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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caribbean Connecticut at "Carl's Barbeque & Jerk"

Recently, Sizzle Grove visited East Hartford, CT to check out what was brewing over at Olde Burnside Brewing Company.  After the interview, it was about 12:30pm and I was thinking about getting some food from a drive-thru to eat in the car on the way home.  It was cold out.  So I scanned the GPS and saw a place called Carl's Barbeque & Jerk.

Curiously, my friend and I drove to it and managed to squeeze into a parking spot.  Like many authentic barbecue-style joints, this place was small and mostly did take-out, but had three tables.  Thank Jeebus, cuz it was very cold out.

That's no burger - that's spicy jerk pork shoulder!
The incredibly reasonably priced menu had a lot of the type of fare you'd expect to see at a take-out joint right in Jamaica.  Jerk pork and chicken, of course, plus curries which are actually popular in the islands.  They even had a rib sandwich, which was literally two giant spare ribs right on the bone, placed between long bread and generously doused in an intoxicatingly aromatic barbecue sauce.

Despite the rib fiend that I am, I just had to try a jerk pork sandwich.  My friend/photographer Jean got the rib sandwich.

If you've never had authentic jerk pork... I might be as daring to say that it's even better than traditional American pork shoulder.  The smokey flavor was ever present, which made me abundantly happy, but that distinct savory, tangy, intensely spicy, warm flavor from Caribbean spices kicked it up to a level I had never imagined.  You know the main trifecta: thyme, allspice, chilis.  I have a feeling a good amount of garlic made its way in there too, possibly some ginger, and a good amount of black pepper.  Almost made me want to zing up Sizzle Grove's own jerk marinade recipe.

The sandwich came piled with lettuce, tomato, and onions, and was served with fries and cole slaw (many of their menu selections offer rice and beans as an alternative, but I have to publicly confess to my typical American love of fries and cole slaw).

If you're in East Hartford, give it a shot.  Don't be afraid to get lunch at some of those easy-to-miss take-out places.  They might have the best, most authentic, most delicious street food out there.  And that stuff is seriously made with love.

Carl's Barbeque & Jerk
285 Silver Lane
East Hartford, CT 06118-1030

Monday, December 13, 2010

Olde Burnside Brewing Co.

"The craft beer business is just exploding now," states Bob McClellan, owner and founder of East Hartford, CT's Olde Burnside Brewing Company.  "I don't think it's ever gonna crash."

That statement is a promising prospect for Olde Burnside, whose signature Ten Penny Ale was crafted on the concept that great beer truly is worth the cost.  The story goes that during McClellan's youth, his grandfather would reminisce about the great beer produced by local breweries, which cost about five pennies a pint.  Occasionally, his grandfather would mention, the brewers would produce extra high quality ales that cost ten pennies a pint.

Since 2000, McClellan has been producing the type of beer he envisioned his grandfather speaking of.  Ten Penny Ale is, as McClellan describes it, an unfiltered and unpasteurized, amber-colored Scottish "real ale," with a slightly stronger-than-traditional malt base and a touch more of a roasty/smokey flavor.  And, in actuality, it isn't too expensive at all when compared to other craft beers out there.

The brewery also boasts seasonals and special releases, such as Dirty Penny, which is Ten Penny mixed with stout as an homage to the "black 'n tan" style.  Their witbier (which is a Belgian-style light wheat ale) called Penny Weiz is brewed with orange peel, as is traditional for the style.  However, instead of spicing it with the traditional addition of coriander, Olde Burnside adds the herb heather to add a distinctly floral taste.  The brewery also has a winter warmer style beer called Father Christmas Highland Ale, perfect for frosty cold days such as the Thursday afternoon when we visited the brewery.  Of course, we can't discuss their beers without mentioning Ten Penny Reserve, a 10% ABV "wee heavy" style strong Scottish ale which is available year round.

So, the brewery nods to Scottish heritage, and they brew an amber ale, a black 'n tan, a witbier, a winter warmer, and a wee heavy.  Okay, that's not the most common kind of a line-up in today's craft beer world, but other breweries try to produce some similar stuff.  But what really sets Olde Burnside apart from other craft breweries (other than the fact that they almost strictly sell beer in large growlers)?

