Apr

3

2013

A Beer Pairing Dinner with Alexia Foods

Comments 5 Comments

Spring Green Panzanella with Lemon Caper Vinaigrette, Shrimp and Crab Sliders with Avocado Spread, Potato Puffs and Linguica Casserole, Potato and Veggie Crustless Quiche, Mini Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Caramel

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Big Bear Mountain Brew - Duo Dishes

As Tastemakers for Alexia Foods, we were recently given the opportunity to host a dinner party of our chosing. So far this year, we have featured a farm tour and Q&A with potato farmers who grow a variety of crops that give life to Alexia products. We’ve also hosted a giveaway or two, as well as shared a few recipes featuring goods from Alexia. But let’s get back to this special dinner party. We brainstormed ideas that would highlight several Alexia products in interesting and new ways. And somehow, we landed on beer! We would throw a beer tasting dinner party.

In order to showcase as many Alexia products, and beers, as possible, we opted to serve a five-course meal to a group of our closest friends, pairing each dish with a complementary beer selection. Of course, in true Duo Dishes fashion, this dinner party became larger and larger as we got closer to the date. What first started out as an intimate gathering of four in one of our quaint dining rooms somehow morphed into an elaborate party of 12 in the California mountains of Big Bear during a birthday weekend retreat. We were shacked up in a mountain cabin that boasted a large, fully stocked kitchen.

With local microbreweries regularly opening their doors, we thought it would be a great idea to showcase Southern California beers in the pairing dinner. Chrystal and I, though beer enthusiasts, are not brewing experts. Our friends at Bent Elbow Brews would offer their guidance and expertise with the beer pairings, in addition to supplying brews of their own throughout the weekend.

Weeks of planning, dozens of emails, and several shopping trips later, we were ready to tackle this challenge in pulling off another ambitious culinary feat. When it finally came time to make it all happen, we stationed ourselves in the kitchen, slicing and dicing our way through the afternoon. Like us, we hope you tie on your aprons and prepare yourself for one tipsy excursion.

Spring Salad collage - Duo Dishes

We decided to begin the meal with something light and simple. A fresh salad seemed like a great starter to kick things off. Chrystal suggested turning Alexia’s Whole Grain Rolls into croutons and create a panzanella salad with seasonal veggies and a zesty homemade dressing. We tossed together asparagus, chunks of cucumbers, parsley leaves, and roasted kale to form a sturdy base. Next, thin slices of radishes and scallions entered the mix, adding an extra bite to the salad. A slightly sweet lemon caper vinaigrette wrapped it all together, with the whole grain croutons adding a necessary crunch.

The Original Firemans Brew, which is based here in Los Angeles county, has a Blonde Beer that would pair perfectly with the salad. This golden lager style beer balances light malt flavors with just the right amount of hops for a crsip, clean finish. Refreshingly smooth and lightly sweet, the blonde ale proved to be an excellent start to this culinary adventure.

If you peruse your local Farmer’s Market this time of year, you may stumble upon watermelon radishes. They have a very similar taste to conventional radishes but have a light green outer skin with a bright pinkish interior–not unlike a watermelon, hence the name. We originally aimed to use these special radishes just to mix things up, but these little guys eluded us during our shopping. If you can find them, they make for a colorful swap. Of course, feel free to add in or leave out any veggies of your choice in your own version.

Spring Panzanella Salad - Duo Dishes

Spring Green Panzanella with Lemon Caper Vinaigrette – Serves 8 to 10
Dressing
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
1 1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Pour the capers, lemon zest and juice, mustard and honey into the bowl of a food processor. Blend until combined.

2. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the food processor’s chute and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the dressing into an airtight container and set aside.

Salad
12 ounces Alexia Foods Whole Grain Rolls, baked
1 pound asparagus, blanched and cut into 1″ pieces
1 pound kale leaves, roughly torn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bunch scallions, chopped
8 radishes, thinly sliced
2 Persian cucumbers, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

1. Roughly tear the rolls into medium-sized chunks and spread over a baking sheet. Slide the sheet into a preheated oven at 350 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn the oven up to 400 degrees.

