I live in beautiful, AMAZING Colorado, and there’s not a thing I would change about that. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love breweries, dark beer, pub food, and the culture that comes along with that. So when I found out that I had the chance to host a Luxury Dinner Party for Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog, I immediately thought about the things that I love about where I live. As if it’s not enough that I live minutes from where the following photograph was taken, I also get to partake in fresh microbrewery beer whenever I want. You can say it: I’m spoiled. And I thank God every day that I am! 🙂
You see, in Colorado we start cooking for a dinner party at 10am. And of course we start with dessert first. Chocolate Stout Cake to be exact!
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sample some of the leftover Guinness I used for the cake. At 10am. Hey, it was just a sip…and with 12 hours of cooking, cleaning, and entertaining ahead of me I think I needed it!
…way more times than necessary, but that’s what happens when you’re married to a photographer 🙂
- Appetizer: Soft Pretzels with a Zesty Beer Cheese Dipping Sauce
- Salad Course: Fall Harvest Salad with Oven-Roasted Butternut Squash, Toasted Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and a Sweet Onion Vinaigrette
- Main Course: Cast-Iron Bison Burgers with Gorgonzola, Beer-Braised Onions, and Bacon. Served Open-Face on Grilled Beer Bread smeared with Roasted Garlic Honey Sauce
- Side: Pomme Frites served with a Chipotle-Lime Aioli
- Dessert: Chocolate Stout Cake with Homemade Strawberry Jam and Ganache. Served on a bed of Fresh Berry Puree
Are you drooling yet?
For the pretzels, I used Alton Brown’s recipe. With a luxury dinner party there’s no room for error! The cheese sauce though? That’s my baby!
ZESTY BEER CHEESE DIPPING SAUCE
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 Tbsp flour
- 1 cup beer (I used Boulder Beer‘s Hoppy Boy)
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 3 cups sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 Tbsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan melt the butter. Saute onions, peppers, and garlic until tender. Sprinkle flour on top, and stir well to combine. Slowly stir in the beer and milk until no flour is remaining on the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and let the mixture thicken for 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the spices, Worchestershire, and cheese until the cheese is completely melted. Serve hot with baked pretzels straight out of the oven and you’re sure to see your guests’ eyes roll back in their heads. In a good way 🙂
Even though there’s rarely beer in salads (that would be weird, right?), I still love trying the ones at local breweries. They always feature fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and change with the season…what more could you ask for? So when it came time to plan the salad course, I knew exactly what I wanted to feature in it. The combination 0f flavors is incredible!
- 4 cups mixed lettuce
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts
- 1/2 tsp each of salt, pepper, and garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Sweet Onion Vinaigrette, recipe found here
Preheat oven to 400. Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and spread the cubes of squash around so none are overlapping or touching. Roast at 400 for 10 minutes, stir the cubes around, and roast another 10 minutes. Let cool completely before adding to the salad. To assemble, create a bed of lettuce on a plate. Sprinkle the walnuts and dried cranberries on top. Arrange the cooled squash around the lettuce. Top with sweet onion vinaigrette (or serve on the side). It’s the perfect fall salad and great for cleansing the palate for the next course!
One of my favorite things to order at the local breweries is a burger. They’re always fresh, always perfectly cooked, and always taste perfect. One of the things I think is very important when cooking burgers is to not pump the meat mixture full of spices. Good, high-quality meat tastes incredible with a little salt added to it. That’s it. Let the meat do the talking and you’ll see that it’s the perfect vehicle for other great ingredients! CAST-IRON BISON BURGERS WITH GORGONZOLA, BEER-BRAISED ONIONS, AND BACON
- 1 lb ground bison meat (this is for 4 people, so increase the quantity accordingly)
- 2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 Tbsp salt, divided
- Gorgonzola cheese
- Bacon, cooked to crisp
- Beer-Braised Onions, recipe below
- Roasted Garlic Honey Sauce, recipe below
In a bowl combine the bison meet, butter, and breadcrumbs. Guys, get those hands in there and mix that up! You want everything to be fully incorporated. Also, since I’m sure you’re wondering, the reason I use a little butter and breadcrumbs here is because the bison meat is so lean that you need a little fat to make it juicy. And the breadcrumbs help soak up that juice so that it stays inside the meat. I promise, a little butter and breadcrumbs go a long way in preserving the juiciness of the burger! Form the meat mixture into 4 patties. Sprinkle both sides with salt. Heat a cast-iron skillet (a regular one would work just fine but cast iron makes the best crust and has the most even temperature) over medium-low heat. Drizzle a little olive oil (~1/2 Tbsp) over the surface. Press each burger into the pan. Cover the pan with a sheet of foil and cook for 5 minutes on each side. In the last minute of cooking, add the Gorgonzola and let the cheese start to melt. Serve on top of grilled beer bread (recipe here) that’s been smeared with a Roasted Garlic Honey sauce. Top with Beer-Braised Onions and bacon.
- 2 large onions, halved and sliced very VERY thin
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup lager beer
- salt and pepper to taste
In a non-stick pan with a lid, melt the olive oil and butter together over medium heat. Add the sliced onions (make sure you separate the slices) and stir til all onions are coated with a little bit of the fat. Turn the heat to low, cover with the lid, and cook for 1 hour, stirring twice. After an hour, remove the lid and increase the heat to medium high. You want the liquid in the pan to evaporate and for the onions to start turning a golden brown. Deglaze the pan with the beer, and continue to cook the onions until all of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper (but remember you’ll be serving these atop a salty bison burger and under some bacon, so don’t get too liberal!).
