Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"The Brewpub Cookbook - Favorite Recipes from Great Brewpub Kitchens" - Wheat Beer Potato Soup

Date I made this recipe:  April 5, 2014

The Brewpub Cookbook – Favorite Recipes from Great Brewpub Kitchens by Daria Labinsky & Stan Hieronymus
Published by:  Time Life Books
ISBN:  0-7835-4906-7
Purchased at Goodwill
Recipe:  Wheat Beer Potato Soup from Hops! Bistro & Brewery, Scottsdale, AZ – p. 58

Some cookbooks I buy have limited shelf lives; this is one of them.  I was putting some new acquisitions aside the other day, thought about it for a second and pulled this one out of the pack.  The hilarious thing is that I don't like beer but my husband does and since we were both in the mood for something lighter (although ha! – heavy cream and beer is not a "lighter") as opposed to this "Beef, it's what's for dinner" campaign we've been on as of late.   Good call.

And speaking of "calls," quite by accident, I made this soup on Saturday night, the night where the NCAA's Final Four fought it ought to advance to the finals.  The entire tournament has been rife with interesting "calls" by the game's referees.  Many a game came down to that one, last (disputed) call by an official and in a blink of an eye, one team went home crushed while the other advanced to the next level.

So on Saturday night, the second Final Four game pitted the University of Wisconsin against the Kentucky Wildcats.  Although Kentucky trailed by eight in the first half, they came roaring back several times over to finally win it by 1 point.  I was not a happy camper:  since both my Michigan teams lost their rounds, I was pulling for Wisconsin but as usual, I backed the team going home. 

Sad to say, this soup might have had something to do with it.  The recipe called for two things that are practically Wisconsin "national" ingredients:  shredded cheddar cheese (as a topping) and hefeweiss (Hefeweizen) beer.  Hefeweiss beer is a German beer and you'd be hard pressed to find someone in Wisconsin who doesn't have a drop or two...or a million...of German blood in them.  In fact, just like Minnesota is home to Swedes and Norwegians "fleeing" the home country, Wisconsin is home to displaced Germans.  Back in the day when my coworkers and I traveled to Milwaukee on business, we saved up all of our per diem money to have dinner at either Mader's or Karl Ratzch's, Milwaukee's high-end German restaurants and it was a treat.  Of course, on our off days, we'd have beer and brats, sometimes while attending Milwaukee Brewers games, courtesy of some of our clients.  And then there's the beer and brats (and cheese) at Packers games.  Ah....

Anyway, in my St. Patrick's Day blog, I mentioned a few things that I know about beer:  there is the awful (PBR, Schlitz, Blatz, etc.) and the sublime (dark beers like Guinness).  This concludes all I know about beer.  And so my trip to the liquor store was somewhat hilarious in that first I had to figure out what a hefeweiss was and then I had to find one that suited this recipe.  And so to Total Wine in Roseville we went! (Don't be fooled by the name as they carry more than wine – a lot more!)

This store, newly opened, is gigantic.  Their beer selections (plural) take up a huge wall.  So I asked one of the employees to point me in the direction of the hefeweiss and then grilled him like a cheese sandwich to learn what it was and what it would taste like in my recipe:  "Is it skanky, like Pabst or Budweiser?"  I was assured it was not.  "Well, is it sweet or is it a bit bitter?"  "Well, it's a wheat beer so...."  " it's not sweet?"

And so on. Let's just say it took us a while to speak the same (beer) language.  (By the way, my husband was way down the aisle, checking out the dark beers.)  What I learned was that hefeweiss is a German beer, made from wheat (as opposed to "barley pop" that is Pabst, etc.) and that it should add a nice flavor to the soup.  Okay, works for me!

So I set off to make this soup and it's pretty easy:  boil the vegetables in chicken broth, blend well in a blender, add cream, add beer and there you go.  But oh, the things you learn while making it.  First, I didn't want my soup blended to the degree it was.  I like a chunkier potato soup so I should have skipped the blender all together.  Second, I was not expecting the beer to foam so much.  And this sounds stupid, I know, but all of a sudden, my already-full pot was in danger of overflowing and all that precious wheat beer would be gone.  Horrors!  And you should know it took quite a long time for that foam to dissipate.

Third, and this was odd, the minute I added the beer, it was if all the bubbles ate away at my potato mixture because it all turned to liquid in two seconds flat!  I really should consult a food scientist about this but a liquid soup was not what I was after.  At least it tasted great so we have that as a consolation, especially since Wisconsin lost.  ;(

As to this cookbook, it's a compact little book, 140 pages in all, showcasing recipes that contain beer and those that don't.  I know this is a silly comment, but I would have preferred if all the recipes from brewpubs contained beer.  Thankfully though, the recipe for homemade whipped cream was beer-free because otherwise – ew!  Since Andy and I wanted something on the lighter side, we bypassed all the ribs and roasts cooked in a beer bath and focused on soups.  Still, I'm kind of wishing I would have made the Stout Cheesecake!

Finally, a word of caution for those of you who may want to use this cookbook as a guide to visiting brewpubs:  this book was written in 1997 and at that time, only one restaurant was included for Minnesota – Mill Street Brewing Company, St. Paul, MN.  A quick Google search revealed that the formal name is Green Mill Mill Street Brewing Company – 57 S. Hamline Ave, St. Paul, MN.  That restaurant however, does not show up on a Google search for "Minnesota Brewpubs."  So there's that.  Happily, the list of brewpubs is growing (and growing) making for some fun dining and drinking (and brewing) experiences.  Huzzah!

Wheat Beer (Hefeweizen) Potato Soup – yield:  8-10 servings
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced large
½ pound onion, diced
½ pound carrots, diced
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups hefeweiss
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish:  croutons, shredded cheddar cheese

Boil potatoes, onions, and carrots in chicken stock until soft.  Blend well in a blender.  Reheat mixture, and add cream.  Add beer and salt and pepper to taste.  It is not necessary to strain.  Author's Note:  Wheat beer will get bitter if exposed to a high amount of heat and cooked.  In other words, add the beer and serve it up!

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