This past weekend my extended family in-law took their yearly trip down to a big rental house in the Ardennes. Despite there being 35 in-laws, it is always a good time. A really beautiful area with typical grey stone buildings set amongst green rolling hills. Being november it usually rains most of the time we are there, but in that setting I don’t mind. Mrs. Smoking Bottle thinks its all a big grey depressing mess but I tend to see the pint glass as half full… at least there I do.
Each year I try to plan one thing for the family during our weekend stay. Either a brewery visit or a good charcoal cooked meal. This year I decided on another brewery visit rather than trying to keep an 11 month old girl, who is practicing walking, away from daddy’s fire… and cooking for 30+ people is a lot of work. Also, since the in-laws are wine people, I take it upon myself to try to educate these lost belgian souls about their beer heritage. There are a lot of breweries in Wallonia, unfortunately the area that we visit has fewer options. So far I have taken the in-laws to Achouffe, Fantome and this year Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets.
Les 3 Fouquets resides in an inviting old stone farm house in Courtil, about 5km from the Luxemburg border. It was started up by one of the founders of Brasserie D’Achouffe after the sale of that brewery to Duvel Moortgaat (I think thats how it went). The modern shiny brewhouse is quite small and squeezed into one small section of the rather large farm house. The main part of the building usually houses the restaurant and bar. I say usually because they currently have no cook. They plan on re-opening the restaurant again next summer but they need to find a head chef. Currently they produce only one beer, Lupulus, but in the past have dabbled with a few others. You can definitely taste and smell the Achouffe heritage in Lupulus. The brewery began with the Achouffe strain of yeast, but over time the yeast has somewhat mutated (according to Julien, our guide). Cloudy light orange brew with a yeast and citrus nose. Grassy, lightly citrus hop aroma but not aggressive. Pretty well balanced in the mouth with sweet pale malt and enough grassy bitterness to stay interesting and dry enough to be refreshing. I personally think that this would be a brilliant beer if it was around 5-6% ABV instead of the 8.5% it is.
Last year I opted for the cooking route instead of a brewery tour. With the help of one of the uncles, we cooked up duck breasts for 32 people. We didn’t yet have a daughter so we had room to pack up the WSM and take it down to the Ardennes with us. The duck was lightly rubbed with brown-sugar, coarse salt, fresh ground pepper, sage and a dash each of onion powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. Sounds like a lot but it was lightly rubbed on. The fillets were placed in the smoker fat side up for just over an hour (till about 115F internal). They were cooked over lump charcoal with a chunk of pearwood and a touch of hickory chips. After being smokedthe meat was thrown fat side down on the gasser and brushed with a glaze made from beer jelly (homemade with some of my homebrew) and butter. Served with cranberry sauce, pears poached Boon kriek and croquettes. We also made a very nice sauce with onion sauteed in some of the trimmed duck fat, some cranberries, a good slosh of Boon kriek and an unhealthy amount of cream. Run through a sieve and lightly drizzled onto the glazed duck breasts.
That was the most meat I have cooked in one time on the WSM. We only served half a breast per person but in order to fit 16 breasts on I had to take a grate from one of my kettles in order to add a third cooking surface in the smoker (on feet made from stainless steel threaded rod and some nuts and washers). That worked well and I had room to spare! I did try to take some photos of the process. Unfortunately while plating up the food for all those people we forgot to snap a photo of the sliced up duck with all the trimmings. Maybe next time. You can see photos of that cook here.