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Ingredients - Beer

clock December 26, 2012 21:15 by author Administrator

Beer

 

Cerveza a la Brasa

A Brief History

The story of man and beer goes back surprisingly far; almost as far as the story of man and fire. For many Gringos a la Brasa, this fact may hardly be a surprise at all. After all, how long could men sit idly by a crackling hardwood fire, without thinking....”something is dreadfully out of place and missing from this experience”. It didn't take much time for our most revered relatives to endure this absence before saying “enough is enough, we must fill this void”. These first fermentables may not have been considered “beer” by modern standards, but the seed was planted . Using slightly looser standards, we are happy to consider any beverage that is high in sugar content and subjected to fermentation (wild or otherwise) to be considered “beer”. By that standard, “beer” is a very old friend indeed. The first written accounts of these fermented beverages date back nearly 6000 years to ancient Sumeria. However, these stone tablets simply reveal that beer had likely been part of the human experience for far longer. Chemical residue testing of jars found in ancient Iran show beer's presence in early man's life more than 7000 years ago. Creationists may argue with the dates on this one, but the point is that the history of beer is nearly as old as the history of mankind itself.

 

Barley has been a component for nearly 5000 of those years. In fact, the invention of beer and bread is widely believed to be the impetus for mankind's ability to develop agricultural technologies leading to the birth of civilization as we know it. That’s a pretty heady accolade for a drink that many just consider as an excuse to act out their favorite scenes from Caddyshack and spend their afternoons tailgating. So the next time you are in the parking lot drinking beer from a Solo cup and reveling with your friends...please honor you ancestors and toast the Sumerians! Without them, there would likely be no football, baseball, outdoor concerts, public houses, pool, darts, democracy, or beer pong! Those magnificent bastards made it all possible, so do your part and remind anyone who will listen.

 

At some point along our human journey (no one knows for sure when), someone ate a piece of tough charred meat and said, “this is bullshit, we must find a way to make our fire roasted meats more tender (paraphrasing)”. Perhaps by accident or perhaps revealed in a hallucinogenic dream vision, one of our fore bearers had to sense to drop their meat in beer before cooking it and genius was born. We are not certain exactly when this was first done to a bird, but we know from our history of the Chicken, that the first domesticated chicken was hatched more than 8000 years ago in Southeast Asia. The earliest firm evidence of these domesticated chickens in the Mesopotamian valley dates back more than 4000 years, but they may have been squawking around the Frankincense tree far earlier than that. That means that iT is conceivable that the Last Supper may have consisted on wine, bread, and Pollo a la Brasa! Although of questionable historical voracity, this helps us sleep at night. Even tough there is no mention of Pollo a la Brasa specifically in the New Testament (or Inca Cola for that matter), we like to think Jesus had the wherewithal to have Pollo a la Brasa on his last meal with friends. As for the Americas, there is even evidence of the domesticated chicken in Chile far before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors; 1350 AD to be exact. There is nothing in the archaeological record to indicate how their arrival could have possibly predated the arrival of the Spanish, but we like to think that the Chicken had a date with destiny in Peru and simply couldn't wait for the Spanish to give them a ride.


Enough History, why the beer?

Good thing you asked that question because we were about to answer it for you. Besides the wonderful flavor that beer imparts to a meat marinade, there are greater forces at work here. Beer contains high tannin and alpha acid levels that help separate amino acids. As you may remember from your high school chemistry class, amino acids are organic compounds within living cells. Amino acids join by forming peptide bonds, a link that connects one amino acid's amino group with the carboxyl group of another amino acid. When amino acids join through peptide bonds, they form proteins. Alcohol content further aides in this process of breaking down proteins. Proteins carry out numerous functions in the structure and operation of cells, tissues and organs. Breaking proteins down is basically denaturing muscle tissue. Denature is fancy talk for “tenderizing”. But like anything, too much can be a bad thing. Over exposure to 'tenderizing compounds', can lead to very mushy meat. Keep this in mind when using beer or any other tenderizing compound on your meats.


What beers are best for Pollo a la Brasa

As a general rule of thumb, if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it. Pollo a la Brasa marinades made from light beers and ales will burn off quickly once your meat hits the rotisserie or grill, and all that will be left is a slight beer aftertaste. Dark beers and Stouts are different in that they will leave a much richer fuller beer taste on your protein (meat), leaving flavor notes resembling oats, almonds, burnt wheat, hops, barley and grains. Try to avoid beers with high Hop content (IPAs, Bitter Ales, Black IPAs, American Brown Ales, and some stouts) as this will impart a bitter aftertaste. High alcohol beers will also tend to tenderize your meat quicker. Many craft beers will list their alchohol content on the bottle. Try to avoid 'strong' beers that are higher than 6% ABV. As no beers or Hops are created equal, use your best judgment and don't be afraid to experiment. If it doesn't work as a marinade, chances are the rest of your six pack will taste delicious as a frosty beverage. So don't get too sad.

