Friday, February 27, 2009

The Mad Scientist

Dr. Frankenstein’s got nothing on me.

Let me explain. A good friend of mine hosts an annual beer tasting in Hells Kitchen, and since the first one, his offering has grown in both size and sophistication. As such, I felt it was only appropriate that the dishes brought by someone who has made the 1 year mark in writing about life through food should follow suit.

So I sat and brainstormed, evaluating exactly what foods would both pair well and appeal to the masses. Of course I started with the timeless rule of “if it grows together, it goes together”, and looked at the selections of beer. Most were Belgian, as any beer aficionado would expect of a high brow tasting. My thoughts naturally ran to the grassy hop filled lands north of France and west of Germany. Images of waffles, pirogi, and all types of savory wursts danced in my head as I contemplated how to compliment these exquisite beers with a stellar dish. But none of them really moved me. I mean, who really wants to make their own sausages? Whatever this dish was going to be, it had to be filling, delicious, and heavy enough to soak up all the booze that we were sure to imbibe.

I brainstormed….I researched…I drank some beer for inspiration…and eventually, I passed out watching Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Somewhere between Aqua Teen Hunger Force and my innovative subconscious, the idea came to me – Macaroni and Beer Cheese. Eureka! But how would I make this concept into a mouth watering reality? How could I possibly infuse cheese with the tangy and complex overtones of beer without losing the wondrous creamy gooey experience we all know and love? What beer would I use? What recipe for macaroni and cheese? Hell, what cheese?! The internal debate went on like this for about 2 days. Finally, I decided if I was going to learn anything about making this recipe, I had to experiment. And so, much like the good doctor of folklore, I too set out to wield the ultimate power and give life to an inanimate creation.

The Beers
Three Philosophers – a blend of malty ale and cherry lambic with overtones of chocolate and nuttiness
Chimay White – probably the most recognizable Trappist beer, with a velvety body and hints of floral and sweet fruit
Arrogant Bastard – a strong IPA that goes great with BBQ because of the hop’s ability to cut through spice and grease to deliver flavor to your palette (always in stock in the UE’s fridge, just for the name alone)

The Cheese
Hoch Ybrig – a nuttier hard cheese, with a more bitter finish
Prima Donna – a gouda-like hard cheese that has a great creamy taste with a slight tangy finish
Fontina – everyone’s favorite creamy soft cheese

With the help of my own personal Igor, we set upon coordinating flavors of beer with flavors of cheese, testing out which combinations made the most sense. And just to add another layer of complexity, we debated using a roux base (which is mostly milk and a small bit of flour), or a béchamel cream base (mostly butter and cream). We began by tasting the beers and the cheeses, getting a sense for their individual flavor characteristics. Then we tasted them as a pair, and came up with the below grid:

Now the fun part!

We grated cheese. We boiled Macaroni. For the roux, we warmed milk in a pan. Added some butter. Mixed in the flour. BEER! A little cheese. Poured the macaroni into the pan, stirred, and placed the mixture over the rest of the cheese in the test container. And did it again, and again, and again, and again. Even threw some pancetta in one of the mixes to even out some of the bitterness from the cheese and beer. (As a side note, it is now my belief that pork is the duct tape of the culinary world – if it tastes weird or bland, add some bacon of some sort and voila! Instant delicious)

As I stepped back to watch the process, I noticed big grins on both of us. We were playing God to the macaroni world, bringing life to what was a mere concept, living out our thesis out in the microcosm of the test kitchen. I felt drunk with the power of creation, knowing that at any time I could take away the life given to these recipes with a fell swoop to the trash. The power of life giving was almost maddening, and after a short time of baking, our many Frankensteins were alive! Live you delicious aberrations of life, LIVE!!!!

Wouldn’t you love to taste the results?

-The Mad Epicurean


wild cowgirl said...

so clever.

wild cowgirl said...

so clever.

womack said...

this is the best story about mac & cheese i've ever read.

viridiansun said...

I kept thinking..."but won't it ferment or something?" But I guess cheese is pre-curdled. Shout out to Igor!