Aug 31 2011
Every Sunday I make it a point to do nothing. Nothing but sit around all day until the late afternoon when I can finally do what it is I’ve been waiting to do while doing nothing all day: hit the grocers and shop for my one and only weekly sit down meal.
Yesterday I gave free reign to a friend of mine to write up the menu for that days fare. Now, this friend of mine, she’s a recent transplant from a little town in Leez-e-ana. So, of course, she wanted something rich.. a lil’ potater salad.. “Maybe somethan with chicken or some bacon.. and greens..yeah, and corn. I love me some corn on the cob!”
Sounds like a pretty straightforward, Sunday-ish kinda meal, right? Fire up the grill, get out the red and white checkered placemats and table dressings, maybe toss up a volleyball net or dig out a few horseshoe pits..
Problem is, I don’t have a grill.. well at least not anymore [who would of thought it’s against building code to keep a mini grill in a high rise apartment that doesn’t have access to a terrace? Humpf.]. I threw out my set of checked place mats last week after seeing Paula Deen use bright yellow ones at her picnic cookout. And as I stated before, I live in a high rise. So, I don’t have room to stage equipment that requires a large space for grown adults to partake in any sort of competitive activity. Unless of course you count that square thing that occupies the majority of my kitchen and doubles as a beer pong stage on Friday nights. I believe most normal people refer to these things as, .. kitchen tables?
Seeing as a cookout isn’t a cookout without the festive ambiance which it is generally associated with, I still couldn’t bring myself to nix the theme. Actually, I could have easily moved on. But when Kristin gets warmed up to an idea, especially one which reminds her of home, well, it’s just not that easy to persuade her otherwise. So, instead of just broiling a few potatoes, caramelizing a bit of bacon, and then slapping some mayo on ‘em and serving it with a fresh ear of corn, I took the opportunity of using the ingredients of a good old fashioned barbecue, a tasty beverage, and made an attempt at showing Kristin what we’re all about here in this great city: simple ingredients and great flavours accented with a nice presentation.
With a vague sense of what she wanted: the tater salad, and the absolute necessity which I had in mind: a nice, cold, preferably tall beer, we set out for the market.
An hour and a half later we returned with several bags of food, the most recent edition of Cosmo and approximately fourteen different shades of nail polish- apparently what she would be doing while I prepared our Sunday meal.
I got the potatoes, chicken drums, greens, bread and fresh fruits and vegetables. Everything chosen with the utmost care and pre-meditated thought after the first purchase was made- three bombers of a beautifully crafted triple-style golden ale hailing from Chambly, Quebec: LA Fin du Monde. If you haven’t had this stuff yet I suggest, not walking, but running to the nearest beverage depot and picking up a “few”. Not only do I love this stuff on its own, but I thought it would serve as a pretty solid pairing with the essential ingredients of what the boss, excuse me, the lady, had in mind for the night.
Just like wine, when pairing beer with food the number one rule is body to body. Neither the wine or food should hold too dense a punch compared to that of, not only the main component of the dish, but the sum of it’s parts as well- always complimenting instead of out-shining.
La Fin du Monde is a brilliantly coloured, malty, silky textured beer which holds a fair amount of effervescence.. all of which make it a great accompaniment for food. In my opinion, it’s medium across the board [excluding the alcohol content, a staggering 9% abv] which means that the two main components of this dish –preparation wise- were the chicken, served off the bone and torn, and the potatoes, diced small [meaning a large amount of surface area], the flavours of the dish would have to pack a punch, but also be pretty light on their feet and quick to compliment. With this in mind I put a quick and heavy sear on the chicken to make sure and caramelize the skin, ensuring maximum flavor retention. With the potatoes we added a slight richness via a little butter tossed in at the very end of sautéing.
La Fin also has a very fruity nose and profile which exudes a great amount of citrusy-grapefruit to it. So here I thought the ripeness of red and yellow cherry tomatoes would be an appropriate fit; comparing to the fruit profile while contrasting that of the underlying floral aromas in the beer. Freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice tossed with the greens would also compliment the beers acidity.
“Don’t forget I want cheese on something, ok?!” Kristin yelled from the other room “I love cheese, you should know this by now.”
Kristen wanted cheese, so she got cheese. I told her it was something “I wasn’t planning on doing because it could possibly de-feng shui the dish.. but would do it anyways because that’s what she wanted.” Why’d I do this? Because if I pretended to toss one her way now then later I’d have a ‘for instance’ of how I’ve recently shown my selflessness and therefore have a better chance at sneaking the remote from her and watching the new episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage instead of re runs of the Bad Girls Club all night- her personal favorite. Let’s not kid ourselves here though, guys and gals. I was obviously planning on using cheese somewhere within this dish because, honestly, who doesn’t love cheese? Plus, the acidity and body of the beer would be used here to cut through the mozzarella as well as the richness of the cranberry sauce [a late addition to the soiree], and play off the saltiness of the seasoned corn and thick cut prosciutto I substituted in place of the bacon.
“Is it ready yet?” she yelled for the third time in twenty minutes “I’m done painting my nails and I’m hungry now..”
“Yeah, it’s ready.” I responded, setting her plate down on the table and cracking open a much needed beer “Here’s your pulled chicken-potato salad with extra cheese. Welcome to Chicago.”
Great beer, good food, interesting company.