Monday, November 19, 2012

Bell's Best Brown Tarte Flambée

In French, it’s known as tarte flambée; in Alsatian it’s flammekueche; in German: flammkuchen. Whatever you call it, it’s mouthwateringly good.

It's like a pizza, but made with lardons (strips of pork fat or bacon), onion, cream, and fromage blanc. In this twist on the classic version, I throw beer into the mix. Because beer makes everything better. Fromage blanc is usually pretty difficult to find in America, but ricotta cheese works as a great alternative.

So, if you're tired of always preparing the same side dishes and you're ready to mix up your traditional Thanksgiving meal a little bit this year, I would highly recommend adding this dish to your repertoire. It also works as a great brunch or main dish for lunch!

For this recipe, you will need:

1 pizza dough (you can use your favorite recipe -- I cheated and used about 1.5 16-ounce balls of frozen pizza dough)
1/2 pound slab bacon, cut into strips
1 large spanish onion, sliced thinly
3 russet potatoes, peeled
3/4 cup creme fraîche
2/3 cup shredded Emmentaler (or just Swiss Cheese)
2/3 cup ricotta
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 ounces Bell's Best Brown Ale
1/4 cup chives, chopped
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season generously with salt. Cook the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with a knife. Remove from the water and let cool.

Place the bacon in a large cast iron skillet. Add a tablespoon of olive oil so the bacon doesn't stick. Cook over medium-low heat until crisp and brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and reserve on paper towels.

Leave a small amount of bacon grease in the pan (enough to cook the onion), add the onions to the pan, and season with salt. Add the minced garlic. Turn the heat up and pour in the beer. Cook off the liquid and let the onions take on color. Once the onions are caramelized, add the bacon to the onions.

Slice the potatoes in 1/8-inch slices. Combine the creme fraîche, emmantaler, and ricotta. Add about 20 turns of cracked black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Roll the dough out onto a greased medium-sized baking sheet (mine is 15.25"x10.25"). Dock the dough (poke it a few times with a fork so it doesn't bubble up) and parbake the crust for about 5 minutes. The crust needs to be slightly cooked on the bottom because the tarte is only going to be baked for a few more minutes at the end to caramelize the toppings and finish crisping up the crust.

Remove the dough from the oven. Smear the dough with the cheese mixture, and shingle the potatoes in a pinwheel pattern. Then, place an even layer of the caramelized onions and bacon on the potatoes. Top with a bit more grated Emmantaler.

Return the dough to the oven until the dough is crisp on the bottom and the toppings are bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and serve.

The smoky bacon adds just enough savoriness and saltiness to counter the rich crème fraîche and sweet sautéed onion. Enjoy and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Motor City Brew Tours Trip to Ohio

Let’s face it, there's a lot of breweries in Michigan. We’ve been visiting them for years and, at best, have made it to a little over half of them. At this point, too, the beer culture in Michigan has become such a phenomenon that I would classify it as a tourist-worthy destination; not just for beer geeks but for people interested in local Michigan destinations.

The problem becomes, then, one of logistics and quantity. You can’t visit all of them, and many of us may not have the fortitude required to plan a proper multi-stop brewery trip. Remember that visiting more than one brewery includes planning places generally close to each geographically, keeping one’s wits even (remember, we’re talking about driving from place to place here, so some temperance is mandatory), and keeping an eye to possibly available tours at each facility. Laura and I do this probably twice a month, and even with our experience it can be quite the investment of time.

Enter Motor City Brew Tours. The Tour company, which operates primarily out of Detroit (but with visions of expansion) takes care of all of that planning for you. It also alleviates the “who’s driving?” issue. Motor City brew Tours offers bus, walking, and bike excursions through the city and surrounding areas of Detroit, giving people an opportunity to learn about Michigan brewing culture and history from experts while enjoying some of the products created here.

Additionally, MCBT organizes day trips; the Michigan Beer Blog was fortunate enough to attend a North Ohio tour, allowing us to visit the Maumee Brewing Company, the Market Garden Brewery and Distillery, and Ohio’s gem – Great Lakes Brewing Company. The ticket price pays for the bus, personalized tours with the brewers, and water and snacks to and from each location.

The trip was a great way to visit areas we would not have historically visited! For those of you in the Detroit area interested in a safe and well planned adventure that incorporates history and culture with Michigan beer, I would recommend checking out Motor City Brew Tours.

More pictures of our tour can be found on our Facebook Page!

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