2. Spread the kale leaves over a separate baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper. Toss to coat and slide into the oven. Roast the kale leaves for 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, then remove from the oven.

3. In a large salad bowl, toss the chunks of bread with the warm kale leaves, scallions, radishes, cucumbers and parsley. Drizzle 1/3 of the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine. Serve the salad with the remaining dressing on the side.

Crab Slider collage

After the introductory salad course, we thought a seafood dish of some kind would be an excellent next stop. At first I recommended we make a slider using one of Alexia’s many artisan breads. That’s when Chrystal suggested we revamp one of our old recipes. Awhile back, we created a shrimp and crab cake that we served as a burger with grits fries. It was her brilliant idea to re-purpose that burger recipe into these single-serving sliders. We whipped up a yogurt-based avocado spread and topped the seafood cake with some greens and roasted bell peppers. The soft and fluffy Artisan Ciabatta Rolls would serve as the buns.

When we first made this recipe, we used a seafood seasoning packet that was gifted to us from a friend. That particular spice blend happened to be salt-free. Fresh out of that seasoning package this time around, we used some Old Bay since it was nearby.  If you do use Old Bay in your version, note that it is not salt-free. Do reduce the amount of salt you add to the seafood mixture, as not to over-season the patties.

We paired the slider with a brown ale from L.A.’s Golden Road Brewing called “Get Up Offa That Brown”–yep, that’s the name of the beer. This brew is an English-style brown ale crafted with traces of smoked malts. As the beer sits and warms to room temperature, the smokey flavors become more and more pronounced to the taste buds. That trace of smokiness was highlighted even more by the array of spices dancing around each seafood patty. Though this brown ale boasted a stronger flavor of malts and hops than the first selection, it still provided a refreshing, clean finish with little bitterness and a slight hint of sweetness.

Crab and Shrimp Sliders - Duo Dishes

Shrimp and Crab Sliders with Avocado Spread – Makes 12 sliders
18 ounces Alexia Foods Artisan Ciabatta Rolls, baked and sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted with skin removed then cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, roasted with skin removed then cut into thin strips
4 ounces fresh mixed greens

Shrimp and Crab Patties
1 1/2 cups large shrimp, cleaned, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh crab meat
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/3 cup panko crumbs
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
2 tablespoons seafood seasoning (such as River Road seasoning)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

1. In a large bowl, carefully mix all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs, seafood seasoning and butter. Form into 8 patties and set on a baking sheet. Chill for an hour.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the bread crumbs and seafood seasoning. Once the patties have chilled, cover all sides of the patties with the bread crumb mixture and lay on a separate baking sheet. Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, flipping once.

Avocado Spread
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons mayo
1 serrano chili pepper, deseeded and minced
2 tablespoons scallions, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

In a medium mixing bowl, blend all ingredients until well combined, forming a smooth paste.

Assemble sliders by sandwiching crab patties in Artisan Ciabatta Rolls, topping with mixed greens, roasted bell peppers, and avocado spread.

Tator Casserole collage - Duo Dishes

Our next course features an amber ale from Big Bear Mountain Brewery. The moment I learned Big Bear boasted a brewery of their own I knew we would have to include one of their brews. Their Red Ant Hill Red Amber ended up as the winner. With this selection, we kicked up the malty flavors and “hopiness” just a touch. Smooth with a rich copper color, we thought this very easy and drinkable beer would pair well with our most cheesy, and arguable, heaviest dish, the Potato Puffs and Linguica Casserole.

At this point in the meal, this course became the runaway favorite from the very first bites and sips. Alexia’s seasoned potato puffs melted into a river of creamy Monterey Jack cheese sauce mixed with ever-so-slightly spicy Portuguese linguica sausage. The fennel and leeks added their own savory boost to each forkful. This one is a must-have for any fan of macaroni and cheese, Midwestern party potatoes, or even tater tots. The amber ale was bold enough to shine through the mild Monterey Jack cheese but light enough to let the other strong flavors in the casserole to break out. The beer and cheesy casserole complemented each other better than we could have hoped.

