Dinner in mere minutes: A big pot of mussels cooked in sour beer.
For sour beer, that is.
My husband may wince at this style of brew, much preferring a smooth Amber Ale instead.
But I can’t get enough of the specialty fermented beer that gets its characteristic tang from wild yeast strains or bacteria.
I love its bracing quality, especially paired with food, much like that of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the wine world. Both wake up the taste buds with a brisk bite, acting like a natural-born palate cleanser.
Though I’ve cooked with various types of beer over the years, somehow it never dawned on me to try it with sour beer.
That is, until I spied the recipe for “Mussels in Sour Beer” in the new “Cheers to The Publican Repast and Present: Recipes and Ramblings from an American Beer Hall” (Lorena Jones Books), of which I received a review copy.
The book is by Chef-Owner Paul Kahan of The Publican in Chicago, a modern-day beer hall known for its huge communal wood tables, deep beer list, and rustic dishes flavored with gusto and served charmingly on mismatched plates.
The Publican is just one of eight establishments in Chicago by Kahan and the One Off Hospitality Group. The others include Avec, Blackbird, and the wholesale Publican Quality Bread. (His bread is fantastic, too, as I found out when he brought loaves to a recent holiday dinner at Acacia House in St. Helena where he cooked with Chef Chris Cosentino.)
Settle into 2018 with soothing home-made pumpkin soup and sage bread.
Now that the decadent holiday feasts are over, you can’t help but long for something simpler, born of total ease and comfort.
Soup fits that bill like nothing else.
Portland, OR food writer Ivy Manning comes to the rescue with her clever “Easy Soups From Scratch with Quick Breads to Match” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.
Sure, you could make a batch of soup and serve it with a purchased baguette. But why not up your game by pairing a soup perfectly with an accompanying bread that takes little time to make fresh at home?
That’s the premise of the book, which includes 70 recipes for soups and breads, which you can mix and match, though Manning gives a bread recommendation or two for each soup in case you find yourself overwhelmed by the choices.
The method to make these biscuits is easy yet provide very distinctive results.
Hmm, pancakes? Salad dressing? Mashed potatoes?
How about “Cathead Biscuits”? Ones that are fluffy inside and have distinctive craggly crisp, buttery tops?
Yeah, now we’re talking.
After a run of holiday baking, I found myself with leftover buttermilk. I pulled a couple cookbooks from my shelf until I hit upon “Muffins & Biscuits” (Chronicle Books) by Heidi Gibson, co-owner of San Francisco’s The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.
Barbera wine colors and flavors this hearty risotto.
At this time of year, the color red rules.
In “Red Wine Risotto,” it really dazzles, too.
The recipe is from “Eataly: Contemporary Italian Cooking” (Phaidon, 2016) by Eataly, the Italian food brand with mega food emporiums around the world.
The 300 recipes are surprisingly pared down, more like what Italians make at home rather than what four-star chefs labor over at restaurants. The recipes are one-page each with most having just a few paragraphs of directions.
Find everything from “Fresh Pea Soup with Smoked Ham” and “Spaghetti Pasta with Mussels, Clams, Jumbo Shrimp, and Bell Pepper Puree” to “Egg and Pancetta Tartlets” to “Chocolate Puddings with Caramelized Oranges and Amaretti Cookies.”
At the end of the book, there’s also a great primer with photos that gives the lowdown on types of Italian salumi, pastas, rice, fish, beans, grains, breads, and cheeses.
Stuff tortillas with chicken adobo, and get ready to do a happy dance.
Wes Avila thinks of a taco as a blank canvas.
If so, his Guerrilla Tacos is the Matisse of taco trucks.
Who knew a taco could have such vivacious personality? But in his imaginative hands, it comes awash in vivid colors, flavors and textures that dance with verve on the palate.
It’s no surprise that Guerrilla Tacos of Los Angeles was named “Best Taco Truck” by LA Weekly, and singled out by the great critic Jonathan Gold as one of the best things to eat in Los Angeles.
A former forklift driver, Avila went to culinary school in Pasadena, before going to work in such esteemed kitchens L’Auberge Carmel and Le Comptoir in Los Angeles. He even did a stint in Paris under Alain Ducasse.
In 2012, with his life savings of $300, he started Guerilla Tacos out of a humble push cart. It wasn’t long before word of mouth spread, and Gold’s review put him on everyone’s radar.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I chased down his truck one afternoon just in time to snag a sushi-grade hamachi tostada that was bright tasting and adorned with micro beet leaves. He makes everything from scratch, and sources locally and sustainably.
He makes no claims that his is authentic Mexican food. Instead, it’s much more personal.