Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding

I decided to get a little decadently rustic tonight . . . my first full day at home in weeks – and time to prep!  Chocolate Stout Grain-Stuffed Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms.

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Roasted Game Hen on Ale Rice Pudding

Okay, so I did this at the beginning of June and never finished the post…just found the unfinished draft (thought it was up weeks ago!)…guess it’s time to finish it up!

As this was a bit of an experiment (and just serving myself), I stuck to a single bird.  Start with thawing and unwrapping your Cornish game hen (really, just a small chicken).  Rinse it thoroughly, inside and out.  Check for giblets (not usually included in a game hen, but often held in plastic if they are there).

Soak the bird in a beer brine for 2-3hrs, tossing or rebasting regularly.  Use 12-16oz brown ale, 2-4 Tbsp malt vinegar, and a few whole cloves and peppercorns with some bay leaves.

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Brined Hen in Roast Pan

Season inside and out with salt and pepper (I also used some bay leaf, paprika and a small amount of granulated garlic and onion powder).

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Seasoned Stuffed Game Hen

Pin or sew the neck opening shut, upend, and stuff with dried spent grains (I used grains from my Black Imp Quintipple Chocolate Stout).  Pin opening shut (don’t sew this one just yet) and set aside to let rinse water and meat juices start soaking into the grain while the rest is prepped.

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

Game Hen Stuffed with Spent Grains

I used Basmati rice for this recipe, as it has a nice light, neutral flavor and does not get super-sticky…wild or long-grain domestic rice works quite well too (although more hard and will make more of a rice-side than a rice pudding texture).  Try to avoid super-soft or super-sticky rices, like jasmine…also try to avoid strongly-flavoured ones, such as domestic brown rice (we’ll be adding more than enough flavor).

Measure your rice by pouring it dry into the bottom of your roast pan until 1/4″-3/8″ deep (which will end up coming close to halfway up the side of the bird, when all is said and done).  Mix in some light seasoning, maybe 1-2 tsp.  I used whole black peppercorns, a pinch of Herbes de Provence (a French blend of green herbs mixed with lavender), and a small amount of crushed coriander.  Avoid adding salts to the rice at this point – salt will make the rice “skin up” in the hot liquid and make a harder rice than we want (some salt will come off of the bird, anyway).  I also added 1 Tbsp of brown sugar.  Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.

Add in 1 can of sliced carrots, perhaps cut in half if large.  I know, I know, canned carrots don’t taste nearly as good as fresh ones (and are missing most of the nutrients), but for soups and quick-bakes, I don’t have the patience to blanch/parboil them ahead.  The canned ones give that nice carrot sweetness and a nice soft texture.  This is primarily a soft-textured dish, so I really didn’t want anything too crunchy involved.  Add 1 can sliced mushrooms or 1/2-3/4c sliced fresh mushrooms.  Throw in a handful or two of dried cranberries for some bits of zip (again, if they are large, you may want to cut them down a bit).  Mince up a fresh garlic clove or two and stir it all together thoroughly with 1-2 Tbsp heavy cream.

Adding Beer Brine

Adding Beer Brine

The first time I made this, I had placed the bird, poured the brine and more beer over it, then added the rice mix back in.  While it worked, I tried it differently the next time and it worked much better.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo the second time around.

Push the rice mix into a mound in the center of the baking pan.  Here’s the fun part.  Hold your game hen neck-down over the mound and gently open the stuffing-flap.  Slowly pour the beer brine into the ass end of the chicken so that is flows through the spent grains, drains out the neck hole, and pours down onto the center of the rice mound.  This can take a few minutes, depending on how tightly you packed the grain and how sealed the neck hole is – the slower it goes (as long as it DOES go), the more flavour you will get from it.

When the dripping has (mostly) stopped, set the bird down and sew the buttflap shut.  Push the rice mixture to the edges of the pan and nestle the bird into the center.  Push the rice mix back down to form a fairly level layer all the way around the bird, covering the entire pan bottom that is not in contact with the chicken.  The liquid level should be about halfway up to the level of the top of the rice.  Remember that more liquid will drain from the bird and carrots, while some will be soaked up by the grain and cranberries.  Accounting for this, add a little beer or water if you’re concerned it’s too dry (but remember that if it’s too wet, your rice will be a soggy mess…and if it’s too dry, it’ll burn).

