By Gail Oberst and Will Oberst-Cairns
Strike one: On the south end of Portland’s Mississippi neighborhood, Ecliptic Brewing huddles beneath a behemoth network of overpasses and cell towers. In addition, Ecliptic’s location next door to what appears to be parking lots for industrial machinery is in an unlikely setting for exceptional food. Ecliptic’s status as a brewery – ‘pub food’ is generally a derisive term – gets a second strike.
Up to bat at an age when most brewers would consider retiring, long-time brewer and first-time brewery owner John Harris knocks this one out of the ballpark, if his sold-out brewer’s dinners are any indication of foodie appreciation. The former Deschutes brewer has opened his own restaurant and taphouse, and, oh yeah by the way, a brewery. Harris brings his years of experience brewing at McMenamins, Full Sail and Deschutes to his own brewery, where he follows the instincts that have made other breweries successful.
He’s picked up a few ideas about food along the way. Harris said he learned from Deschutes’ Gary Fish the value of serving fine food with fine beer, and he noted that, despite the plethora of new breweries in Portland, there were few serving “better” food. “This is a foodie town,” Harris said of Portland. “Beer will bring people in, but food will bring them back.”
Right after setting up his brewery, Harris advertised for an executive chef and came up with “talent,” he said. Michael Molitor has been cooking in the Northwest since the mid-1990s. After working at Desert Sage in Boise, he moved to Phoenix to attend the Scottsdale Culinary Institute. He graduated and headed for Portland’s Heathman Restaurant in 2002, and has been at the Pazzo Ristorante for the last nine years. Why does he love his job? “It’s a way to work with your hands and your brains, said Molitor.
Cooking with beer and pairing with beer has become a new passion for Molitor. “When people come to Ecliptic, we want to give them an exceptional experience, to change the way they might think a brewpub is supposed to be,” said Molitor. In keeping with the restaurant’s astronomical theme, the menu changes with the seasons. The lamb featured here, for example, will most likely not be on the menu again until next year. Ecliptic is also dedicated to local “purveyors,” as Harris calls them: Charlie’s Produce, Cattail Creek Lamb, SWP Provisions, Newman’s Fish, Dancing Roots Farm, Farm & Wild, Provvista, Alexis, Grand Central Bakery, Roy Hop Farms, Steven Smith Teamaker and Caffe Vita Coffee Roasting, to name a few.
Because Harris’s reputation preceded him, Ecliptic opened six months ago with great fanfare. Today, the buzz has distilled to a comfortable hum of patrons just discovering the industrial wood, concrete and steel charm that is Ecliptic. There is a full bar for those who prefer spirits. Monthly “Lunation” brewer’s dinners are on the first Tuesday of each month. The next dinner is May 6 – reservations are required by calling the brewery.
Porter-Braised Lamb Shank
Suggested Beer Pairing: Ecliptic Capella Porter or Ecliptic Arcturus IPA
Recipe Provided by: Chef Michael Molitor
8 lamb foreshanks (about 14-16 oz. each)
2 yellow onions, large dice
3 medium carrots, peeled, large dice
2 bunches celery, large dice
20 whole garlic cloves
1 cup tomato paste
2 sprigs thyme
48 oz. Ecliptic Capella Porter
48 oz. chicken stock
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate (70%-75%)
3 oz. Seville orange marmalade
Preheat oven to 400° F.
• Generously season the shanks with salt and black pepper. In a large sauce pan or cast iron pot (make sure the dish is large enough to accommodate all the porter and stock), brown the shanks on all sides; when all the shanks have been browned, place them in a large braising dish.
• Remove any excess grease from the browning pot, and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic; cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring often so the vegetables do not burn.
• Once the vegetables begin to soften, add the tomato paste; cook, stirring often, for 3-4 more minutes.
• Add the thyme, porter, chicken stock and chocolate; bring to a simmer and pour over the shanks.
• Cover the pan, and place in the preheated oven. Braise for 2 1/2 hours. Allow the shanks to cool slightly, then carefully remove from braising liquid. Discard thyme. Pass the liquid and vegetables through a food mill, and return to the heat. Add the marmalade, and reduce the liquid until very thick. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper. To serve, spoon the reduced braising liquid over the warm shanks.
Beer Pairing Notes:
There are several aims at food pairing with beer – cut, complement or contrast with the food, says Molitor. In the “complement” category, Molitor likes pairing Capella Porter with the lamb because he had included the porter in the recipe, and the smokey notes in the porter complement the gamey taste of lamb. In the “cut” category, Oregon Beer Growler’s Will Oberst-Cairns likes pairing the lamb with Arturus IPA. The citrusy bitterness of the IPA cuts through the oil of the lamb, enhancing the sweetness of the marinade, “like brother astronauts exploring bold new flavors.”
Ecliptic Chicken Sandwich
Suggested Beer Pairing: Ecliptic Procyon Dry Hop Pale Ale
Recipe Provided by: Chef Michael Molitor
For the Chicken:
2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 oz. garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 oz. chopped ginger
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons honey
• Cut the chicken thigh into 1” to 1-1/2 “pieces. Combine garlic, ginger, fish sauce and honey; coat the chicken with the marinade and refrigerate overnight
For the Pickled Root Vegetables:
1 medium daikon radish, peeled & julienned
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned
2 large watermelon radishes, peeled & julienned
1 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 whole star anise
• Place the daikon, carrot and watermelon radish in a bowl. Bring the vinegar, water, sugar and star anise to a boil; pour over the root vegetable mix (the vegetables should be completely submerged) and refrigerate overnight
For the Jalapeño Mayonnaise:
We make our own mayonnaise at the restaurant, but this recipe will work well using store-bought mayo as well.
1 jalapeño, chopped, with seeds
juice of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 cup chopped dill pickles
1 large pepperoncini, seeds and brine removed
2 cups mayonnaise
• In a food processor, pulse the jalapeño, lime juice, pickles and pepperoncini until it is finely chopped but not pureed. Fold the mix into the mayonnaise.
Other Ingredients Needed:
8 good quality hoagie rolls
1 bunch cilantro, washed and leaves picked
• In a cast iron skillet, brown the marinated chicken over medium heat until cooked through. While chicken is cooking, butter and toast hoagies; spoon a generous amount of jalapeño mayo on both sides; place a layer of pickled vegetables on the bottom, followed by a layer of chicken, then a layer of cilantro leaves. Put the top half of the hoagie on and enjoy!
Beer Pairing Notes:
Chef Molitor likes pairing the pale ale, with its caramel notes and dry finish, with the sandwich’s light heat and sweet funky fishiness. “We want something that cuts through the taste, but doesn’t dominate it.”
( a ) 825 N. Cook St., Portland
Owner: John Harris
Chef: Michael Molitor
Open 7 days a week
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