In our Pollo a la Brasa recipes we typically call for no more than a half cup of beer. Unless you are a wasteful heathen, we're guessing you'll be enjoying at least some of that beer in beverage form. Your sadness will subside whatever the outcome of your “experimentation”. Please remember to enjoy your Pollo and your beers responsibly; no one like a chicken (or a dude) that has been marinating in too much beer. Also remember to toast those ancient pioneers....those magnificent ancient bastards that made it all possible for us to cook and eat Pollo a la Brasa with impunity.



Ingredients - Huacatay

clock December 8, 2009 09:28 by author Administrator

Huacatay

Huacatay is a herb native to south america from the marigold and tarragon family. Huacatay was introduced to Europe during the Spanish conquests. It is often used as a companion plant in gardening because its roots produce a compound which keeps slugs, pests and weeds at bay. Huacatay leaves and oil are used to flavor food, tobacco, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, including cola. Huacatay goes by many names throughout the world: Mexican marigold, black mint, Aymara wacataya (Peruvian Quechua), Tagetes minuta, Peruvian black mint, and so on...

It is a popular ingredient in cosmetics. The compounds naturally present in the oil have been shown to act as antimicrobial and antifungal agents.

Where used as a spice, Huacatay leaves are choppped or pureed and used as the seasoning that give local dishes a unique herbal flavour. We've never made tea out of the stuff as the Incan's are said to have done, but maybe that'll be a future post.


How to Get it:

There are a few options here:
1.) Buy the ready made paste online. It is hard to find, but here is a currently valid link
2.) Grow the stuff. As we have said, Huacatay goes by many names. Search for "Tagetes minuta" or "black mint" at one of the following retailers: Johnny Seeds Richters Nichols Garden Nursery Horizon Herbs Pinetree Seeds
3.)Pilfer the stuff from somewhere. I you see it in a public garden and happen to have a crimal streak, take a small clipping and grow it with the help of a little rooting hormone.


Substitutions:

Because this herb has such a special flavor, there really is no substitute. However, in a pinch, EVERYONE needs substitues. To approximate the unique flavor of Huacatay, mix equal parts mint, coriander, and basil. When using the paste as a substitue, be careful to adjust the salt content of your recipe as the sauce has a 'briney-ness' of its own.



Ingredients - Black Pepper

clock November 20, 2009 04:45 by author Administrator

Black Pepper

The history of pepper is essentially a story of the history of the European spice trade. So revered it is sometimes called the ‘King of Spices’. In origin, Black pepper is a tropical 'twining plant' from southern India. In the ancient world, the most important source of black pepper was India's Malabar Coast, the southwest coast of the country predominated by modern day Goa. These days black pepper is grown throughout all of South-East Asia. Though black pepper is a staple around the world, it was once so valuable it was used as currency. The spice was traded with nearby countries, eventually making its way throughout Asia, Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. Outside of Asia, only the richest could afford it.

Because of its rare grandeur, Black pepper was a major catalyst of the European "Age of Exploration" during the 15th and 16th centuries. Trade routes to India and other sources of coveted spices were extremely valuable, and the countries that controlled them controlled Venice's (and by proxy Europe's) economy. Tributes and Bribes were paid in pepper (both Attila the Hun and Alaric I the Visigoth demanded pepper as a substantial part of Rome’s ransom).

The Venice and Genoa monopoly of overland trade routes was the driving factor in the search for an Eastern sea route. By the end of the "Age of Exploration", pepper became so plentiful in Europe that people of average means became able to afford it.

The fruit of the Piper nigrum consists of small berries that start out green and become a deep red when fully ripe. The unripe fruit of the Piper nigrum are sometimes pickled in brine or vinegar. The pepper seeds contain a volatile oil and the non-volatile compound Piperin (Piperine is the compound that is responsible for the burning effect on the mucous membranes). When the half-ripened fruits are harvested the fruits are dried to become "black pepper".

Studies show that black pepper has the ability to increase the bioavailability (the amount of nutrients your body consumes from a food is called bioavailability) in a good portion of the foods we eat, thus making our unhealthy love of Pollo a la Brasa suddenly healthy. Black pepper is not the only product that can be made from green peppercorns: white pepper, green pepper, and pink pepper are all derived from Piper nigrum. Black pepper is made from the unripe, green fruit of the pepper plant, which is cooked in hot water, then dried. The hot water serves to clean the peppercorns and to rupture their skin, which speeds the work of browning enzymes as the fruit is dried. The peppercorns are dried either by machine or the natural sun. Black pepper gains its namesake when the fruit hardens during the drying process and the skin becomes dark and wrinkled.

Ground pepper loses its flavor quickly. Most chefs recommend grinding black pepper as needed. Your best bet is to coarsely grind immediately before adding it to food, in order to retain the most flavors. As is the care with many recipes in the world, coarsely ground black pepper is absolutely essential to any Pollo a la Brasa recipe. Inside and out it adds an earthy quality that cannot be matched or substituted. Thankfully it is so common that most of you probably don’t think about it, let alone its absolute necessity, but we guarantee a life without black peppers as hard to imagine as a life without salt. Like all spices, it must be used in balance with the recipe but....by all means...pass the pepper!

It is a popular ingredient in cosmetics. The compounds naturally present in the oil have been shown to act as antimicrobial and antifungal agents.

