Sunday, November 24, 2013

Better Late Than Never, Plus Planning Ahead

Things have been a little hectic lately, what with hunting, funerals, and honey-do crap, so I'm somewhat behind in my posting.

One of the things I've neglected is homage to seasonal beers. Autumn is a prime time for Oktoberfest brews. My standard go-to Oktoberfest bier is Spaten's Oktoberfest, which they claim is the world's first Oktoberfest beer. I have no reason to doubt them.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who is running a little late. It seems to be an American tradition.
That’s right, friends: the leaves are turning, the temperature is dropping, and Halloween is just around the corner, but most importantly, Oktoberfest is here! Was here, actually; the real Oktoberfest celebration in Munich ended on October 6th this year. As Americans, though, we hold very dear our inalienable right to bastardize and misappropriate items of foreign culture as we see fit, so we will likely be drinking Oktoberfest beer well into December, and rest assured, we will celebrate Oktoberfest whenever we damn well please...
...Upon first sip, my girlfriend blurted out, “It’s like a liquid pretzel!”  Upon second, she changed her mind to, “It’s like I’m drinking fall!”
These are common impressions of great Oktoberfest beers that are probably due as much to the beer’s appearance as the taste. The first thing you’ll notice about Spaten Oktoberfest is the beautiful deep-gold/amber color. It really does look like you’re drinking tree whose leaves have just turned for Autumn. Or possibly liquid pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream, thanks to the ample foamy head that regrettably dissipates very quickly.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like dead leaves (or pumpkin pie). Like all Oktoberfests/Märzens, Spaten Oktoberfest is a lager, and the nose (aroma) is accordingly very clean with only the slightest hint of earthy/lemon esters. You can detect a bit of malty/biscuit taste, and a bit of the higher alcohol content, but the main attraction doesn’t come until the first sip. If you’ve had an Oktoberfest before, you basically know what to expect, and if you haven’t, imagine a sweeter, stronger version of your favorite amber lager (maybe Dos Equis or Sam Adams Boston Lager).

Another giant plus for Spaten Oktoberfest is the Bier Mädchens (beer serving girls).

Double Yummm...

As for planning ahead, Thanksgiving is looming. We're expecting a full house, so anything we can do now to minimize what we have to do on Turkey Day is a plus. One of my favorite tricks is Do-Ahead Gravy. Not only is it one less thing to do on the big day, it also provides the fixings for an additional stress-free meal.

Do-Ahead Thanksgiving Gravy


2 pounds chicken or turkey wings
1 red onion, sliced and quartered
2 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
2  carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 cups turkey or chicken broth (see note below)
4 cups water
3 large fresh sage leaves
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup flour or cornstarch
Meat juices from roast wings


1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large shallow roasting pan (cookie sheet), place wings, onion, celery, and carrots. Roast 1 1/2 hours or until wings turn a deep golden brown. I like to lightly sprinkle the wings with Cajun seasoning to help them attain that golden brown color.

2.  When wings are done, transfer along with cooked vegetables from roasting pan to a large stockpot. Add broth, 4 cups water, and sage leaves. Set aside.

3.  Place roasting pan on top of cooktop or stove burners. Add wine to roasting pan and heat to a low boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, about 10 minutes or until wine is reduced to 1/2 cup. Transfer wine mixture to stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, about an hour or so. Have a drink of the leftover wine to fortify yourself.

4.  Strain liquid in saucepot into another pot. Set aside wings, but discard vegetables. Let broth sit while you shred meat from wings.

5.  Skim fat from broth. Amount of broth should be around four cups. If broth is significantly less than 4 cups, add flavored liquid (canned chicken broth, white wine, sherry, beer, etc.) to bring volume to 4 cups. If broth is significantly more than 4 cups, return to saucepot and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer until volume equals 4 cups. Have another drink of wine.

6.  Heat broth to boiling. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix flour (or cornstarch) with 3/4 cup water until blended. Whisk flour/cornstarch mixture into boiling broth. Boil for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously as it thickens. Remove from heat.

7.  Let gravy cool, then transfer into a container with tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate up to 5 days or freeze up to 1 month. Finish off the wine while the gravy is cooling.

8.  Complete gravy after roasting turkey: Add strained and skimmed pan juices from roast turkey to gravy. If you need more gravy, stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup cream or milk, chicken broth, wine, etc. Heat and serve.


I like to make homemade turkey broth from the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving. Basically just toss the leftover bones into a large stockpot, throw in some veggies and seasonings, cover with a mixture of water, wine, sherry, or what-have-you, and simmer for a few hours. If you'd like more detailed directions let me know.

I then freeze the resulting broth until next year. I use it as the stock to make the Do-Ahead Gravy.

I also use the broth as the base for turkey soup. Simply add the shredded meat from the wings you used for the gravy, plus your grain or pasta of choice (barley, couscous, farro, orzo, wild rice, egg noodles, etc.). Simmer for 30 minutes or so. You can also add whatever else you like in your soup. For example, I usually saute some mushrooms and garlic, and put them in the pot. I also like to top off the soup with chopped green onions. But it's up to you. Be creative.

Oh yeah - don't forget to open another bottle of wine...


Old NFO said...

Enjoy, and I'll take the blonde on the end... :-)

CenTexTim said...

She is a cutie... ;-)

kerrcarto said...

Give the Shiner White Wing a try, it is an excellent Bavarian White!

Dittos on the blond. Makes my German blood boil.