It has snowed at least once in Syracuse, so as far as I’m concerned we can talk about winter beers. As I did in the fall, I will drink as many of the winter and Christmas beers as possible as a service to you, the reader. As long as I can get my grubby hands on them, they will be consumed.
It’s a tough job, but someone must take it on head first.
- Anchor Christmas Ale: Perfect. Great body, not too fruity, not too malty, not too hoppy, not too…the only thing it is too much of is good. Worth every dollar.
- Southern Tier 2XMAS Ale: Right off the bat, the orange peel and fig provide a happy holiday greeting. A great beer with a nice spice and medium body. (8.0% ABV)
- 21st Amendment Fireside Chat ale: An exceptional winter beer. There’s a lot of spice, but it’s subtle. Full-bodied and smooth, not unlike myself. (7.9% ABV)
- Brooklyn Brewery Winter Ale: Brooklyn’s ale takes a different approach. They make a Scottish ale without a lot of spice. Very malty and toasty, they let the grains do the heavy lifting. (6.1% ABV)
- Boulder Beer Never Summer Ale: A big, bold red ale that balances its hops with a clean finish. I really liked this offering and may go back for more. (6.5% ABV)
- Shiner Holiday Cheer: Not sure what I was expecting, but the peachy finish was a nice surprise. A malty, dark beer with pecan notes and balanced flavor. Call me biased towards Shiner beers, but I like this a lot. (5.4% ABV)
- Great Lakes Brewing Company Blackout Stout: An exceptional imperial stout with a big coffee flavor. Toasty, high ABV and full-bodied, it’s the type of beer that warms you up without weighing you down greatly. (9.0% ABV)
- Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout: A solid effort for 2013. I didn’t think much of last year’s effort, but it rebounded. A very smooth high octane imperial stout with a chocolatey, almost toasty flavor. (10.0% ABV)
- Great Lakes Brewing Company Christmas Ale: Warming, like a blanket. Instead of fleece, the honey and ginger is backed by a high alcohol content and a toasty malt flavor. Typically I would run children over in cold blood if they got in between me and the GLBC Christmas. Not this year. It is good, but the 2011 and 2012 editions were much better. (7.5% ABV)
- Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale: So much better than 2012. Strong hop flavor but otherwise smooth and full bodied. (6.8% ABV)
- Harpoon Winter Warmer ale: It’s like drinking beer made with all of the spices in our baking cabinet. Nutmeg and cinnamon are prominent. A heavy beer that is enjoyable but in small doses. (5.9% ABV)
- Samuel Adams Winter Lager: Smooth, but not a lot of flavor. It went down very easy…too easy, actually. (5.6% ABV)
- Ommegang Adoration: As The Sister said upon tasting it, “There’s a lot of flavors going on here.” Nothing seemed to complement one another. Mace, cardamom, coriander…everything felt like it was fighting for attention. I wished I did like this one. (10% ABV)
- Southern Tier Old Man Winter Ale: Hoppy, spicy, but not too much of either. It was like a heavy pale ale. (7.0% ABV)
- Laguintas Brown Shugga Ale: Really hoppy, but not that bad. It was interesting, because there was an understated sweetness that rang through the hops. (9.99% ABV)
- Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale: This used to be my favorite winter beer. They tinkered sooooooo much with the recipe that it’s a disappointment. (5.6% ABV)
- Samuel Adams White Christmas: It was like a spicier Blue Moon. No imagination. No body. Bo-ring. (5.8% ABV)
- Victory Brewing Company Winter Cheers: Strong spicy flavor. A lot of hops in this winter wheat ale, but not a lot of bitterness. I just didn’t enjoy it. (6.7% ABV)
- Troegs Mad Elf Ale: I’ve enjoyed this in the past on draught and in the bottle. For some reason, this year’s version did not agree with me. The Sister liked it but I was so disappointed. (11.0% ABV)
On tap: 21st Amendment Fireside Chat, Great Lakes Blackout Stout,
The next time I go shopping, I’ll pick up: Full Sail Wassail, Breckenridge Christmas Ale, Abita Christmas Ale
Fondly missing: Pete’s Wicked Winter Ale
Butter is awesome. You can spread it on toast and it melts. You can add it to cookie batter to give it umami, or that savory taste that warms you from within. You can make sculptures from it. Margarine? Meh. Butter is where it’s at.
So, there’s this point when you are heating butter in a pan, before it burns, when it turns brown. Guess what it’s called? Brown butter. No kidding. Beurre brun is one of the basic sauces in French cuisine, where it is generally served over pasta.
We have established that I like butter and, as a result, brown butter. But, I can’t just melt a bunch of butter, serve it to The Wife and call it a sauce. As it is, she’s punishing herself at the gym for all of the pie she inhaled at Thanksgiving. Cremini mushrooms work just well enough here, absorbing the nutty flavor of the butter and adding a flavor of its own.
