Express Your Inner Viking!

Cooking with Beer by | Apr 2008 | Issue #15

Scandinavian brewers such as Nørrebro Bryghus, Mikkeller, Nøgne Ø, Ølfabrikken and Haandbryggeriet, are finding inspiration in everyday American beer styles by adding a new level of sophistication that surprises the palate with each sip. These brewers are using premium products, classic styles and intense know-how to redefine how we see craft brewers’ perfectionism in the industry. In a reciprocal fashion, these elixirs have inspired a new interpretation of gastronomic delights to the Old World cuisine of the Vikings.

Wild Salmon Gravlaks
Using Dry Malt Extract and a citrusy IPA will transform these Scandinavian lox into a brewer’s treat.

Makes: 1 fillet of lox

1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp caraway seeds
8 each juniper berries
3 tbsp fresh dill, stems removed
1/4 cup brown soft candi sugar
1/4 cup dry malt extract (DME)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 each wild salmon fillet, pinbones removed, skin on (about 2 1/2–3 lb.)
1/2 cup Mikkeller Stateside IPA

Pull two sheets of plastic wrap out, double the length of the fillet and lay them flat on top of each other on a countertop. In an empty sauté pan over low heat, add the peppercorns, caraway and juniper berries. Toast the spices for about 3-4 minutes, until you start to smell them and they start to pop, stirring often to help release the aromatic oils. Remove from heat and let cool. Using a mortar and pestle, crack the spices to further release their oils (the side of a chef knife or the bottom of a sauté pan can also be used). Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the candi sugar, DME, sugar and salt. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the plastic wrap, in a space about the same size as the fillet. Rinse the fresh fillet under cold water and dry well. Place on top of the salt/sugar mixture, skin side down. Sprinkle the toasted spices over the top evenly. Next, arrange the dill in an even layer over the fillet. Cover the fillet with the remaining salt/sugar blend evenly. Pour the IPA down the center of the fillet to distribute the beer over the fish. Fold the plastic wrap over the fish, sealing the fillet tightly. Wrap this bundle one more time in the second sheet of plastic wrap, so it won’t leak. Place the fillet in a flat container large enough to hold the fish in a single layer. Place a brick (wrapped in plastic wrap), a small cutting board or a wooden plank over the fillet. Weight it down with anything from canned foods to a box of salt. You need about three pounds, evenly distributed, to help squeeze out the liquid in the fish in order to speed up the curing process. Place the container in the refrigerator for 36-48 hours (depending on the thickness of the fillet). Flip the filet over every 12 hours to redistribute the weight. The gravlaks are done when the fish is firm and no longer feels raw.

Remove the plastic wrap and rinse the fillet under cold water to remove the salt/sugar and spices. Dry the fish thoroughly with a paper towel and wrap it in parchment paper. Gravlaks can last refrigerated for up to three weeks. With this curing method, the product does not require any heat to cook or smoke to preserve it, but is ready to eat as is.

To serve, use a very sharp knife to thinly slice the fish. Cut from the tail end of the fillet with your knife-edge at a 30-degree angle and repeat, leaving the skin in one piece. The fish can be presliced and placed on parchment or wax paper, covered and refrigerated for up to one day in advance.

This technique and recipe works well with sturgeon or trout. Alter the time depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Mustard IPA Sour Cream Sauce
This sauce is great with gravlaks and can be used as a vegetable dip, sauce for chips or on a poached breast of chicken or fillet of fish.

Makes: 1 1/4 cups

1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup Mikkeller Stateside IPA
1 tbsp mustard
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/2 tsp four-peppercorn blend, cracked
1 tbsp gravlaks brine (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine sour cream, IPA, both mustards and pepper, mixing well. Transfer to a sealable container and let sit for at least 8 hours. When the gravlaks are done curing, add the liquid from the salmon to the mustard sauce, tasting and adjusting seasoning as needed.

This sauce is best if you make it before you start to cure the salmon, using the same bottle of IPA. This will give time for the flavors to meld. The sauce will keep for five days refrigerated.

Swedish Spiced Dark Rye Bread
This rich, dense rye bread is the building block to the classic smorrebrod. Its citrusy and roasted flavors pair wonderfully with cured meats, pates and gravlaks.

Makes: two loaves

4 oz water (110°F)
1 pkg active dry yeast (1 tsp)
1/4 cup dry malt extract (DME)
11 oz dark rye flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
18 oz high-gluten bread flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
12 oz Nørrebro Bryghus Skärgaards Porter (brewed with honey)
1/4 cup dark candi syrup, D1 or molasses
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 each orange, zested
1 tsp vegetable oil

In a small measuring cup, add water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of DME. Mix together to rehydrate and feed the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes while you measure out the remaining ingredients.

In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the bread flour, rye flour, DME, Porter and syrup. Once the yeast has proofed, add it to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed with a dough hook until the flours and liquids have incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and let it knead for 5 minutes. Next, add the salt, caraway, fennel and orange zest; mix another 2 minutes until everything is fully incorporated.