Where used as a spice, Huacatay leaves are choppped or pureed and used as the seasoning that give local dishes a unique herbal flavour. We've never made tea out of the stuff as the Incan's are said to have done, but maybe that'll be a future post.



Ingredients - Aji

clock May 7, 2009 18:49 by author Administrator

ajiAji is the Peruvian Hot Pepper and is usually the one constant in all good Pollo a la Brasa recipes. Aji is simply the peruvian word for chili so you can imagine this is a pretty broad category. Any pepper or pepper derivative claiming to be 'Aji' is undoubtedly grown in Peru. Flavors range broadly from fruity to pungent. Also, when the Aji was harvested also greatly affects flavor. The varieties are as follows:

Capsicum baccatum: Aji Amarillo

  • Aji Ayucullo
  • Aji Colorado
  • Aji Cristal
  • Aji Cusqueno
  • Aji Escabeche (another name for aji amarillo because of its use in escabeches)
  • Aji Flor
  • Aji Habanero
  • Aji Limon
  • Aji Mirasol (aji amarillo dried and sometimes charred)
  • Aji Mono
  • Aji Montana
  • Aji Montesino
  • Aji Norteno
  • Aji Orchid (another name for aji flor)
  • Aji Oro
  • Aji Panca
  • Aji Portachuela
  • Aji Rojo (red)

 

Capsicum annuum: aji picante

  • Aji Pinguita de Mono
  • Capsicum chinense: Aji Pucomucho
  • Aji Panca
  • aji dulce

 

As for products, Aji is available in pastes and powders of varying strengths and flavors. Use you tongues here people. Before you add anything to your Pollo, taste it first. For instance, many of the pastes taste quite fresh but also have a 'brininy' taste as they use salt as a preservative. As a reult, you may want to use a little less salt in your recipe. In our recipes, we note this fact frequently. Basically, the Aji, how much is used, etc. is generally the 'secret ingredient' most Peruvian's get excited about when they talk Pollo a la Brasa.
Experiement. Experiement. Experiement.
You can see our whole category of Aji here



Ingredients - Eucalyptus Wood

clock May 2, 2009 00:37 by author Administrator

Eucalyptus

"Wood!" you say..."that's not an ingredient!" You bet your sweet ass it is. When it comes to Pollo Perfection, even the wood matters. Although Pollo a la Brasa is never ment to be "smoked", a hot burning hard wood is essential for Pollo on the Grill.

Eucalyptus is a fast growing, aromatic, hardwood. In other words, it is sustainable and therefore generally grown to be harvested. So if you buy your wood from a reputable supplier, chances are fairly good that you alone are not responsible for the deforrestation of the Amazon. If in doubt, ask your supplier. They are generally familiar with their own source suppliers and should be happy to tout the sustainability and value of Eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus wood burns readily and burns hot. It will burn for longer and emit more heat than many other types of wood. California apparently was unaware of this fact and used eucalyptus trees in LA. When the bushfires hit, the Eucalyptus trees went up like a matchbook. The aroma is unbelievable, but I doubt that is what the people of LA were thinking...."QUICK...lets go get some Chickens and turn this into a Pollo Party!" If we were in LA at the time, we would have been roating chickens like Smores, but that is just us. If you happen to have a fresh supply of Eucalyptus, make sure that you have let it dry for 12months or so before using. This wood has a very high volitile gas (oil) content that makes for the amazing aroma and the sparking, but if not dried properly, will make an oily (and potentially dangerous) mess of your grill or chimney.


How to Get it:

There are a few options here. Jump on CraigsList.org and see if there is anyone local to your area that may be offering it online. You might get lucky as some people would love to have you simply come and take it off of their hands. If you have one growing in your yard, you are obviously in business: removing, chipping, and seasoning select branches will give you enough to add flavor to other combustiables like Oak Charcoal or brickets. If you are VERY patient, you could grow the stuff. As we have said, it is fast growing (6-7feet a season), cold/heat tolerant, and is generally a nice addition to any landscape. These guys are a reputable supplier of Eucalyptus and other fast growing trees.


Substitutions:

This is a tough wood to substitue in terms of Aroma, but as far as the heat is concerned you can get very close with many hard woods. Oak is readily available in most places and has similar hard wood characteristics. Avoid using Fruit woods like Apple and Cherry when making Pollo a la Brasa as they impart way too much 'smokey' flavor to whatever they come in contact with. If you are not using wood, Charcoal is the next best thing. Royal Oak™ is a great brand that is available in most Hardware stores. Other brands may be available. Try to avoid using Brickets when Grilling Pollo a la Brasa as they add a noticable flavor to everything they cool. However, if all you have to cook Pollo a la Brasa is are Brickets or a Gas Grill....go for it: as long as you put love into what you make, it will be good. We just generally like to put Love and Eucalyptus in our Grills, but Love will do JUST FINE!. Wood Chips are also an option, but be careful again that you are not smoking you Pollo. Rather than soaking chips as directed, throw them right on your fire and let 'em burn. Maple and Oak will do nicely (again...no fruit trees!)

 

 




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