Wintertime beer

Yesterday Environment Canada issued another of those terrorist bulletin about the late arrival of spring in most of the Country.
So when spring should be here, in Fort Mac we are AGAIN -19°C.
And it looks like we have to wait for one more month for “spring-like” conditions.
Besides… what is “spring-like” supposed to mean?

I remember those summer evenings when C & I would chat on our little balcony, sipping a beer… these days we hardly ever go outside, and the freezing barbecue has the balcony all to itself.
Even the daily beer has been suppressed and substituted by a cup of hot tea, as you don’t really feel like having anything straight out of the fridge…
This cannot work, though, not for me: I am a big, big fan of beer… you know, the kind of fandom that dangerously borders with addiction.
In Italy beer is pretty unremarkable, as it is to be expected in the country of wine. But back in my high school days, my dad was working on a project in Belgium, and so, between weekend souvenirs and summer trips, I discovered the world of beer, of Belgian beer in particular (also of Belgian chocolate, but this is another story…)
After such an initiation, now my appreciation of a country depends a lot on the quality of beer: for instance, Portugal has been surprising in a good way, same goes for Mexico, and Argentina too (even if, considering all the Nazis that escaped there after the WWII, maybe it shouldn’t be SO surprising…). In France, it’s better to stick to wine, except in the Alsace region. I have a thing for Irish and British beers, so Australia was quite disappointing. I can’t say I have a good opinion of beer in Germany/Austria, or the US…

…and what about Canada?
Canadian beers are pretty unremarkable: with an average of 4,5 – 5% alcohol, they are mainly meant to quench your thirst, rather than to impress you with their inner brewing artfulness.
Large brands include Sleeman, Labatt and the ubiquitous Molson Canadian, and all three are very similar in flavour and characteristics. If you picture yourself somehow related to a barbecue and holding a beer in your hand, that beer would probably be one of those big three.
Here in Alberta we also have regional breweries, which appear to be more interesting, such as Calgary based Wild Rose Brewery and Big Rock Brewery: needless to say, I am diligently trying every product they offer.
One of these products turned out to be un-drinkable, and I really mean it.

But to be un-drinkable doesn’t mean to be un-useful: it triggered a stream of diverse ideas in my mind… beer, Belgium, carbonade, rosmarinus beer, rosmarinus… chicken!
So, here is how to prepare a carbonade with chicken, for a cold winter evening when balcony and barbecue are ruled out!

Now, if you’re so lucky as to live in places where you cannot find the Rosmarinus Ale, I’d stick to the tradition and use a beer having a bitter-sour taste. Please keep in mind that the better the beer, the better the chicken so… a dark Belgian abbey beer would be very indicated. Leffe Bruin or Chimay (the red one) should be easy to find. If not, any porter should be OK, I guess.


Ingredients, for 2 people:
2 chicken thights, skinless
2 Tbsp mustard (preferably in grains)
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp brown sugar (preferably cassonade)
1 bottle of Big Rock Rosmarinus Ale
2 fresh rosmarinus twigs
salt & pepper

Season the chicken salt and pepper, then coat it with mustard.
Heat olive oil or butter in a casserole, and brown the chicken for about 5 minutes per side.
Remove chicken to a plate, lower the heat to medium and add the onions and the sugar: gently sauté until transparent and golden, stirring continuously. When they are, add the vinegar and let it evaporate.
Return the chicken tights to the casserole and pour in the beer. If the beer is not enough to cover the meat, add chicken stock (not more beer, otherwise the final taste will be too bitter).
Add the rosmarinus twigs, bring to a boil then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Then uncover and simmer for 20 more minutes.
At this point you’ll probably have a too liquid sauce, so remove the chicken again and put in the casserole 1 tsp flour: stir continuously over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until you see the sauce thicken.
This is great with boiled or mashed potatoes, or even fries, as they’d do in Belgium.



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