Cover the pan and roast at 375*F for 45 minutes.  Pull the pan out and uncover.  Brush a little melted butter or olive oil over the bird.  Sprinkle on a little smoked paprika or dark chili powder.  Visually inspect the rice.  If it looks like it needs it, lightly fluff with a fork (VERY lightly) and/or add a little water.  (If it looks too wet, there’s not much you can do to fix it, so start thinking about another quick side dish.)

Return to oven uncovered for another 15 minutes (until skin is crisping, juices run clear, and the thickest part of the meat measures at least 165*F).

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Game Hen Nicely Crisped

Remove from oven.  Lift bird from the rice and set on large cutting board.  Unpin/unsew neck and butt.  Scrape out the spent grains and toss away (we want the flavours and scents, not the crunchies).  Using large chef’s knife or cleaver, Cut bird in half down the breastbone and spine.

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

Game Hen Split with Grains Removed

With a large fork, lightly toss the rice mixture to break it up and separate it from the bottom (there will generally be a little burned down that you don’t want to mix in).

Place half game hen onto each plate.  Spoon rice pudding on the side.  Drizzle edges of plate with Sriracha.  Accompany with a small dish of Pub Pickles.  Serves 2.

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Cornish Game Hen on Brown Ale Rice Pudding with Carrots, Cranberries, and Mushrooms

Complimentary Pairings:  We need rich, malty ales to enhance earthy root vegetable notes – everything in this dish lives within +/- 8-10 inches of the soil line and we want our compliment to bring out the full, rich darkness of the soil itself and the warmth of the sunshine.  I would serve with an English brown, Vienna/Märzen, Belgian dubbel, Roggenbier/Rauchbier, Scottish ale, or sweet/oatmeal/imperial stout to bring up the caramelly/melanoidin, chocolatey, and roasty/smoky notes, all of which have fairly low carbonation levels to allow the flavours of the beer and the dish to mingle freely.  Be careful of going too far into the same flavour spectrum.  An English mild, alt, or bock would just get lost next to the dish.  A full-on Scotch ale would be sickeningly sweet and cloying after a few bites/sips.  A dry stout or schwarzbier would seem sharp and acrid/astringent next to the umami-heavy flavours and oils in the dish.

Contrasting pairings:  To contrast flavours, we need crisp, light ales/lagers to offset the dark, earthy notes with brightness and palate-scrubbing carbonation to reset the palate.  I would serve with a not-too-hoppy pale ale, Kölsch, Berlinerweisse without syrup, or a Bohemian pilsner.  A Belgian golden strong could be interesting, but the carbonation of a tripel would be more appropriate.  A bready ESB or a malty Belgian singel or English pale ale would not have the right crispness to offset the flavour profile, but too much hoppiness could make for an unpleasant pairing.

Complex Pairings:  This dish could be enhanced by pairing with:  earthy funkiness to let the root veg flavours shine; enhancing spice, roast, or toffee to boost the seasonings; sweet/tart/sour notes to balance the very umami-heavy flavour profile; and some nice carbonation to reset the palate.  I think any of the following pairings would give an attentive diner/imbiber plenty to ponder and experience:  saison/biere de garde (enhancing spice, contrasting citrus, high carbonation), Flanders red (enhancing berry and oak, contrasting sour, low carb but acidity serves similar purpose resetting the palate), gueuze/lambic (earthy funk of course, sour/tart brightness, high carb+acid), barleywines/old ales (each is so uniquely complex….).  The flavours of a dunkelweizen could certainly take the entire dish in a new direction.  I think an oud bruin or weizenbock would run afoul of the same “getting lost” problem of the mild and alt to properly stand out.