ROASTED GARLIC HONEY SAUCE
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp salt
First things first, you need to start with a cold oven. Take the bulb of garlic and slice off the top 1/3 of the bulb. You want all of the tops of the cloves to be exposed, and you want it to stay together as best you can. Place in the center of a 12″ x 12″ piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil so that each clove is covered (use your fingers if you need to!). Fold the foil very loosely around the garlic so that there are no holes. Place on a baking sheet in the oven. Turn the oven on to 300 and let the garlic roast for 40 minutes. You want the cloves to be soft and almost translucent, but not browned. Let the garlic cool before handling. When the garlic is cool, squeeze the cloves out onto a plate. Sprinkle with salt and, using the back of a fork, smash the cloves until it forms a paste. Pour the honey on top and mix until it’s all combined. The best way to spread this is to slightly heat the mixture (microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds) before spreading it on the grilled bread. You’ll be glad you did!
Now really, what burger would be complete without a side of fries? But not just an fries, pomme frites – very thinly sliced potatoes that are deep-fried TWICE and served with a Chipotle-Lime Aioli. Um, I’ll take 2,000 please and thank you.
- 4 large Russet potatoes, cleaned and peeled
- 2 quarts peanut oil
- Chipotle-Lime Aioli, recipe below
This is by far the thing that took the longest to make. It’s such a detailed process to get the perfect fry! First, after you wash and peel all of the potatoes, you have to slice off the ends and discard them. You want every.single.fry to be as close to the same size as possible for more even cooking, and if you have tapered ends those are just going to burn. Then slice the potatoes into 1/4-inch-wide fries. Soak in cold water. You need to change the water 3-4 times until it’s clear, then let it soak for an hour. Drain and let the sliced potatoes dry on a bed of paper towels. If the potatoes are wet at all it will mess up the frying part, so it’s very important they’re as dry as possible. Mine sat out in the kitchen for 2 hours before I did the first fry just to be safe. When it’s time to do the first fry, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot to 320 degrees. I used my broken candy thermometer and estimated when it had reached the correct temperature. Fry them in batches for 5 minutes at a time, draining them on dry paper towels. Let them sit for about 20 minutes before doing the second fry. This time heat the oil to 375 degrees. Again, frying in batches, fry the potatoes a second time until they are are golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Drain on dry paper towels and season liberally with salt. Serve hot with Chipotle-Lime Aioli.
CHIPOTLE-LIME AIOLI (inspired by this recipe)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- pinch of salt
- 2 egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 chipotle pepper in adobo, roughly chopped
In a food processor, process the garlic and salt for 20 seconds. Add the egg yolks and lime juice and process until well combined. With the processor on low, slowly stream in the olive oil. You want this to be an almost mayonnaise-like consistency. Once the aioli comes together, add the chipotle peppers and process until there are no chunks of pepper left. Serve alongside the fries for dipping!
Y’all, after all that food (and we did tapas-sized portions!) you’d think we’d be too full for dessert.
Oh, wait. That never happens. You just can’t be too full for dessert.
Especially when dessert is a Chocolate Stout Cake that’s amped up with homemade strawberry jam and fresh berry puree! For the cake I used this recipe, but decided to get a little crazy and get a few more uses out of summer’s last berries. Also, you’ll notice that the recipe says that the cake should technically be 3 layers high. And this one is only two layers high. Apparently a sip of Guinness in the morning leads me to do crazy things like drop a hot cake layer on the floor of my kitchen. Oops 🙂
Anyway, follow the instructions to a ‘T’ on the recipe, but as the cakes are cooling very carefully slice off the tops. This makes for even layers and also allows the jam to soak into the cake, keeping it moist and flavorful. Heat the jam (I used about 1 cup) for a few seconds in the microwave. Spoon 1/2 of the jam on top of 2 of the layers (this is assuming you haven’t followed my lead and dropped one on the floor), and spread over the cut portion so that it will soak in while the cake is still warm. When the cake has cooled, frost as directed with the ganache. You’ll want to do this several hours in advance so that the cake has time to sit and let the flavors marry and the ganache hardens a little. Serve on top of fresh berry puree, recipe below.
- 1 pint strawberries, rinsed and the tops cut off
- 1/2 cup frozen raspberries (or fresh)
- 1/3 cup sugar
In a food processor, process the berries until completely pureed. Add the sugar and process for another 60 seconds to fully allow the sugar to dissolve into the sauce. Pass the puree through a strainer to get rid of as many seeds as possible (you might have to use a spoon to stir it around a bit). When you’re ready to serve the cake, create a bed of the puree or just drizzle on top. It’s the perfect compliment to the jam in the middle of the layers and adds another dimension of incredible flavor.
So what does one do after all of this? Besides die and go to foodie heaven?
I think the answer is obvious: take a food-coma nap in front of the TV.
I would love to go on to Round 4 of Project Food Blog! If you like what you see and want a FABULOUSLY photographed instructional recipe for next week, please vote for me! Voting starts tomorrow, October4, and goes through Wednesday, October 6. You guys are the reason I love what I do!