Tator Tot Casserole - Duo Dishes

Potato Puffs and Linguica Casserole – Serves 8
42 ounces Alexia Foods Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large leeks, white and light green part of the stalk, thinly sliced and washed
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
12 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 ounces linguica, sliced
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

1. Spread the potato puffs over the bottom of a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Bake according to package directions. Remove from the oven to cool, but do not take the puffs out of the dish. Reduce the oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a large sauce pan, heat olive oil over a medium high flame. Add the leeks and fennel, coating in the oil. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, stirring as necessary to prevent burning, until the leeks and fennel soften and just begin to brown.

3. Add the butter and flour to the sauce pan, stirring to form a paste. Reduce the heat to medium low and continue stirring for 1-2 minutes.

4. Slowly pour in the milk and cream, increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring all the while, until the mixture just begins to simmer. Stir in the cheese and remove from heat. Season with the salt and pepper.

5. Add the sliced linguica to the potato puffs and toss to incorporate evenly. Pour the cheese sauce on top and spread it over the potatoes and sausage. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

Alexia Quiche collage - Duo Dishes

Alexia’s potato and veggie sautés stood out to us from the moment we read about them. We knew we wanted to create a dish that incorporated one of their varieties. We thought the red potato, portabella, green bean and onion sauté would be the perfect base for a quiche.

Our original idea was to make mini, bite-sized quiches from the sautés. I bought pre-made, frozen phyllo dough shells that would get the job done. Once the cheesy custard base was all mixed together and the Alexia sauté was ready and resting on the stove, Chrystal and I looked over at each other, then looked down to the package of shells waiting on the counter, then back at each other. The perplexed, worried look in her eyes matched precisely what I was thinking: there was no way the custard base would fit in these cute, little shells! With no time to whip up a pie crust, we improvised and decided one large crust-less quiche would have to do. Thankfully, it came together in the end like we planned it that way all along.

This time, we wanted a beer that contrasted with its food pairing more than the previous course may have. With the light, fluffiness of the cooked eggs and the overall simple flavors in the quiche, we chose a brew with more of a punch. The Firemen’s Brew Brunette Beer had just that. It’s a full-bodied German Doublebock crafted with imported hops and chocolate malts for a rich, bold flavor similar to a dark stout in body and taste. Though it does pack a strong punch, this brew leaves a smooth finish, making it an easy-drinking beverage to round out the savory portion of the dinner party.

Alexia Quiche - Duo Dishes

Potato and Veggie Crustless Quiche – Serves 8
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces Alexia Sauté Reds with Portabella Mushrooms, Green Beans & Onions
6 eggs, lightly whisked
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper,thinly sliced
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound smoked fontina cheese, grated
Crème fraiche, for garnish

1. Spread 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a ceramic, round 10-inch pie pan. Set aside.

2. Prepare Alexia Sauté according to package instructions, adding red and yellow bell peppers halfway through the cooking process. Spread sauté evenly around greased pie pan and let cool completely to at least room temperature.

3. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together ingredients and remaining olive oil until well combined. Pour egg mixture over cooled potato sauté and bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges are set and there is a very slight jiggle in the middle. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Top each serving with crème fraiche.

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding collage - The Duo Dishes

We absolutely had to end the whole meal experience on a sweet note! We were also just as emphatic to use Alexia’s Sweet Potato Rolls in our dessert. You may recall we made a savory bread pudding with Italian sausage and spinach last year with these Alexia sweet potato rolls. It was Chrystal who suggested we make a sweet bread pudding this time around. That is when we decided a Bananas Foster Bread Pudding would be over the top in every good way possible.