Seasonal Pairings:  This would make an excellent dish at any time of year, however, root vegetable flavours are most reminiscent of autumn and winter cooking.  This would pair beautifully for Thanksgiving with any of the autumn seasonal beers such as harvest ales, pumpkin ales, and oktoberfests (avoid the fresh-hop IPAs/IPLs, though) and a side of cranberry sauce instead of the pickles.  Christmas ales provide a rich, dark maltiness and loads of spices and preserved-fruit flavours, which would certainly suit a Christmas dinner (as would a Belgian dark ale).  Likewise, later in the season, the maltiness and spices of winter ales would suit as wonderful pairings without the decadence of the fruits from the Christmas beers.

I hope you enjoy (I certainly did!)

Let me know what you think – if you give it a go yourself, send me tasting notes and a pic of how it came out!


Homebrewing a New eIPA

Finally found time for another brew day at home!  I have a nzIPA ready to bottle and need to recycle the yeast for today’s batch (more on that later).  Continuing one of my experiment series, today I am brewing another full-flavor, light-bodied India Pale Ale.  Today’s IPA is focused on earthy English IPA flavours.

The grain bill includes a majority of Maris Otter malt for full English flavour.  There is a bit of domestic 2-Row too keep it from being too rich (remember I’m shooting for a light-bodied beer).  A small portion of Crystal 60 to round out the flavours and scents while enhancing the viscosity and some White Wheat Malt to add a balancing tang and aid the head rounds out the grain bill.  To ensure a drier, more complete fermentation, the entire grain bill is reduced slightly and replaced with a portion of post-boil dextrose.

The grains sat through a long lower-temp mash before a combined vorlauf/mashout.  The tun was drained onto Fuggles first wort hops for 6 gallons of 1.038 first runnings.  Another 4 gallons were added as a batch sparge and drained for 1.018 second runnings.  Pre-boil collections came to nearly 11 gallons at 1.034.  Roughly 8.5 gallons was left in my 10gal kettle (that spans 2 burners on my natural gas range) and the remainder of the second runnings was reserved in my 5gal side kettle.  During the boil, all additions were made to the larger kettle, as the smaller one was left to caramelize a bit with only the FWH floating around (and later, a small bit of whirlfloc).

A fistful of Fuggles and Columbus went in at the start of the boil for bittering, followed up by some Hallertau Tradition (with the whirlfloc) at the 20 minute mark for some noble flavor.  I inserted the immersion chiller some time between the 10 and 15 minute marks to sterilize in the boil.  Yeast nutrients, dextrose, and more Fuggles dropped at the 5 minute aroma mark . . . followed by a bit more Fuggles right after flameout (just to be sure – LOL).

At flameout, both of my kettles had reduced in volume due to boiloff evaporation and I was able to combine them into the larger kettle, leaving me with slightly under 9 gallons of wort.  Before combining, the larger kettle (with the sugar addition) was at 1.051, while the smaller caramelizing kettle (that is pure second-runnings) had concentrated to 1.032.

My 50′ immersion chiller is running now and a final OG reading will be taken after whirlpooling and separation to fermentors.  Now, off to get some bottles filled and wash some yeast real quick!  Have a good night, y’all!

Quick Lunch: Chicken IPA Salad

I’ve been pretty busy for the last few weeks (hence my recent lack of posts) and my home larder is starting to get a little low.  I suppose that’ll happen when it’s been nearly a month since I did a grocery shop.

As I’m pondering between the merits of the reasonably empty, but instant, gratification of oatmeal or pasta weighed against the time delay of thawing some meat for something more substantial, I spotted a can of chunk chicken in the cabinet.  Far from a favorite, probably loaded with unpleasant things if I dared to read the label, but a handy staple in moments such as these.  On the next shelf sits a box with a few sleeves of saltine-type crackers.  Jackpot!  Quick, easy, and filling…if somewhat flavorless.

Out came some so-so pickles (won’t be buying that brand again, but they’re edible) and sweet onion….to season, to season……  Eureka!  HOPS!  Here is what I came up with, and it’s pretty darn tasty, even if I am saying so myself.

