Sour note not a bad thing for Oktoberfest
Chef Ricky Soto of The Lucky Monk in Barrington, prepares a German Pizza for their upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. Chef Soto places a ground beef and potato mixture on top of a crust with béchamel sauce. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Béchamel Pizza Sauce (Adapted from Ricky Soto’s personal recipe)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, heated
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Freshly ground nutmeg, to taste (optional)
Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until mixture is well blended. Gradually stir in hot milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce begins to boil and thickens. Simmer, stirring frequently, over very low heat for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add a little nutmeg, if desired.
Use a prepared pizza crust or favorite pizza crust recipe. Spread béchamel pizza sauce evenly across crust. Add very thin slices of potatoes and onions. Cook ground beef on stovetop; drain fat. Evenly spread beef crumbles over potatoes and onions. Cover ingredients with a favorite shredded cheese. Follow directions for baking pizza crust.
Pucker up! Sour beer is one new flavor that more and more people will experience as cultures around the world continue to embrace Germany’s 103-year-old autumnal celebration of Oktoberfest.
And while Americans gain exposure to tastes of old-world Deutschland, local chefs also are introducing food recipes for the occasion that reflect their non-German heritage. (German pizza, anyone?) In short: Our Oktoberfest has a new flavor wheel.
One of the fastest-growing flavors is sour, which is most obvious in the tart beers that are popping up on menus. One reason: They pair well with almost any food, sweet or savory. “They’re so food-friendly,” said Jared Rouben, brewmaster at Goose Island in Chicago. “They are as palate-cleansing as sorbet and emulate qualities of sauvignon blanc, Gewurztraminer or other wines commonly paired with food.”
But price may be holding sour brews back. Wooden barrels required for producing them properly can cost as much as $110 each. Managing the necessary special yeast strain is also costly. Similar to the wild yeast first used by Medieval brewers to introduce sour beers, the yeast can easily contaminate other yeasts.
And not everyone appreciates the tart taste of the brews, which are challenging to balance. “A sour beer shouldn’t be overly sweet, but should still have that ‘pucker up’ flavor,” explained Anthony Carollo, brewmaster at The Lucky Monk in South Barrington.
Sour brews are an extension of lambics and other fashionable beers that filtrated onto the U.S. scene from Germany and Belgium many years ago. Like lambics, they have been enjoyed by mainstream Europe for centuries. “Sour beers are not a trend,” Carollo said. “Americans are just being introduced to them. They are here to stay.”
The segment of beers known as Oktoberfest beers followed a similar path. This year, Carollo crafted an amber-colored 2012 Oktoberfest Lager Beer. The beer, which was released on Sept. 18, is made with hops, malts and other ingredients that were imported from Germany. Carollo blended them together to create a slightly bittersweet flavor with hints of caramel. “It has a malt flavor up front with somewhat of a sweet taste,” he said.
The new brew works well with a German Pizza made with cheese, ground beef, potatoes, onions and a white sauce that Chef Ricky Soto has developed for The Lucky Monk’s Oktoberfest menu. “The sweet, malty flavors of the beer go well with the creamy texture of the mixed cheeses, and the rich body of the beer pairs well with the beef on the pizza,” Carollo said.
Soto thinks the pizza, which intertwines German influences with his personal inspirations, makes sense.
“After all, what’s more German than potatoes and beef?” he asked.
Soto’s menu, which will be available through Oct. 31, features schnitzel, bratwurst, potato pancakes and other more expected fare.
Meanwhile, Carollo is crafting a black-colored beer to debut in time for Halloween. “It is literally pitch black,” he said. A Belgian-style, amber-colored beer will be ready in November. Another 2012 brew, a Russian Imperial Stout, will be released in December. Part of the brew is aged in a barrel. “Chicago is taking the title of barrel-aged beer producer in the country,” Carollo explained.
Whether it holds beer brewed in wood or stainless steel; whichever new flavor fills it, raise a stein to Oktoberfest, a tradition that began as a royal wedding celebration in Munich in 1810. Prosit!