I have to say, when we both tasted the finished product, you could hear the exclamations from anywhere in the house. The potato puff casserole was the top hit up to that point in the meal, but without a doubt we knocked it out off the field, into the rafters and out of the stadium with this dish! Even Chrystal, who is not a fan of bananas in general, couldn’t stop gushing over how awesome this dish tasted. And we’re happy to report she was not the only one.

The soft sweet potato rolls melded perfectly with the caramelized and fresh bananas. There was nothing heavy or overwhelming about this bread pudding. Each bite filled you up with more satisfaction than the last. Before we could finish pouring the last beers into glasses, only smudges of caramel and a few lone crumbs remained on the serving platter.

The final beer to serve with dessert was definitely the most difficult to narrow down. We didn’t want anything too bold and bitter that would overwhelm at the end of the meal. We also didn’t want a beer too sweet that would numb the taste buds. Our friends at Bent Elbow Brewery saved the day with their own Maple Ale brew. This brown ale was medium-bodied with a clear, crisp finish. The beer simply hinted at a maple flavor with its pleasant aftertaste, with the sweetness of the dessert bringing out the maple notes more and more as the dish was devoured.

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding - Duo Dishes

Mini Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Cream Cheese Caramel – Serves 6
Pudding
10 Alexia Foods Sweet Potato Rolls, baked
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the ramekins
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large bananas, sliced, plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1. Cut each roll into 1″ cubes. Spread the bread out onto a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven for 19-21 minutes at 375 degrees or until they are golden brown and crunchy. Remove from the oven and cool completely.

2. In a medium saute pan, melt the butter and brown sugar until they form a smooth sauce. Add the salt and bananas, tossing lightly to coat in the mixture. Pour in the rum and cook for 3-5 minutes, then remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

3. In a large bowl, whisk the cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add the sweet potato roll cubes and stir well in the custard base. Set aside for 5-7 minutes to allow the bread to soften a bit.

4. Butter six 8-ounce ramekins and place them on a sheet tray. Layer the bottom of each ramekin with the cooked bananas and evenly distribute the caramel between each ramekin. Using a slotted spoon, divide the soaked bread between each vessel then top with the custard base. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the custard sets around the edges and almost completely in the middle. (If the bread begins to brown too much, cover with a large sheet of foil to prevent burning.)

5. As the bread pudding cooks, begin melting the sugar for the caramel in a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan over a medium high flame. Use a heat-resistant spoon to carefully stir the sugar once it begins to turn amber in color and liquify.

6. Once all of the sugar has melted, reduce the heat to low and stir in the butter followed by a slow stream of the cream. Once smooth, add the cream cheese and stir until smooth.

7. Once the bread puddings are done, slide a paring knife along the inside to loosen the edge. Using a towel or small pot holders, invert the ramekins onto a large serving platter or individual plates. Top each one with the warm caramel sauce and extra bananas, if desired.

 

Hopefully, you will try one of our recipes or feel inspired to create your own. It’s not too late to join the Alexia Foods Ambassador Program! Get the latest Alexia news, use points to score rewards and coupons on Alexia goods, and much more. Head to Facebook to get started.

Disclaimer: We are part of the Alexia Foods Tastemaker Program and received samples and compensation for participation. Fireman’s Brew provided samples as well. All opinions given are our own.

Click HERE for printable recipes.

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Comments

5 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. I’m a sucker for desserts, so naturally I have my eye on the luscious bread pudding :D

    Reply

  2. What an inventive meal!! Crisp, Refreshing, Decadent, Creamy … The Duo covered it all, Beautifully! For not being much of a beer drinker, I found myself wanting to try each tasting along with each course. You’ve done Alexia Proud!!!

    Reply

  3. You guys outdid yourselves! I think the sliders are my favorite dish and pairing but this menu was above and beyond, in my book.

    Reply

  4. PS: I prefer complimentary beer ha ha ha ha :) but in this case both apply.

    Reply

  5. those sliders! don’t do shellfish, but yes, those look good!!! and the salad? If ONLY I could get into leafy stuff. :/ You two always do the most! :)

    Reply

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