For McClellan, this is an easy answer: "The water."  Since Olde Burnside started off as an ice-manufacturing company, they've had water spigots in front of their location for locals to fill up at fifty cents a gallon.  In the 1990s, when McClellan noticed that a few of the same people were filling up copious amounts of water, he couldn't help but ask them what they were using it for.  They told him the water was great for brewing beer.

His curiosity got the best of him, and McClellan got the water tested.  Results came back stating that his water had the right mineral content and pH for brewing beer.  What was most fascinating, however, was the fact that his water, apparently, was almost identical to the water found in Burton-on-Trent, a large town in England in which some of the best English ales are brewed.

Bob McClellan with outdoor fermenters
So, after a few years and a business plan later, after acquiring some equipment from a defunct brewery in Wyoming, Olde Burnside Brewing Company opened up.  Currently, McClellan states, the brewery is expanding about 20%-30% a year, with distribution to southern Maine, Vermont, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, part of New York, and of course, all over Connecticut.  They brew five days a week and usually twice a day just to keep up with demand.

Connecticut craft beer drinkers, continue to be proud.

Photos by Jean Geoghegan.  Top picture is a photo taken from a poster at the brewery.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sizzle Goulash (a.k.a. Red Stew of Courage)

More from the Indoor Cooking installments.  This deep red, paprika-infused Hungarian-style stew will keep you warm for the impending onslaught of winter.  If only we remembered to take photos of it when we cooked it.  Oops.  Well, we want you to have the recipe anyway.


One beef round roast, approx 4 lbs (leave on a small bit of fat)
Two average red onions
Approx 2 cups chopped red cabbage
One diced red bell pepper
One minced small red chili (optional)
4 cloves sliced garlic
2 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caraway seeds
1.5 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil


1. Bring a dutch-oven style pot slightly above medium, and add olive oil and onions, plus a pinch of salt.  Add sliced garlic, and simmer until onions just start to become translucent.

2. Take pot off the heat, THEN add sweet and smoked paprika to the onions.  Stir it all up, then add cabbage, bell pepper, and chili pepper.  (removing from heat this way will prevent paprika from burning)

3. Add caraway seeds, pepper, red wine vinegar, and salt.  Stir up.

4. Place beef roast in center, tossing around to allow some of the spices and veggies to coat it for a few minutes.

5. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover with a lid, and let it stew away for about 4 hours.  The juices from the beef and veggies will exhude, so there should be no need to add extra liquid.  Every once in a while, flip the beef roast over.

6. Once the beef becomes tender enough that you can tear it into pieces with just a fork and a butterknife... do that.  Mix it all up.  If you DO wish to add more liquid, you can put a splash of chicken stock or a splash of beer in there (avoid porter stout, stick with lighter malt beer).

Serve over German-style spaetzle noodles, or couscous, or macaroni.  If you like, you can top it with a bit of sour cream and chopped chives too.  Enjoy with a Belgian dubbel or equally decadent beer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stupid Weather

I suppose most of our readers won't be able to make smoked turkey this Thursday with the impending rain.  Hopefully next year!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Spicy, Hearty Chili with Ground Turkey

Our second installment for indoor recipes, perfect for cold weather.  Remember, if you've got a bunch of meat leftover from a recent barbecue, you can always use that instead of the ground turkey.  Adding smoked paprika to the recipe can also help you mimic a barbecue-ish flavor.


1 batch Rocket Fuel Chili Sauce
3 lbs. ground turkey
3 14 oz. cans small red beans, rinsed (or beans of your preference)
3 bell peppers, diced
1 onion, diced
A whole head of garlic cloves, sliced (seriously, it's awesome)
Olive oil
Lightly toasting dried chilis may help them blend more easily
12 oz. bottle of hoppy beer
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce


1. Brown up the ground turkey, adding salt and fennel seeds to the meat.  Remove from heat, discard any fat/liquid, and set aside.

2. In a LARGE pot, set heat to medium, drizzle in olive oil, and add onions.

3. Once onions start to become translucent, add garlic, and allow to brown lightly.

4. Add bell peppers, stir for a minute or two.

5.  Add ground meat, beer, Worcestershire sauce, and Rocket Fuel Chili Sauce.  Put heat down for a low simmer, cover with lid, and open yourself up a beer.  Stir occasionallhy.

