Saturday, March 20, 2010

Polenta Fries & North Country Beer

Two great contributors to a great day:

1) Great Food

2) Great Drink

Given that, I made some tasty polenta fries, and in the process of doing so remembered just how easy it is to make something so delicious. I whipped up the bulk of it the night before, and fried them up into crispy tasty bits the following morning. Here goes!

Polenta Fries

1 part dry polenta (aka corn grits)
3 parts water or broth of choice
Salt & Pepper to taste
Optional: herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, nutri-yeast (for cheesiness), garlic...anything you want your fries to taste like!

Remember when you're deciding on polenta & water quantities that the amount of water is more accurate for guessing how much polenta you'll have. For example, if you only want a small amount of polenta, using only a 1/2 cup grits and 1.5 cups water will give you an amount of polenta closer to 1.5 cups, don't be thrown off by the small dry volume!

Get the liquid boiling, and then slowly add in the grits. Lower the heat as it starts to thicken, then start seasoning it. Salt and pepper should go in first, then any dry herbs so they can hydrate and get around, and fresh herbs should go at the end so they don't overcook and lose their goodness. Let it simmer, stirring so it doesn't stick & burn, for about ten minutes to make sure all the grits are cooked through.

Then, spoon it out onto a greased/parchmented sheet pan, spreading it to a relatively even thickness, and chuck it in the fridge for at least a few hours or overnight. It will set up firmly when it's cool.

When you're ready for fries, slice the polenta into your desired size & shape, and then cook them up in a fryer, a hot pan, or under the broiler! Make sure to rotate them to crisp up on all sides; when tasty brown, remove and place on a paper towel & re-season lightly with salt, pepper, etc. Presto! Fries!

After nomming on these and other tasty snacks, we had to break. Xtina had a phone-terview to do, and I had arranged for a brewery tour at a favorite place of mine. Wishing X the best of luck in her interviewingness, Pancake and myself headed off into downtown TC, specifically the warehouse district, and stepped into the wondrous Right Brain Brewery.

 Even their railings are cool

This place is great. The atmosphere is unlike your typical bar and brewery. Many bars have "Mug Clubs", and so does RBB. But here, you get to paint your own mug! Creativity and booze discounts CLEARLY go hand in hand.

We got a little tour of their brew "house"/room, which just reaffirms their awesomeness. It's pretty small compared to most, yet in this small room, they are able to keep up an amazing selection by brewing about 4 times a week. The three person brewing staff and seven barrel system make happiness and sunshine regularly. Unfortunately, the space limitation means that they can only produce enough to sell on-site and distribute locally. Not enough to send down the mitten sadly.

I enjoyed a most delicious Black and Tan, made with The Hawk, an RBB Amber Ale, and The Crow, their American-Irish Stout. Superbly delicious. Even more awesome because it was the very first Black and Tan served there. And the owner, Russ, poured it for me himself after our tour. I was pretty damn happy.

Of course, Russ also offered Pancake a beer, not knowing that she really was not a fan of the genre. However, after a brief exchange with the 'cake, he offered up a sample of one of their Belgians. Russ, nay, Traverse City, had succeeded where so many before had failed, by producing a beer that Pancake found palatable enough to enjoy finish! Another fun surprise came when P said that she felt a little tipsy! Tipsy you say? After a mere sample, 3 ozs at most? How can this be, their Belgian, The Garnet, is only 6%, hardly stronger than the cider she's used to imbibing... And then it hits us. The beer that did what no other beer could was in fact their Belgian Trippel, brewed with Indian Coriander & California Orange Peel, weighing in at a solid 9.2% ABV.

Finished the visit with a pour of their Brown Donkey Smasher, an Imperial Brown Ale, and took my first sip as Xtina called to say her interview was done! Well, she got to sit tight for a few minutes while I savored my final drink, and then we were on our way back to the base.
Every visit to Right Brain ends far too soon...

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