Beer has always had a place at the dinner table. That place was inside a glass (sometimes a bottle or can), preferably chilled, and conveniently within arms reach. Beer just hung out there, dripping condensation onto the table top, just wanting to be held. But the main dish has always garnered a diner’s focus. And that nearby beer? Merely to wash down a piece of dry chicken.
Well stand by no more, dear beers. You lagers and stouts have found a new home on the dinner table: On the plate!
At LeRoux Kitchen‘s recent Cooking with Beer class with staff member and resident chef Matt Burnham, beer wasn’t just present, it was the centerpiece.
Beer-brined pork chops, made with Allagash Trippel
Carrots and parsnips with dark beer glaze, made with Allagash Four
Couscous with dried cherries and pistachios, made with Rising Tide Ishmael
No knead beer bread, made with Bull Jagger Portland Lager
Stout ice cream, made with Rising Tide Ursa Minor
Chef Matt prepared the beer-based dinner while we sat and watched, perched on chairs and leaning forward on the counter now and then to look into a simmering pan or a bowl of rising batter. This was no formal session of pre-measured ingredients, helpful assistants, and perfectly baked bread that magically comes out of the oven just after the batter went in. Wait, actually, that thing with the bread did happen (the yeast takes hours to rise – it’s the one thing that couldn’t be prepared from start to finish in the two-hour class).
Although we did learn that, while beer and bread have a typically top-notch relationship, the high alcohol of some beers might kill of the bread’s precious yeast. So stick with beers with a 4.5-5% ABV. Also, chef Matt said the salt in the recipe is very, very important, “extremely important!” And to get that really amazing crunchy crust, put a baking tray on the shelf below the bread and toss a few ice cubes on it while the bread’s baking.
The beer ice cream was started early, as it, too, needed a little time to chill before being whipped into stouty deliciousness.
And then there was nappé. That’s a fancy word for when the mixture thickens and you can dip the spoon in the batter and use your finger to swipe a line in the batter and the line holds. It’s holds the line! Nappé! Matt admittedly – ahem – borrowed this recipe idea from chef Jeff Landry of The Farmer’s Table. Chef Landry created to Ursa Major ice cream for a Rising Tide beer dinner a while back, and Matt fell in love.
Carrots and parsnips do well with a glaze. When it’s a beer glaze, well, a carrot really couldn’t ask to go out in a better way. The key here is to just. keep. stirring. The sugars go from sweet coating to cantankerous cement in a hurry.
Combine parsnips, carrots, beer, cinnamon and ancho in heavy saucepan. Cover and simmer until barely tender, 10-12 minutes. Remove cover and simmer hard until liquid reduced to a glaze. Stir in butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Beer acts differently than, say, water or chicken broth. For one, chicken broth won’t foam up when it’s heated. But during class, the beer sure did. And when salt was added to the warming beer – more foam. It’s a beer reality. While couscous is typically made by adding liquid to the couscous, this recipe politely requests that you add the couscous to the beer.
In a large fry pan, saute the couscous in a the olive oil until golden and lightly browned. Stir in the dried cherries and pistachios and saute for 1-2 minutes. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water or Ishmael to boil, reduce flame to simmer and add couscous mixture to beer. Cover, turn off heat and let cook 5-8 minutes, until couscous is tender.
And then there were pork chops. And chicken. Brines (a salt and water blend that can include other things like herbs, honey, or, in this case, beer) pull the salt deep into the meat, unlike traditionally seasoning, which only salts the surface. The longer the meat is brined, the greater the intestity. For this recipe, which calls for a 3-4 hour brine, Matt suggested watering it down if you planned on brining longer. He prepared his bring with Allagash Trippel, which has an impressive 9% ABV. The chops and chicken breast go for a prolonged dip and the meat eaters are rewarded.
Combine all ingredients for brine in a large bowl. Place chops (chicken) in a rbing bag or other resealable bag or bowl and place in refrigerator for 3-5 hours. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper (caution on the salt: Remember you’ve already salted it for 3-5 hours). Place on grill and cook 10-12 minutes per side. Remove from heat, let rest, then serve.
Beer does well as a main dish. I feel a little guilty for relegating it to cups for all those years.
Of course, no one’s saying you can’t cook with it AND drink it the old fashioned way.
March 23: The perfect egg cooking demo, 1 pm, free
March 30: Vitamix from A to Z demo, 1 pm, free
April 13: Pizza! Pizza! Pizza! demo, 1 pm, free
April 18: Breakfast for dinner class, 5:30-7:30 pm, $25
April 27: Pretzels and mustard demo, 1 pm, free
May 11: Cinnamon rolls baking demo, 1 pm, free
May 16: Fish three ways class, 5:30-7:30 pm, $25
May 25: Hot dogs and pressure cooker baked beans demo, 1 pm, free