6. After 1.5 hours, add rinsed beans.  Cook covered for one hour.

7. Check chili for flavor and consistency, adding more salt/pepper/seasoning if needed.  If it's nice and thick, continue cooking another half hour with the cover on.  If it's liquidy, leave it uncovered for the remaining half hour.

Top chili with cheddar cheese and/or sour cream.  Enjoy over rice or with herbed garlic toast.  Goes great with American-style brown ales, which are darker, hoppier, and almost more stout-like than their English counterparts.

Basic Chimichurri

Need a good sauce to top your grilled steaks with?  Want to add a garlicky kick to pasta?  Try using a favorite sauce of Argentinians called chimichurri, which is basically like a parsley pesto with a jolt of garlic.  Variations may include the use of cilantro or oregano in addition to parsley, or use of spices such as cumin, red pepper flakes, or paparika.  This one is bare minimum, so experiment at your own will.

1 large bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
2 cloves fresh garlic, quick chopped
Olive oil (approx 1/2 cup, keep the bottle on hand)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper


1. Place parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar into a food processor and begin to pulse.

2. With top removed, slowly begin to drizzle in olive oil.

3. Gradually move the speed up to puree while adding more oil.  Stop before it actually becomes a legit puree.  It should be similar to a pesto, but more "texturey."

4. You're done.  How easy is that?

Enjoy Gaucho-style grilled steaks or smoked roast beef with chimichurri and a crisp, bright pilsner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

INDOOR COOKING: Perfect Red Pasta Sauce

Welcome to our first installment of Indoor Cooking. Unless you count all the side dish recipes and salsa recipes and hot sauce recipes... alright, I guess we're not doing anything too strange.

Does the thought of making your own homemade tomato sauce conjure up an image of an elderly Italian grandmother, simmering a big pot of homegrown pureed tomatoes on the back of the stove for hours in her rustic Italian countryside kitchen, with a sparkle in her eye as she prepares a dozen dishes to make for all her hungry family members while the sauce bubbles away?  Well, look elsewhere, because in real life, most people, including Italians, don't quite have the time to stew and puree their own tomatoes.


That's because there are great commercially available canned tomatoes all over the place in this day and age.  They're available whole, pureed, crushed, or chopped.  If you have 20 minutes or so, you can make a zesty sauce way tastier than anything in a jar.  Yeah, 20 minutes or so.

Note: for best results, buy tomatoes labeled "San Marzano" as long as they're on sale.  They can get pretty pricey, so if that fails, the ones labeled "organic" are always great.

One 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
One 28 oz. can tomato puree
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Dash red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 cup chopped parsley (a significant amount indeed)


1. In a medium saucepan, bring heat to medium.

2. Pour in olive oil, chopped garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Allow to cook a minute or two, until garlic lightly browns and releases a slightly toasty aroma.

3. Add tomatoes and stir to keep bubbling to a minimum, or your shirt will have dinner on it.  You'll notice the olive oil won't seem to want to incorporate into the tomatoes at first, but after a couple minutes, it will.

4. Add all other ingredients: salt, pepper, sugar, parsley.  Bring heat down to a medium simmer, and let it go for 10-15 minutes.  The redness of the sauce will deepen when it's ready.

5. Do a taste test if you want, but you almost won't need to.  It will be good.

6. Turn off heat.  Put sauce on stuff.  Eat that stuff.  That was really easy.

If you want to add an extra layer of flavor, add a handful of grated pecorino romano right at the end when you're turning off the heat.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Epic Grilled Eggplant

I suppose now that many of you have been patiently waiting months for Sizzle Grove to post a vegetarian entree recipe, maybe we'll post a vegetarian entree recipe.

This eggplant dish is inspired by several phenomena.  It's partially inspired by eggplant parmesan, a favorite dish of mine and also a favorite of my family and my girlfriend.  The eggplant toppings are artially inspired by insalata caprese, with the heavy mix of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.  Then, the dish is plated with a flourish that winks at the cooking style of one of my favorite chefs, Jamie Oliver, as it is finished with a lightly dressed watercress topping akin to many of his dishes.
Note the lack of measurements: The amounts of ingredients are a bit subjective, as you'll be lightly seasoning each individual slice of eggplant.  Measuring will simply impede your speed.  Season reasonably.

