January 27, 2012

Cooking with Beer

One major benefit of being a homebrewer is that you often have a variety of really good beer on hand. This surplus of cerveza, while keeping you and everyone you know sufficiently buzzed, also lends itself to experimentation in the kitchen. Over the past couple months, I've used beer to make stir-fried brussels sprouts, spicy spent grain stew, and chocolate stout cupcakes.

Pale Ale & Garlic Brussels Sprouts

My girlfriend and I really love brussels sprouts. Sure, by themselves they're pretty bitter, but if you cook them right (for me that usually means lots of garlic), they're delicious. Plus, they're really good for you. Brussels have practically no fat (we'll fix that don't worry), are packed with vitamins C and K, have a nice dose of fiber and protein, and are low in the glycemic index. So, when I saw this recipe from Stone's new cookbook on BillyBrew.com, I knew I had to give it a shot - with a few personal tweaks, of course.

Steps 1 - 3: Steam 1 pound of brussels in salted water for about 4 minutes. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Slice the brussels in half lengthwise.

Brussels post-steam and about 6 cloves chopped garlic.

Steps 4 - 5: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil (that's good fat!). Start with high heat but take it down to medium before it starts smoking. Add 1/4 pound diced pancetta (the tasty fat!) and cook til brown.

Not good fat - but yummy fat.
Steps 6 - 7: Add 6 cloves of minced garlic. Turn up the heat and add the brussels. Stir fry for 4 - 5 minutes.


Step 8: Add a bottle of pale ale. Nothing excessively hoppy, because the beer will cook down and that bitterness will be condensed. The recipe calls for Stone Pale Ale, but since I didn't have any of that, I used some of my homebrewed Amarillo Pale Ale in a Stone IPA bottle. Is that wrong? I don't think so. Cook til the beer is almost all gone.


Steps 9 - 11: Use a 1/4 cup of vegetable stock to deglaze the pan, let it cook off completely, and transfer the brussels to a bowl or serving dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with sun-dried tomatoes and parmigiano-reggiano cheese and serve!


Yup, I ate it all in one sitting.  The only thing I'd do differently next time is make sure that pancetta is nice and crispy.  Man, I'm getting hungry...

Spicy Grain Soup


Whether a homebrewer or a commercial brewer, one question that comes up a lot is what to do with your grains after they've been mashed. I suppose you could just throw them out with the garbage, but I usually compost my spent grains and trub. The grains, however, can also be used to make bread, cookies, or in this case, soup. I decided to hold on to some of my spent grains to use in this recipe from Food & Wine in place of the barley, bulgur, and rice.

Long story short, this soup came out great. Basically I skipped steps 1 and 2 from the original recipe because the grains we already cooked through the brewing process. You start by sauteing the onions, garlic, and chile peppers, roughly chopped because it all gets pureed in the blender later. Then comes the broth, cilantro, diced tomatoes, and seasonings. Just for fun, I substituted about half of the vegetable stock with some of my homebrewed chocolate stout.


After cooking this mixture for 45 minutes, it all gets pureed together. ***Let the soup cool a little before you blend it and be careful. You don't want hot soup to spill all over you, so fill the blender less than half way full to start with, blend in small batches, and hold the top on TIGHT. You'll end up with something like this:


Then come the mushrooms, black beans, carrot, zucchini and parsnips. Trader Joe's carries a bag of pre-diced parsnips and rutabagas that will work just fine.




For the last step, all I had to do was take a couple cups from my spent grains and throw them in the soup. There's still plenty of protein and fiber in those grains to make this a very healthy meal! Unlike what we have here for dessert...


Chocolate Stout Cupcakes


I don't have any photos from this experiment, but let me tell you -- these were pure evil, in the best sense of the word. My girlfriend and I made these right before Christmas using this recipe from the Food Network. Again, I used my chocolate stout in this recipe, but I'm sure Guinness will work just fine. The only tweaks we made were to use margarine instead of butter and to cut the powdered sugar in the cream cheese icing down to 3/4 cup. That was plenty sweet for us.


These turned out to be some of the best cupcakes I've ever had. They were super moist for days and the icing had flavor, not just sugar. From scratch is really the way to go.


So get in the kitchen already -- what can you make with homebrew or beer from your local brewery?

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