Take that, polar vortex

January 25, 2014

This would be the second time I’ve written this post. The first time, I did…something….and it went away. I am not certain I can be brilliant (or even readable) twice in a row on the same topic, but…here goes.

Warmth in a bowl.

Warmth in a bowl.

It’s cold. It’s freaking-aye bone chilling, finger aching cold.

How cold is it? Cold enough that if you have brass monkeys outside, you’d best bring them in. Colder than various portions of a well-digger or witch’s anatomy. Cold enough that I just want to wrap up in a blanket on the couch and whimper.

Cold enough that the only when coats and blankets and gloves aren’t enough, it’s time to battle the elements with something that warms you from the inside out. Like carbonnades a la flamande. With hot mulled cider or Irish coffee.

I woke up cold, with the ick, yesterday morning. And being that it had been frigid most of the week, I had been jonesing for some carbonnades a la flamande, one of the best things you can do with a chuck roast. So I braved the frigid walk to the storage room to fetch a chuck roast out of the freezer.

Then I took a nap, which turned into a longer nap that I planned, which meant dinner wasn’t done until almost 8 last night. But that was OK. When I woke up, I dashed out to the liquor store and got beer, came back by the grocery and got cream cheese and the stuff for Irish coffee, and then commenced to fight the chill.

When you're browning the meat -- BROWN it. Deep, dark sear.

When you’re browning the meat — BROWN it. Deep, dark sear.

I whacked the roast up into cubes about 1 x 1 x 2, salted and peppered them generously, and browned them in the skillet. While they were browning, I sliced up four onions, and once the beef was brown, lightly caramelized them (enough to get all the good brown stuff from the beef off the bottom of the skillet). All that went into the Dutch oven with some rosemary and a bottle of Green Flash Double Stout.

I cannot impress too much on you how important it is to use Green Flash Double Stout in this recipe. Any dark beer will do, but it’s just So Much Better with Green Flash, which adds a note of richness and smoothness that others lack. Although I used Newcastle for years, and that wasn’t half bad, either, it’s worth finding the Green Flash.

See that gorgeous marbling in that meat? That's what's going to make the dish like liquid velvet.

See that gorgeous marbling in that meat? That’s what’s going to make the dish like liquid velvet.

The whole thing went into a 300-degree oven, where it reposed for four hours. It needs to go at least four hours, can go six, in order for all the collagen in the meat to melt and give it that velvety texture.

After that, it’s back to the stove top on medium heat, for the addition of a nice glop of spicy brown mustard (maybe two tablespoons) and a scant tablespoon of brown sugar. Dip out a half-cup of the liquid and stir in a tablespoon of cornstarch, and add that back in, then let it go for another 30-40 mintes on medium low.

That gives  you time to make the grits for it to go over. Quick grits per the recipe on the box, using milk for the liquid, instead of water. At the end, add four ounces of low-fat cream cheese and a tablespoon of butter for four servings of grits. The traditional service is over wide egg noodles, but for us gluten-free peeps, I’ve settled on grits. You can also use rice, or mashed potatoes, or good crusty French bread; any starch just cuddles up and gets warm and happy with this stuff.

But to really make things warm and fuzzy, you want to chase that stuff with a hot drink that’s got a bit of a kick to it. (Not too much of a kick, because then things get too fuzzy, but you get my drift.) I bounce back and forth between hot mulled cider and Irish coffee for this one.

Hot mulled cider, with thanks to Rose Schweikhart Cranson from Superior Brewery and Distillery, calls for a bottle of hard cider (I like Angry Orchard, but Woodchuck and Hornsby’s work just fine, too), heated with an ounce of bourbon and a half-ounce of Triple Sec. Once it’s good and hot, almost boiling, pull it off the heat and add a dash of bitters and a cinnamon stick. Yum!

My Irish coffee is a recipe that’s evolved over the years as I’ve added stuff to it. I start with about 6 ounces of decaf coffee or espresso (decaf because if I drink regular coffee after dinner, I’ll never go to sleep). Add an ounce of Jameson’s Irish whiskey, or any Irish whiskey that trips your trigger, and an ounce of Bailey’s Irish Cream. The finishing touch is a teaspoon of cocoa or grated semi-sweet chocolate, or even hot chocolate mix. NO marshmallows; we’ll have no frou-frou coffee, here.

Fair warning. If it’s as cold as it’s been lately, and you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come over and have enough mulled cider or Irish coffee to get warm, you’ll likely have to spend the night. Lucy says you can have her couch.

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