One large eggplant, sliced about 1/2 cm thick
One batch smoked tomato bruschetta
Shaker of dried basil (yeah, the dried stuff sticks better)
Black pepper
Olive oil
About 1 cup grated pecorino romano
About 3 cups shredded smoked mozzarella

8 ounces or so rinsed watercress
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp olive oil
Sprinkle of salt
Sprinkle of black pepper


1. Lightly score eggplant slices (in other words, make very shallow cuts on each side)

2. Liberally sprinkle each side with salt, pepper, and basil.

3. Lightly drizzle olive oil on each slice, and QUICKLY rub it around with your fingers.  You'll get a bit messy, but if you wait, the olive oil will quickly seep into each slice without being evenly spread.

4. Put eggplant slices of a charcoal grill, fairly close to the coals.  You'll want to cook hot, near 400 F.

5. When each slice is browned on one side (which will probably take less than ten minutes), flip each piece over and top with shredded smoked mozzarella.  Cover the grill until cheese is well melted and other side of eggplants are browned.

6. Once inside, top eggplants with tomato bruschetta, sprinkle with grated pecorino romano.

7. Plate eggplant slices with dressed watercress ontop, or put it all on a grinder roll!

Recommended with a super hoppy India pale ale, such as New England Brewery's Gandhi-Bot!

Smoked Tomato Bruschetta

Broo-sketta?  Broo-shetta?  I say the first one.
Tomatoes being smoked on right

Four medium tomatoes
Handful chopped basil (about 1/2 cup)
Dash of black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
Dash of balsamic vinegar

1. Remove the tops of tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.
2. Put tomatoes on smoker at a medium heat, around 300 F or so.
3. Allow to smoke until skin begins to peel, but tomatoes are still slightly firm in the middle.  Remove and let cool.
4. Grate or press a clove of garlic in a small container.  Drizzle on a dash of balsamic vinegar.
5. Mix in chopped basil, another light sprinkling of salt, olive oil, and a few twists of black pepper.
6. Chop up tomatoes, mix into the container, and enjoy with some grilled eggplant.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Cider Brine

We recently tried a fun, autumnal experiment down at the Sizzle Grove headquarters (a.k.a. at Nick's house): brining meat in a mixture of apple cider, cider vinegar, water, salt, and spices.  The result came out... not too cidery tasting actually, but incredibly delicious and pastrami-like from the peppercorns and fresh garlic thrown in there.  Our meat of choice, as usual, was spare ribs, though this would be great with pork shoulder, pork loin, or even beef brisket.

Here's how we recommend you judge how much liquid you need, as that greatly depends on the container you're using and the meat you're using:

1. Wrap meat in saran wrap.
2. Place wrapped meat into container.  Make sure there's a decent amount of room above the meat to the top of the container.
3. Fill container will cool water, until meat is just covered.
4. Drain water into a large measuring cup.
5. Note the volume, and divide by half.  The brine requires equal parts water to cider, plus splashes of other stuff.

Now here are the INGREDIENTS:
Slightly less than half water (ice will be added later)
Half apple cider
Splash of apple cider vinegar
Lots of salt (1 cup salt to each gallon of liquid)
Brown sugar (half as much as the salt)
2-3 cloves garlic, quick smashed
A few slices of onion
1-2 tsp whole peppercorns
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
A few sprigs of rosemary

1. Mix all ingredients except rosemary together in a large saucepan.  Bring to a light boil.
2. Slowly add ice until mixture becomes room temperature.
3. Place meat into container, weaving rosemary around it.
4. Pour brine over meat, making sure it's well covered.
5. Place a lid on the container, and store it in the fridge for 24 hours.
6. Lightly rinse meat to get off excess salt.  Barbecue until awesome.

**We cooked our ribs completely naked after brining.  Before we foiled them for the last 1.5 hours of cooking, we drizzled them with honey and spices.  It was awesome.**