When I picked up the ingredients I was totally excited about the beer. I have not really drunk beer in years and this summer I have been on a beer kick. I was surprised at how the ingredients screamed fall and football to me, because I am still in grill mode.
Immediately I knew what I was going to do, a butternut squash soup with a twist on a chicken salad sandwich. I drove over to Whole foods picked up the ingredients and went to town on the dish. I had a group of people over and all agreed the soup just wasn't enough… back to the drawing board… although the caramel beer sauce from day one was a hit!
Then I was going towards a chicken mole idea… and then my daughter comes in the room and says "Mom you really should take more time to read, your ingredient is actually acorn squash"….. um yeah I knew that ; ) So back over to Whole foods to get the right ingredients. I then was like you know what let's do a ravioli, I have been wanting to try homemade pasta. The pasta was an immediate hit, but oh my goodness way to much work to make homemade pasta, there is no way I would do this on any given day, it would be only for a special occasion. The original sauce was a beer béchamel sauce, it sounded good in theory but it was so gross! So that was tossed, and then came the beer brown butter sauce which is soooo good!
I knew I wanted a dessert, when it was Mexican themed I was going to do a faux fried ice cream with the beer caramel sauce, when I stuck with my roots and turned the dinner into an Italian theme I came up with the twisted tiramisu, I brought it to a baby shower this weekend and it was a hit, but I originally had lemon juice in there and we all agreed it was to overpowering so I increased the acorn squash and did orange instead.
The salad was a no brainer I love a good salad and I love to make my own salad dressings, I never buy dressing. I usually substitute pine nuts with almonds or walnuts because of price, but I went all out on this one.
I received the first of the three ingredients in an ordinary looking cloth bag. Peering into the bag, I can see the capped necks and shoulders of a familiar bottle of beer. As I pulled out the sixer, my mind immediately shift to recipe generation; braise, reduce, poach, marinade…drink? An index card with a hand scrawled note is the other bogey in the bag.
Listed after the beer on the card were a rotisserie chicken and an acorn squash. "Where do I find an acorn squash?", I thought. "Rotisserie chicken, does this mean the precooked in the plastic dome?" The next step was to procure the ingredients. A late night dash to Whole Foods was met with disappointment as the only fall squash was butternut. The chicken, however was an easy commodity to find. I went home and thought out my recipes with only the beer in hand, chicken in the refrigerator.
Inspiration: What are the components of beer? Grain-water-yeast. What are the components of bread? Grain-Water-Yeast.
Beer bread; a jumping-off point. I quickly wrote down my beer bread recipe. With the cerebral smell of the bread planted in my head, I imagined the perfect setting for a fall picnic. I took out the cold chicken and stripped the meat from the bones. The cold chicken needed to be reheated, and the perfect medium was beer. I walked outside to see what herb were growing in my pots. Sage and thyme stuck out. I brought the sage inside and finely chopped the green hued leaves. To transfer the flavor, I added the sage to Kewpie mayonnaise. When the chicken was almost finished, I stirred in some whole grain mustard and vinegar to ratchet up the flavor.
Now the squash was ready to meet my knife. I split it, quartered it, sliced it, and diced it. I was not sure how I wanted to serve it and tie in the other given ingredients. Should I cook it in beer? I thought back to the beer and bread connection. Both are grain based. I looked in my pantry for grains. Right in front, wheat berries. I took out the barley look-alike and put it in a sauce pan with some salt and chicken stock and let it simmer. I looked the piles of squash pieces, picked out the slices, and put them in the oven. While she wheat berries and squash were cooking, I made the vinaigrette and added some chopped hazelnuts and spices.
Grain, water, salt, yeast are transformed into sustenance with time, temperature, and thought. A simple idea can expand into a complex, yet easy meal on a crisp autumn day.