It’s Pumpkin Season…

There is a time and place for every beer. Like seasonal produce, beers appear as the weather changes to match up with the early sunsets, hay rides and naked tree branches that come every fall. But let’s face it: even with fantastic Oktoberfest specials, Harvest ales, and ESBs (Extra Special Bitters)—we all know its pumpkin season.

Breads, pies, cakes, cookies, candles, seeds, soups—you name it. For the next few months, everything will be inundated with the sweet, orange richness of everyone’s favorite squash. With spices like ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice dancing through the fall brews in different proportions, pumpkin beers replace dessert with the liquid version of pumpkin pie.

After some kick-ass pumpkin pancakes, I developed a taste for pumpkin in the morning. Naturally, I want my pumpkin (beer) for breakfast. Starting a day off with the best fall has to offer helps ward away the 9-5 blues.

Breakfast beer poses significant issues for most—especially on weekdays when getting to work sober is more than a bit important. There’s something about having an adult beverage before heading out in the AM that is (understandably) socially unacceptable. Though I’m not sure many people could tell the difference between my beer buzz and my coffee buzz, I’m not looking to find out any time soon. But–of course there is a but–if beer is added to a recipe that’s cooked, it will lose most of its punch.

Most pumpkin beers will range from 4-7% ABV (Check out Beer Advocate for some great notes on loads of Pumpkin Beers), and when simmered for 30 minutes, according to this 2003 study by the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, only 35% of the alcohol will remain. So even with a stronger beer as an ingredient, that’s nowhere near enough to do any real damage.

I sat down with a pumpkin bottle and a can of pumpkin puree for about an hour to chat about how they could help me have a lovely, pumpkin filled breakfast experience. My beer of choice was the Schlafly Pumpkin Ale for its sweetness and well-rounded spice without going overboard on the nutmeg like some others. It’s a great representative of what a pumpkin beer should taste like. The canned pumpkin puree was there for moral support—in case the pumpkin flavor got lost in the mix.

They didn’t say much.

In the end, it came down to me diving into the can of pumpkin, while drinking the beer—same mouthful, very strange—but I came up with this little beauty: an homage to the jars found lining the “shelves” at farmers markets that are increasingly populating the streets of Philadelphia. Was there a sale on street permits, or what?

Schlafly Pumpkin Beer Butter

…your toast will never be the same

  • 1 Can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie mix…there is a difference)
  • 1 C Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
  • 1 C White Sugar
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

Combine pumpkin, beer, sugar and spices in a saucepan and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes –the mixture will be thickened in the end. Be sure to stir frequently.

Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Great on toast when you’re running out the door and (almost) late for work every day!

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Tasty Lil Cow Pie

The beauty of working in a restaurant is that I get my days off during the week and I have time to cook instead of foraging in the refrigerator and cabinets. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig around and make things from what I have. The difference is that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my dinner won’t be between two pieces of bread.

I stared into the depths of drawers, cupboards and shelves last Wednesday trying to figure out what to do with one steak — it had to feed two people. With not enough vegetables for a stir fry and not enough anything for fajitas, I pulled the single NY strip from the shelf and looked back and forth from it to the smattering of possible partners. “Do we have any potatoes?” I asked my brother without looking up from the refrigerator.

“Did you look in the drawer?” he yelled from the couch.

“…no.”

Sure enough, they were there and along with a sad-looking bag of carrots, I hatched a plan. I’d had a staff meal of shepherd’s pie at work a few weeks before and — while I’m not really keen on lamb — the delivery was genius. The sweet, rich meat, roasted vegetables and gravy all stuck to the whipped mashed potatoes making every bite the perfect bite.

I grabbed the potatoes, peeled and cubed them and put them on the stove to start the mash. With a bag of frozen peas, it was a meal that really began coming together. But what to do about a sauce?

The chef at work used Guinness but we didn’t have any. The beer — with its roasted malt, coffee and bitter chocolate flavor — was the center of the dish. A stout was what I needed. A Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout was what I had. “Hey, Matt–do you think I could use this Chocolate Stout for this?” I asked.

“Um…that’s my dessert beer,” he answered with sadness in his voice “And it’s out of season so I can’t get any morebut if it means you’ll cook and I’ll have food soon, go ahead. If you must.”

Satisfied with the plan, I sliced and browned the meat with some onion and garlic, added in the beer and waited. I leaned in to see if what I was doing was working and my whole face was filled with the sweet swirls of singeing beef, earthy chocolate, and garlic.

“How’s it going in there?”

“I think you’re beer would be pleased with how it’s being sacrificed.”

