Saturday, August 7, 2010

Night Tripper Stuffed Tomatoes

Summer: the season of the tomato. The beautiful, juicy orbs are everywhere -- roadside stands, farmers' markets, grocery stores, and for the lucky group, in their home gardens (assuming you don't have fungus ruining your entire crop like I do). There is no shortage for the uses of this versatile "vegetable." You can serve them sliced, sprinkled with coarse salt, and drizzled with a hint of balsamic vinegar. Of course, they're always a great addition to any salad or sandwich, too. There really aren't many dishes that can't be improved by adding a little tomato. The recipe here, however, shows that they can also be the star attraction.

Today's recipe was inspired by an appetizer served at one of our favorite local restaurants, Graydon's Crossing. For this colorful and flavorful main dish version, roma tomatoes are scooped out, filled with a goat cheese and sausage mixture, and baked. After baking, the tomatoes are drizzled with a warm sauce made from Night Tripper imperial stout from the New Holland Brewing Company.

To get started, here is what you'll need:

3 roma tomatoes
1/4 pound fresh bulk sausage
4 ounces goat cheese*
1/4 cup whipped cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon coriander
1/4 cup New Holland Night Tripper imperial stout

*I used goat cheese that contained Peppadew. Peppadew is the brand name of sweet piquanté peppers grown in South Africa. They both taste and appear sort of like a cross between a pepper and cherry tomato.

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise, and scoop out and discard all of the seeds and insidey parts. Remove any excess juice inside the tomato with a clean towel or dry paper towel.

2) Brown the sausage in a small frying pan over medium heat until it is cooked through, crumbling into fine pieces as it is cooking. Remove the sausage from the pan and drain off any excess grease.

3) Transfer the sausage to a mixing bowl, and add the goat cheese, whipped cream cheese, curry powder, and coriander. Stir until combined.

This is about what your mixture should look like.

4) Divide the sausage-cheese mixture evenly amongst the six tomato halves. Move the tomatoes to a baking sheet (I didn't grease mine, but you may want to just to be safe), and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese mixture starts to brown and the tomatoes just start to soften.

The tomatoes before baking

5) Now it's time to make the imperial stout reduction*. While the tomatoes are baking, add the 1/4 cup of stout to a small sauce pan, and cook it on medium heat until it is reduced by about half (or, more simply, looks like only half of what you added is left in the pan).

6) Remove tomatoes from oven and drizzle with the Night Tripper reduction.

*Reductions are just liquids (wine, stock/meat dripping, sugar syrup, vinegar, etc.) that are simmered to cook off the water and concentrate the flavors. Stout is quite similar to balsamic vinegar in that it has quite a bit of sugar, which makes the resulting sauce sweet and as thick and black as molasses.

Be well advised, though, that when you are using beer for a reduction, the hops bitterness will also be greatly concentrated. It can be difficult to balance the bitterness in food once the bitterness level gets too high, but it's not really a concern in this recipe, because the sweetness of the roma tomatoes and the tartness of the goat cheese really mellows the bitter beer, and boosts the flavor combination to heavenly.

I served mine over a bed of lentil pilaf, and violà! Toss that in your munchy cave and eat it.


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