WHAT WORKED: Butter, duh.
WHAT DIDN’T: My second guessing. I used fresh pasta and almost left it on the stove too long, which would not have been good.
WHAT DID THE WIFE SAY: “This is good. Did you just use butter?”
WILL IT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE: Yes.
Last year, I rolled with the turkey empanadas to make use of our leftovers. Those were awesome, but I was sitting on a lot of food and was unsure of the best way to plow through it.
Sure, The Sister took some back to Strong Island and we all have been grabbing pinches of turkey meat and tucking it into our lip like it was Red Man. But, how many times can you eat the same reheated turkey buffet before it gets boring?
In an effort to test The Wife’s limits of carbohydrate digestion, I thought about a panini. Why couldn’t the stuffing, potatoes and turkey work between two slices of bread?
I make sweet potatoes for every holiday that I host. And, every time, I’m the only one who eats them. Invariably The Wife or The Father will have a couple as a show of support for the hard work that went into the meal, but they are largely panned by the rest of the gathering at these meals.
This year, I decided that I was going to make a small sweet potato dish for me, and if anyone wanted some, they could join in. Ordinarily, I like my roasted potatoes to be burnt to an everloving crisp, but my single-oven setup meant that the turkey took priority. And the bird’s low and slow cooking method meant the sweets were going to cook at, oh, 175 degrees below the recipe’s recommendation. I threw them in for over an hour, but they were still a little soft.
But, they were good. Damn good.
I think that covering seafood in Old Bay is silly and takes away from the flavor of the fish. But, a heavy dusting of the stuff on potatoes is a very different flavor that complements the sweetness of the veggie.
I got into a rut last year with Meatless Monday where everything was a soup. Frankly, it’s the easiest thing to assemble when we are talking about a completely meat-free meal. This year, I seem to be stuck in a pasta cycle when it comes to the first weeknight meal of the week. So, to break one rut I decided to reach back to the salad days of soupmaking on Mondays.
As advertised, this is a very hearty soup. The escarole and barley not only give the soup bulk, but a unique flavor that could ordinarily get lost in the mirepoix, tomato or soy sauce.
WHAT WORKED: Parmesan rind. That’s the other thing I wanted to mention. This is a mandatory ingredient. Parm rinds not only bring the salty, nutty cheese flavor to the stockpot, but it helps to thicken the broth. Just make sure to discard before serving because eating this would be disgusting.
Three self-evident truths:
- Corn pudding is terrible.
- Cornbread is good.
- There are not a lot of ways to prepare corn for Thanksgiving with The Family.
A few years ago, I did an edamame succotash, with corn, soybeans and peppers. It went over like…it didn’t go over. Like everything else, they like their corn the way they like it. Steamed and mushy. The problem is that I don’t like steamed and mushy corn. I don’t mind it steamed, but corn is like the elderly relative of Thanksgiving. You pick it up from the home, plop it at the table, pour it something to drink and ignore them until everyone is ready to eat. Corn gets microwaved, left in a bowl covered with plastic wrapped, placed on the table or buffet line and no one thinks of it again until the turkey is done.
My co-worker Toni sent me a text message about going to the Wegmans in Dewitt on Wednesday morning to grocery shop for Thanksgiving (it appears at right).
I am not afraid of grocery store crowds. They annoy me, but the people who shop on the day before a major holiday are largely driven, organized shoppers with lists and an idea of where everything is. It’s the “Do I Want 1% or 2% Milk Because I Am Incapable of Making Decisions” Sunday shopper that sends me into stages of madness.
Now, all of that said, Wegmans Dewitt at 8:30 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving was…moderately busy. I’ve tried shopping there when it is overflowing with people and it’s rough. Wednesday’s trip was easy. (I go across town to the “Big Wegmans” because they have an unbelievable selection of things I can’t get at my store around the corner. Add in a quick stop at the liquor store, and our trip took less than 45 minutes.
That may have been the worst of the week. Otherwise, dinner went together without a lot of problem. I herb- and salt-crusted the turkey, which produced an awesome result. I made the gravy using frozen homemade turkey stock and fresh pan drippings. (Mmmmm…pan drippings.) The stuffing came from The Mother-In-Law and was warmed. The Sister was on mashed potato duty and used both a ricer and hand mixer to prep 5 lbs. of Yukon Gold.
I added three sides that worked out with differing success. The caramelized corn was strong, the Old Bay roasted sweet potatoes were good but missing something. The Brussels sprouts were a disappointment. I’ll offer posts on all three this week.
And now that the heavy lifting is done, I have about two weeks to come up with menus for Christmas Eve and Day.