Transfer the dough onto a floured breadboard and knead until smooth. The dough should be neither sticky nor dry. If needed, adjust the moisture level with either a teaspoon of flour or water until the texture is soft and easily pliable. Form the dough into a round ball. In a large metal bowl (at least twice the size as the dough) add the vegetable oil and coat evenly. Add the dough round to the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm (70°F) room for about 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size. Since rye flour does not have much gluten, be sure not to overproof the dough. To check to see if the dough is done rising, lightly press a finger into the dough; if it bounces back right away, it needs more time. If the dough does not spring back, it is ready for the next step.

Punch down the dough to release all the CO2. Divide the dough into two equal-sized rounds. Form each round, one at a time, into a loaf-pan-sized cylinder. Lightly grease two loaf pans and add the formed dough into each. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 45-60 minutes or until they’ve doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350°F. Once the dough has risen a second time, remove the wrap and place in the center of the oven, baking for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown in color. Let cool before slicing.

Cucumber and Red Onion Caviar
This is optional, but a whole lot of fun. With some calcium chloride and some sodium alginate, you too can make some spheres of cucumber- and onion-scented caviar with red onions. No fish eggs were harmed in this creation.

Makes: 1 1/4 cups

225 grams cucumber juice, fresh (about 2 cucumbers)
25 grams red onion juice (about 1/2 onion)
2 grams sodium alginate
500 grams filtered water
2.5 grams calcium chloride
1 each syringe

Take two cucumbers, peel all the green skin off and cut them in half lengthwise, removing the seeds with the tip of a spoon. Using a food processor, process the cucumber into juice. Weigh out the juice and add it to a mixing cup.

Peel half of a red onion. Process it as well, weigh the juice and add it to the same mixing cup as the cucumber juice. Using a hand blender, mix in the sodium alginate, sprinkling it on top and pulsing with the blender. Mix until fully combined. Cover and let sit for 4-6 hours or until the air bubbles have mostly left the mixture. Fill a syringe with the cucumber/red onion mixture.

In a bowl add water and calcium chloride, mixing with a hand blender until fully dissolved. Expel the mixture from the syringe drop by drop into the calcium chloride bath for 1-2 minutes. This will set a membrane to help hold the caviar together. Remove using a strainer and transfer to a second bowl filled with filtered water to act as a rinse. Remove from the water bath, lightly damping the bottom of the strainer with a paper towel to remove any excess water. Serve immediately to keep liquid inside the caviar from completely turning into a solid gel.

Breakfast/Brunch – Toast a slice of bread and top it with the wild salmon gravlaks, a soft poached egg and some Beirenaise sauce (béarnaise made with ale instead of white wine and vinegar).

Use any leftover bread for french toast. Serve it with a Porter syrup, malt-extract-sweetened whipping cream and sautéed pears in butter and cinnamon.

Appetizer –  Thinly slice bread and top it with the wild salmon gravlaks, IPA mustard-sour cream sauce and cucumber-red onion caviar with a garnish of fresh dill sprigs.

Serve with pickled herring, thinly sliced red onion and a rich Porter.

Norwegian Meat Cakes with Spiced Porter Gravy
This recipe comes from my Norwegian great-great-grandmother dating back to the 1850s. The use of a Porter in this recipe with hints of roasted coffee, bittersweet cocoa, orange peel, caramel and a slight tangy sourness will delight your palate.

Serves: 4

1/2 lb. ground veal or beef
1/2 lb. ground lamb or buffalo
1 each egg, large
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup Haandbryggeriet Norse Porter (Norwegian Dark Porter)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 each yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch (heaping)
2-3 tbsp shortening or rendered fat
2-3 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 cup Haandbryggeriet Norse Porter  (Norwegian Dark Porter)
1 cup beef stock, hot
sea salt and black pepper to taste

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add ground veal and lamb (or your choice of meats), milk, salt and pepper. Mix on medium until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add diced onion, flour and cornstarch. Mix until combined thoroughly.

In a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, carefully add the meat mixture in 2-3 tablespoon-sized patties into hot shortening/fat. Brown each side, letting them cook for 3-4 minutes before flipping. Resist the temptation to move them, shake the pan or peek. Doing this will destroy the patties’ brown, crusty coating. Flip carefully and cook an additional 4 minutes. Once fully cooked, remove to an oven-proof dish and place in a 300°F oven. Repeat until all the meat mixture has been cooked.

To make the gravy, add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the pan drippings and stir. Keep stirring until the mixture has turned a light, golden brown color. Add spices and cook for 1 minute more. Using a whisk, add Porter and hot stock, whisking until smooth. Bring to a boil, cooking until gravy thickens. Season to taste.

To serve, arrange the meat patties on a platter and spoon the spiced Porter gravy over the top. Garnish with some chopped parsley. A perfect side dish to serve with these patties is beer-boiled potatoes.

For the gravy, add 1 pound of sliced mushrooms to the pan drippings. Cook for 4-5 minutes over medium heat until the mushrooms are lightly browned around the edges. Add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown. Omit spices and add Porter and beef stock, cooking until the sauce thickens.