With meat braising (read: to cook by browning in fat and then slowly cooking in a covered pan with a some liquid), I mashed the potatoes with butter and cream and layered the ingredients in a casserole dish — meat, carrots, peas and potatoes — covered and put in the oven. I pulled the lid off for the final few minutes to get a good crust on the potatoes and to make it look as I’d seen in the weeks before at work.

We dove in to find the meat dissolving to the lightest bite, full of the deep, woody, bittersweet chocolate of the beer. The creamy mashed potatoes held onto the gravy for dear life; the carrots and peas little life boats of respite from the richness.

Matt looked at me in disbelief. You just made this up?

I shrugged. I was hungry, he was hungry and I was afraid the meat was going to go to waste if we didn’t cook it. “Yea?”

You can make stuff up any time you want to, ok?

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Shepherds Pie

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 C cream
  • 1 8 oz NY Strip Steak, cut into strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 bottle Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
  • 1 C Baby Carrots, chopped
  • 1 C Baby Peas

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Peel and cube potatoes. Place in 4 qt. stock pot with enough water to cover them and boil until potato is tender to fork — about 20 mins.

While potatoes are cooking, dice carrots and onions and set aside. Remove large portions of fat from outside of NY Strip. Slice steak into 1/4″ strips. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and garlic on high, stirring to ensure garlic does not burn. Add meat — cooking until lightly browned. Add onion and 1/2 bottle of beer. Cover, cook on low until potatoes are ready.

When potatoes break easily when pierced with a fork, remove from heat and drain. Return potatoes to stock pot and mash until no lumps are visible. Add butter and cream. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.

In casserole dish, layer meat, carrots, peas, the rest of the beer and the potatoes. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove lid and broil for 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

*The only sad thing about this dish is that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is only released in the winter — it’s a bit heavy for the summertime. BUT so is this dish…enjoy!

next to of course pb&j chili i

love you.

The high heat, full mouth fire that burns into my nose and smoulders in my belly warms me to the core and fills me right up. It’s also a meal that requires one pot and very little attention. So, what’s not to love?

The difficult thing with chili is to narrow down exactly what I put in it — it’s a gut-feel kind of meal. Sometimes, I only put one type of kidney bean or only a green pepper instead of an assortment of colors. I have, on occasion, completely forgotten onions. Sometimes, my guts are feeling risky and I add a few more chili peppers.

Oh, the chili peppers.

When I first asked my mom how to make her chili, she rattled off the ingredients and instructions. Meat, onion, chili powder, kidney beans, tomato paste. I was shocked. She used McCormicks Chili Powder. No actual peppers were invited to her pot. Finally, I knew then why toed the line of being a spicy Hamburger Helper with beans. I’d head chili that made me sweat and my stomach burn for days. That’s what I was looking for. So, I took the basics from her recipe to create my own.

My chilis of choice: Guajillo, Chili de Arbol and Chipotle peppers, respectively. The guajillo peppers add a very light touch of sweetness but have a slap-in-the-face of heat once swallowed. Chili de arbol provide more spice up front that fill the entire mouth, give that tongue tingle and burn up into your nose and eyes (in a good way). And the Chipotles — well they just give the whole thing a greatsmoke. The chipotle pepper is really just a smoke dried jalapeno, but the smokiness is bolder than any hotness of the pepper. If you don’t like it really hot, you can split the peppers and remove some or all of the seeds. Taking them out of the pot after a few minutes also helps if you don’t want to sweat.

My gut also tell me that whatever I’m drinking, the chili pot should, too. My favorite addition to a chili pot is a IPA (Dogfish Head 60 Min to be exact) for it’s slight bitterness and lemony notes that slice up some of the spice and pull at the zip from the bell peppers.

I start with ground turkey meat — some fat here is needed, so a 93% lean is what you want — a big stock pot and some olive oil. Once it starts to brown up a bit, in goes about half a bottle of beer, the chilis, and some cayenne powder for good measure. I let them sweat for a bit while I chop (and open) up everything else. A few different types of bell pepper, some onion, kidney beans, diced tomatoes and voila!

Now here’s the only hard part: not diving in right away. The chilis need a while to release all of their oils and get the spice to cook into everything. I add the rest of the beer, cover and drop the heat to low to cook for about an hour until it looks more like it should…might not be so pretty, but its sure to get folks hot and bothered.

Spills Chili

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey, 93% lean
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • 1 Guajillo Pepper, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 Chili de Arbol peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 3 Chipotle peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 T Cayenne Powder
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Grated chedder cheese to garnish

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil. Add ground turkey. Once almost all meat is browned, add chili peppers, cayenne powder and 1/2 of the beer. Simmer 15 minutes. Add diced onion, bell peppers, kidney beans, cannellini beans (with liquid from can), diced tomatoes and the rest of the beer. Cover and simmer 45-60 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved. Top with cheese and serve.