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Flavors Moment: Beef, bourbon and cigars

Chaley Harney Jesse Gleason Stephen Hindman 2022.jpg
Stella Fong
Yellowstone Public Radio
Chaley Harney, Jesse Gleason and Stephen Hindman in the YPR studio. The three are helping put on the Beef, Bourbon and Cigars event in Billings on Friday.

We think of wine and food pairings, but it’s not often that food is matched with bourbon — a type of American whiskey made primarily with corn and aged in new charred oaked barrels.

An event in Billings Friday will bring together beef, bourbon, and cigars.

Chaley Harney, executive director of the Montana Beef Council, says there are certain characteristics in beef that make for a good pairing.

"The fat content of your steak, the method of preparation like any sauces or compliments that you have planned," she said. "A few things to consider for a well marbled of prime like a rib eye, your steak needs to be as robust as the whiskey so that it can cut through and refresh between bites but it can also add flavor and because fat equals flavor you don’t want to add a lot of seasonings to the beef."

There are some particularly good matches for beef and bourbon.

"A nice pairing could be something like a malt scotch or something that is very peaty and smoky," Harney said, "and for a leaner cut, a bourbon like a Canadian whiskey that can provide that sweet counterpoint for something like a bacon-wrapped filet, you might pair that with a Pendleton or Woodford Reserve."

Stephen Hindman, owner, executive chef and founder of STACKED Montana Grill will be cooking up different cuts of beef.

"Everything from flank that we’re going to turn into a rolled flank, a roulade in style that is more Sicilian in nature with some spice ... to making our own chorizo out of ground chuck and we’ll plug that into some puff pastry," he said.

And, of course, there'll be desert.

"We’ll do some bread pudding, bring a little walnut and banana to a bread pudding that brings out the idea of bitters where we’re coming in with something at the end that isn’t a cocktail," Hindman said. "It’s a straight up rye in this case but it will allow those flavors to blend in your mouth."

Jesse Gleason, territory manager for Eastern Montana for Republican National Distributing Company, will showcase three different styles of bourbon with rye, corn mash and wheat.

"Rye has this beautiful molasses tone and cinnamon and spices. It’s like eating a ginger snap cookie and those pair great with different crusts on steaks, different dessert pairings," Gleason said. "Standard traditional heavy corn bourbon can run a gauntlet of flavors so the one we picked does lean a little more towards the cinnamon spice aspect but I think it balances really well with medium leanness cut of steak.

"Then start we’re going to go with a wheat whiskey which I think wheat shows the lightest characteristics in bourbon and gives it a beautiful honey, sweet vanilla tones."

Bring in cigars and you will have a full sensory experience — June 2 at the Billings Depot.

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.