Hopped Chicken Salad

Chicken IPA Salad before Mayonnaise

RECIPE:  Chicken IPA Salad

  • 10oz drained shredded chicken (I used 1 can)
  • equal amount diced sweet onion (1/3-1/2 an onion)
  • equal amount diced sweet pickles
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1/8-1/2 tsp ground pellet hops (I used Galaxy)
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 1/4c blue cheese salad dressing
  • 1/2-2c mayonnaise

Drain and shred chicken with a fork in large bowl.  Add pickles and onions to form a mix of equal parts by volume.  Add all spices, sugar, and hops, with an extremely light sprinkle of salt.  Toss thoroughly and allow to rest for ten minutes.  This will let the salt and sugar start to dissolve, which will release the juices from the ingredients to rehydrate the parsley and hops.  Stir in blue cheese and 1/2c mayonnaise.  The hops will accentuate the pepper, garlic, and especially the salt.  Let rest for two minutes before stirring and tasting.  Adjust salt, pepper, garlic, and sugar to taste.  Add more mayonnaise until desired consistency/flavour is reached.

Serve on the cheap with plain crackers, or dress up in a sandwich with lettuce and tomato slices on toasted spent-grain sourdough bread.  Serves 2-4.

The parsley and leafy/grassy notes of the hops serve to enhance one another, as the spices bring forth the spicier notes from the hops.  The rich umami notes from the garlic, chicken, and crackers/bread create an impression of bready hearth warmness.  I am quite pleased, as the overall effect is of a chicken-based IPA with the cracker/chicken standing in for base malts, brown sugar for caramel malts, garlic/onion for slight meaty yeast notes (and the blue cheese/mayo for a light tanginess), and of course the parsley/hop flavors cutting over the top with a complex pickle/vidalia sweetness layering into the garlicy hop-bitter dryness.

Pair with an IPA and you’re rockin’!

Brewery Intern: Day 08 (Smoother Runnings)

Today’s brew day proved much smoother (and much shorter) than last week’s for a number of reasons.  Rather than doing a partigyle brew to produce two different beers in half batches, today we were doing a single full-size brew.  It also helped that the kettle burner decided to be cooperative today.

The plan was to re-brew the Milly’s Oatmeal Stout to replace the batch we had drained from the fermentor the day before (which was now serving on tap, replacing the batch that had kicked just a few days before).  This stout is one of the eight flagship beers that will be promoted through the Stark Mills distribution agreement – and will even have its own custom tap handle (we are supposed to see a prototype tomorrow)!

We arrived and got the warm water in the kettle from last night heating up again and positioned our pumps and hoses.  While waiting for the grain delivery truck (actually, our biggest delay of the day), we took apart and cleaned the fittings on a few corny kegs and tested the fittings.  Once the truck arrived, we brought two pallet-loads of grain sacks in by hand, checked them in, and separated the ones that we needed for today.

Once the grain was set, we started moving quickly, getting the mash tun heating up with hot water through the hydrator.  I dropped the grain augur to the floor after the specialty grains were measured out.  Karen and I switched positions this time and she dumped the grain sacks into the augur with Bryan’s help while I stirred the mash and talked with Craig.  That is, until we got through the barleys and the oats started to come up the augur . . . and quickly jam it.  Yee-haw!  The rest of the oats were hauled up to the top and dumped in directly while I stirred.  Then (after disconnecting the power) I unclogged the augur with a screwdriver.  A four-inch diameter pipe was clogged with nearly a foot-long mass of flaked oats compressed into a near-solid cork.  By the time I was done, I had filled nearly half of a brew bucket with oats to stir in.

Milly's Oatmeal Stout in the Boil Kettle

Milly’s Oatmeal Stout in the Boil Kettle

The lovely roasty dark mash settled nicely, recirculated nicely, and (other than a brief near-stick during sparging) lautered evenly until our brew kettle was filled.  We drained off a bunch of the remaining sweet wort to play with while the kettle finished heating up to a boil.  We all had half a glass or more of the syrupy roasty chocolatey malt candy goodness.  I mixed up a chocolate Malt Cola that I passed around. We passed a pitcher off to the kitchen to have fun with – with Bryan reporting hearing the word “marinade” being muttered before he exited the kitchen.

