  A small amount of yeast can be activated in water and added to the recipe to create a lighter texture, but baking powder is much easier to use.  Baking powder will create a light airy beer bread texture, when beer that has no active yeast is used to make beer bread.
     Mojo IPA Beer Bread
     The better the beer tastes, the better the beer bread will taste!  The rule for wine cooking is to only cook with wine that is suitable for serving at the table.  The same goes for beer.  If cheap domestic light beer is the favorite, then by all means, use it for making beer bread.  If a western craft brewery Russian Imperial Stout, a German Bock or English Bitters is the favorite drinking beer, then use it for beer bread.  Using a familiar beer flavor to make beer bread is best. 
     Today's craft IPA beer bread recipe was made with the Boulder Beer Company's Mojo IPA.  This western craft IPA has marginally active yeast in the brew.  Baking powder was added to the dough to create a light bread texture.  By adapting the same baking powder to flour ratio used to make biscuits, the beer bread gains a light airy texture.  The IPA Beer in the bread recipe simply takes the place of water or milk.  
     Traditional beer bread is usually made with a wheat beer or a malty beer.  A beer with a strong hops flavor is a little bit more difficult to work with, because the strong hops flavor will need to be tamed.  All craft India Pale Ales tend to be on the hoppy side and they all have a high specific gravity.  Many western craft IPA brews have an excessively strong hops flavor.  Beer with an extra strong hops flavor is not really a good choice for beer bread that is served on its own.  As far as making beer bread for a "Pig In A Blanket" goes, a strong hoppy flavor IPA beer is not a bad choice.  
     A western IPA that has a balanced hops flavor is a better choice for beer bread.   Some craft IPA brews do have a gentle balanced hops flavor that compares to traditional British Imperial IPA.  Mojo IPA has a balanced western style hoppy flavor that is somewhat gentle, when compared to the rest of the craft IPA pack.  Mojo is a good choice for making IPA beer bread and the word Mojo does sound cool in the recipe title.    
     The hops flavor does need to be adjusted when making beer bread, even when using a balanced hoppy IPA like Mojo.  Sugar and a small amount of spice is added to the beer bread in order to keep the hops flavor in check.  If the hops flavor is not accented with sugar and spice, then the beer bread will have an unpleasant dry bitter aftertaste. 

     This entire recipe is written for 1 serving!

     Poaching a fresh sausage gently will keep the sausage from splitting when it is grilled. 
     Select one 6" to 8" fresh bratwurst.
     Place the bratwurst in a pot.
     Cover the bratwurst with 1" of extra water.
     Place the pot over medium low heat.
     Gently simmer the bratwurst, till it becomes cooked firm and the sausage casing is set.  The water temperature should be 157º. 
     Set the poached sausage aside.
     Heat a saute pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the poached bratwurst.
     Grill the bratwurst till it becomes fully cooked and brown highlights appear.
     Set the bratwurst aside and let it cool to room temperature. 

     Mojo IPA Beer Bread For A Brat In A Blanket:
     This recipe yields enough dough for one 6" to 8" bratwurst pig in a blanket, plus enough extra dough to make a petite mini loaf of beer bread.  
     Any kind of hoppy western craft IPA beer can be used to make this recipe, but Boulder Brewing Company's Mojo IPA makes the "Brat In A Mojo Blanket" recipe name official.  Everybody knows that a Mojo Bag needs the right items placed in the bag, if the charm is expected to work!   
     Place 1/2 cup of Mojo IPA beer in a mixing bowl.
     Float 3/4 cup of all purpose flour or bread flour on top of the beer.  (flour island technique)
     Place 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt on the flour island.  (salt to taste)
     Place 1 tablespoon of sugar on the flour island.
     Place 1 small pinch of allspice on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of cardamom on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of white pepper on the flour.
     Place 1 small pinch of nutmeg on the flour.
     Place 2 teaspoons of baking powder on the island.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of melted unsalted butter or warm bacon grease.
     Mix the ingredients together to create a loose wet dough.
     Add a little bit of flour at a time, while mixing, till soft dough texture is created and the dough can be gathered in a ball shape.
     Bench the dough on a lightly floured countertop.

     Brat In A Mojo Blanket:
     The grilled onions and mustard sauce can be made while the Brat In A Mojo Blanket bakes.
     Roll the Mojo IPA Beer Bread dough into a sheet that is 1/4" to 3/8" thick.
     Cut the dough into a rectangular shape that is the same length as the bratwurst and wide enough to wrap the bratwurst.
     Roll the bratwurst and dough together, till the dough slightly overlaps (1/4" overlap).
     Cut off the excess dough.
     Pinch the seem, so it seals.
     Place the brat in a mojo blanket on a parchment paper lined baking pan, so the seam side faces down.
     Score the top of the dough on the brat in a blanket, by cutting several evenly spaced cross slashes along the entire length. 
     Brush the dough blanket with melted unsalted butter. 
     Bake in a 400º oven, till the mojo blanket becomes a golden brown color.
     Remove the pan from the oven and allow the Brat In A Mojo Blanket to cool to a safe serving temperature.

     Grilled Onions:
     Heat a saute pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/2 cup of thin sliced onion strips.
     Saute till the onions become tender, with minimal browning.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Keep the grilled onions warm on a stove top.

     Sweet Mustard Sauce:
     Heat a small sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 tablespoon of whole mustard seed.
     Gently saute, till the mustard seeds start to make a popping noise.
     Add 3 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of dijon mustard.
     Add 1 pinch of black pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of chopped Italian parsley.
     Add 2 pats of unsalted butter, while stirring with a whisk.  (about 1 tablespoon)
     As soon as the butter melts and finishes the sauce, remove the pan from the heat.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top and stir occasionally.

     Brat In A Mojo Blanket ~ With Sweet Mustard Sauce and Grilled Onions:
     Spoon a generous amount of the Sweet Mustard Sauce on a plate as a bed for the Bratwurst In A Mojo Blanket.
     Place the Brat In A Mojo Blanket on the sauce.
     Place a small mound of the grilled onions on the sauce next to the entree.
     Garnish with an Italian parsley sprig.

     As far as Pig In A Blanket style recipes go, this Brat In A Mojo Blanket is awesome munch material!  Mardi Gras is near and Super Bowl Sunday is just a few days away.  A pan full of Mojo Brat In A Blanket would be a real crowd pleaser at a football game party.  This is beer food at its best!  

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