Monday, October 6, 2014

Smoked Tomato and Fennel Cocktail Sauce & Totally Naked

This weekend was kind of a bummer.  The glorious Fall that Chicago had just started to enjoy took a hit with some temperatures in the lower forties.  Like 42 degrees.  Yeah.  In case you're keeping track, that's only 10 degrees above freezing and it's the first week of October.  My reaction was to complain (A LOT) and then, as I do every year at the first sign of cold, go into complete panic mode and barbecue and smoke every possible item in our fridge and freezer because I know the days of outdoor cooking are quickly dwindling.   Sarah (the Californian aka the person who grew up with the ability to barbecue year round) always laughs at me and equates my behavior to a squirrel storing nuts.  Not the manliest of comparisons but if it means she'll cheerfully eat smoked apples in a pie (as she gamely did last year), I'll take the hit.  

Lucky for Sarah I stayed a little more conventional this year.  We had a really nice bunch of shrimp from Isaacson and Stein's that I smoked immediately.

I had them in mind for a Po Boy with remoulade and pickled red onion but after I noticed the last of our summer tomatoes sitting solo in the fridge I went with shrimp cocktail instead.  Sound boring?  Well it's not.  Not when you smoke the tomatoes.

Not when you also add a nice bulb of fennel and sweat out red onion, garlic and celery to puree with the smoked tomatoes.

And certainly not when you combine these ingredients in a well seasoned dutch oven and let it slowly cook for an hour or so before you puree it into a smooth, smokey base for ketchup.  

Let me just say, this is no ordinary ketchup.  All the usual suspects are there - tomatoes, brown sugar, vinegar, spices - but the layers of flavor are so complex from the smoking and the slow cooked vegetables it becomes a condiment fit for kings.  It's like what you always wished ketchup would be and then some.  It only gets better in the fridge as the consistency thickens and the flavors bind further.  Thus, making a lot is a good idea.

AND it makes great cocktail sauce!  A dollop of horseradish, some lemon and pepper and you're good to go.  We enjoyed it with our cold smoked shrimp and New Glaurus's Totally Naked, a terrific, light pilsner that doesn't fight with delicateness of shrimp.   It's relatively hard to find outside of Wisconsin so if you can't get your hands on it, most decent pilsners will do (other favorites of mine include - but are definitely not limited to - North Coast's Scrimshaw or Victory Brewery's Prima Pils).

Be warned, peel and eat shrimp are a messy undertaking and they take a little work to wrestle from their shells (though proud Southerners will debate this, each claiming to have the winning method).  They're worth it, though and the shells ought not be cast aside.  They will make excellent fish stock if saved.  I've already got mine slated for a seafood ramen!


Smoked Tomato and Fennel Cocktail Sauce

For Ketchup Base (makes 3-4 cups)

1 Red Onion, large dice
1 Fennel Bulb, large dice
5 cloves Garlic, sliced
2 1/4 lb Plum Tomatoes
3 ribs Celery, large diced
1 tsp. Fennel Seed, toasted
1 Tbsp. Coriander Seed, toasted
2 C.Water
2 C. Canned Tomatoes
1/2 C. Brown Sugar
3/4 C. Red Wine Vinegar

Smoke the tomatoes for 1 1/2 hours at 200 degrees (if you don't have a smoker substitute 2 tsp. liquid smoke and fresh tomatoes).  Sauté the onions, fennel, garlic, and celery on low for 20 minutes in a large dutch oven pan or any large pot that and retains heat well.   While the vegetables are sautéing,  toast the spices in a separate pan.  Grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.   Once the vegetables are soft add the smoked tomatoes, canned tomatoes, spices, and water.   Simmer on low for about an hour or until the mixture is reduced by half.   Puree the mixture and run it through a fine mesh.  Add the Smooth puree back into a clean pot and add the vinegar and sugar.  Heat on low for 20 minutes.  Salt to taste.

Cocktail Sauce
1 C. Smoked Tomato Ketchup
4 Tbsp. Prepared Horseradish
1 tsp. Coarse ground Black Pepper
1 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Serve with shrimp or prawns, preferably cold and smoked!

Pairing Notes 
Totally Naked
4.25 % ABV

This beer boasts a golden straw color with an ivory white head.  The aroma is mildly malty with floral and light citrus hop notes.  The Nobel Hops New Glaurus uses balance the sweet malts and also provide a bright cleansing finish.  The high carbonation is refreshing and this beer exemplifies summer (or the end of summer as it is)

This is a great example of a bridging pairing where both beer and food stand on their own while also complimenting each other and increasing each other's qualities.  The smoked shrimp are enhanced by the mild lemon notes from the hops and the sweet maltiness accentuate the smokiness of both the shrimp and the tomatoes as well as the sweetness in the fennel.  Additionally, the flavor layers of the fennel mimic the complexity that the Noble Hops provide.  Meanwhile, the tomato acidity and vinegar bite is balanced by the malty sweetness of the beer.  Also, because this particular cocktail sauce is fairly potent with its deep roastiness and smoke notes, the high carbonation and crisp finish help to cleanse a busy palate.


No comments :

Post a Comment