RECIPE: Malt Cola

30-60% sweet wort (bolder British malt flavors work best)
40-70% cola soda (the more citric Coke works better than Pepsi)

Add cooled wort to soda and gently stir before adding ice. Adjust blend to taste.  I like it best with a bit more soda than wort.

Dark roasty worts such as stouts and porters make it more of a chocolate cola, while worts from bitters/milds/browns will be more of a caramel cola. More caramelly worts would also be appropriate blended with a traditional root/birch/ginger beer.

Raking the Spent Grain out the Manway

Raking the Spent Grain out the Manway

I measured out the 75 and 60 minute hop additions, and we got to raking out the now-drained mash tun.  The spent grain was loosened from above with the oar and pulled out of the manway with a heavy-duty garden hoe to fall into plastic 55-gallon drums and trash cans.  The grains were packed down in each bucket to compress them as much as possible.  As each bucket was filled to within inches of the brim, it was loaded on a hand cart and wheeled through the twisting path of ramps and tight corners through the function room, kitchen, and back of the house areas to exit at the back door near the dumpsters.  As the buckets began to pile up, a call was placed to our regular farmer to come collect it for feed for his farm critters.  There is so much heat stored in this amount of grain that even at the below-freezing temperatures that we’ve had lately, it will take days to cool off enough to start to sour.  (We filled about 9 of these big barrels with the heavy, wet, spent grain – which had weighed close to 1,100 pounds while dry before the mash . . . I hope I don’t need to break out the thermodynamics equations for you to get the idea that there’s a LOT of hot mass in each of them.)

I measured out the next additions of hops and put the boxes away before climbing through the top hatch into the mash tun with a bucket, a green scrubby, and the garden hose.  I sort of lost track of time for a while, drenched with sweat and water spray, not able to hear much of anything outside except when I occasionally stuck my head out of the top.  Eventually, I got the four panels of the false bottom turned up and everything inside the tun sparkling and shiny and clambered out with surprising ease.

Top Hatch of Mash Tun

Top Hatch of Mash Tun

Once on the floor, I could see that the others had finished up carting out the spent grain and had gotten the yeast from the Grundy Room to warm up for pitching.  I measured out the Irish Moss and Bryan dumped it in the kettle, along with a couple of gallons of older yeast that we weren’t going to pitch to act as a nutrient.  The final hops went in a bit later and we started the whirlpool.  After the whirlpool was allowed to rest, we started draining into the fermentor.  I opened the manway hatch on the FV and popped the lids off of the two corny kegs of yeast we were to pitch.  The yeast that we had pulled the day before proved much more frothy than we had thought – after overnight settling, the kegs were only half full.  While I was working the yeast loose and dumping it through the hatch, a third keg was retrieved and depressurized to find similar settling.  The third keg also went in before the hatch was sealed up and the blowoff hose was rigged to the top port.

As the kettle drained, we could see that unlike the brew day last week, this brew had formed a nice, solid cone of trub.  Actually, once we had filled the fermenter, drained some to a bucket for gravity readings, and let the rest down the drain, the pile of hops and break was very solid.  It took quite a bit of force to blast it away, layer by layer, with the jet blast from the cleaning hose.  Bryan climbed in this one for the cleaning while we took apart and cleaned the yeast kegs.

Cone of Trub from Whirlpooling

Cone of Trub from Whirlpooling

After everything was cleaned up, we checked on the status of kegs with the bar, replaced the root beer keg, and were done with our brew day.  When possible, we try to have the brewers stay at least through the end of the happy hour.  The staff likes us to be on hand to swap kegs and taps . . . and the management likes us around to answer questions and give brewery tours.  So, dutifully performing my role, I had a pints of the oatmeal stout that we transferred yesterday (decidedly less over-roasted and much more balanced than the previous batch) and mingled amongst the patrons before heading home.

Tomorrow is the Certified Cicerone Exam, time to do some last-minute studying!