Monday, September 24, 2012

Hopped Up Potatoes, Literally - Hop Fries

I think it's safe to say that Oregon has a fairly rich and diverse beer drinking culture.  But then again, Oregon has A LOT of breweries....  121 as a matter of fact (according to a 2010 report by the American Brewer's Association)  Hilariously enough even though this boils down to 1 brewery for every 31,600 people, Oregon is only number 2 in the list.  Rounding out the top 5 are Montana at #3 (Love me some Moose Drool from Big Sky in my Chili), Colorado at #4 (which surprises me since the Brew College is there), and Maine at #5.  So who is number one?  It's Vermont that boasts the highest amount of breweries per capita.  Of course, you must realize that the entire population of the Vermont is about 625,000 people.  With 21 breweries, that means there is 1 brewery for every 29,800 people (roughly).   This also means that Oregon is giving Vermont a run for it's money at being the brew capital of the US.   If you figure in Washington and it's additional 123 breweries (Washington is #8 on the list), that the Great NorthWet, as we so lovingly refer to it, is the land of Beer and Beans (Coffee Beans, that is).

All through my childhood and well into my adult years, the Henry Weinhard's Brewery in NW Portland has been pumping out Boar's Head Red, Henry's Dark Lager, Henry's Ale and of course, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve.  Sadly, the original brewery closed, but all was not lost... For countless (OK, there are 121) "Micro Brewers" have taken the place of Portland's longest running brewery.  Enter the world of craft brewing and you will find.... Widmer Brother's, Coalition, Laurelwood, Bridgeport, Ft. George, Boneyard, Dechutes, Lompoc, Ninkasi, Rogue, Upright, Alameda, Hair of the Dog, Amnesia, Bend Brewing, Double Mountain, Cascade Lakes, Hopworks, and Full Sail (which brews not only their own varieties, but Session and Henry Weinhard's since the closing of the Portland brewery).

With easy access to so many difference styles of beer, a strange phenomenon has formed.  Sort of a sub-culture within the craft brewing culture.... The Hop Head.  I suppose it was inevitable since several varieties were developed here at Oregon State University, such as Cascade, Willamette, Liberty, Santiam and Mt. Hood.  Yes, things are really hoppin at OSU...  hardee har har

Hops, Hops and more Hops....  Don't get me wrong, I like Hops in my beer.  The Alpha acids help to preserve it, and that makes me extremely happy, but there is a surge in the crafting of Ales to please the Hop Heads... Thus IPA (India Pale Ale) which tends to be fairly hoppy already, since it had to travel from England all the way to India and was in desperate need of the preserving power of hops, has given way to the style known as NWPA (NorthWest Pale Ale).  These NWPAs are usually extremely hopped versions of IPA and as a result, are REALLY bitter.  This is the drawback to preserving the beer with alpha acids, the bitterness they create.  The more bitter the beer, the longer it will last.

This actually brings me to the topic of Hops themselves, for they are the essence of beer all rolled into a small green flower bud.  Hops are responsible for preservation, flavor and aroma in beer.  Most beers contain at least 2 different hops, for those that preserve and/or add flavor do not necessarily scent the beer as well.    My favorite aroma hop is Saaz but it does not contain enough alpha acids to preserve or bitter the beer.  One must turn to the higher Alpha content in Centennial, Magnum or really kick it up and go with Chinook to properly preserve/bitter the beer.

But enough about Hops as they pertain to beer.  This post is actually about other things you can do with hops.  Yes, you can eat them as well, just like any other herb.  I would suggest consuming the lower Alpha hops such as the afore mentioned Saaz or maybe Hallertauer or Tettnanger.

One of my favorite hopped up dishes is very easy to make.  I was first exposed to the concept during the 2011 Fruit Beer Festival held at Burnside Brewing.... Hop Fries!

Hop Fries

Frozen Shoestring fries (I avoid making fries from scratch, it requires a double frying... too much work)
Oil for Deep Frying
2 hop flowers, finely minced (a little goes a long way)
Kosher Salt (or Smoked Salt)

Prepare a pan by laying down paper towels and place a cooling rack over them.

Heat the oil to 375 F degrees.

Drop the shoestrings and fry according to package directions.

Finely mince the hop flowers.

Remove the fries from the hot oil and drain on a rack.

Season the fries with Kosher Salt. (though I chose Salish Alder Smoked Salt this time)

Sprinkle the finely minced hops over the fries...

Toss briefly and serve hot.

Super easy and super delicious!

Time to think outside the beer bottle.



Danielle Imstuffed said...

how fun is that! they look soo good. It's breakfast time...can I have fries for breakfast please?

Patti T. said...

I would not have guessed that you could do anything with hops other than make beer. I have to admit, I have a saying, hoppy beer does not make me happy. It helps me remember to ask about the hoppiness of a beer when I am at a micro-brewery. I am a huge fan of wheat beer, which by the way I hear you can use for cooking, ha ha. At the other end of the spectrum I loooooove the really really dark beers, that taste like coffee or caramel sometimes. Now you have me thirsty for a beer. Right now in my refrigerator there is Samual Adams Shandy. One of my favorite beers in Germany were ones that were called I swear limonada bier but I can't find anything about it now? Seems like they call them radlers now.
Do the hops give a bitterness to the fries??

Shane Wingerd said...

There is a little bit of bittering from the hops, but if you are using the lower alpha acid varieties, such as Hallertau or Saaz, the bittering aspect is kept to a minimum and you end up with more of the floral notes. I just enjoyed a radler this weekend at my brother's BBQ. It was a Grapefruit one made by Stiegl in Austria. Quite refreshing and delicious.

Patti T. said...

I had heard about the grapefruit variety, I thought it sounded good. The floral note with the hops sounds good.