As a Certified Cicerone, I’ve proven my knowledge of beer and food pairings. But, even more than pairing food with beer, I love making food with beer.
Years of standing by my stove and dumping a bit of the beer I’m drinking into whatever I’m making have taught me how to work beer into almost any dish. Sure, I’ve had many failures: IPA and soy sauce reduce down into a salty mess, beer burns if you pour it directly over vegetables under the broiler, putting beer in salsa just, it doesn’t work. In one mini disaster, my apartment building almost had to be evacuated because beer leaked out of a meatball mix I was testing and onto the bottom of the oven.
Even with these misadventures ending with food in the trash instead of anyone’s stomach, I don’t think cooking with beer is a waste of good brews. Beer is made for people to enjoy and savor. Using it to improve the food you serve is just one of many ways beer can bring joy. As long as you’re showcasing the beer’s flavor, it isn’t wasted in cooking. A beer that becomes part of food is just taking on a new, sometimes more interesting, life.
Here are five of my favorite easy ways to bring beer flavor into your holiday dishes. The best part is, you can drink while you cook! If you ask me, a happy chef makes a better meal.
Bread with a Kick
Beer bread sounds like something best left to an expert baker, but here’s the thing, any bread can be a beer bread. Take a recipe and replace part or all of the liquid with your favorite beer. The flavor of the beer is very apparent in the finished loaf, so be sure to use a brew you’d drink by itself. Beer bread pairs well with cheese and makes for an unexpected addition to your holiday appetizers.
Punch up a Salad
Beer is a perfect complement to the bitter greens and fresh toppings of a salad. To make the dressing base, combine a light bitter or wheat beer, a neutral oil like canola, and some mustard (it will keep your dressing emulsified longer). Once that’s vigorously whisked, add your flavors of choice in endless combinations: I love an IPA, lemon, garlic, and black pepper blend. Hefeweizen, fresh squeezed orange juice, and minced shallot create a dressing with a citrus twist.
Onions: The Accompaniment for Everything
Caramelized onions can be found in just about any section on a menu, from topping pizza to filling sandwiches, and mingling with vegetables in a side dish. Replacing the water used to cook down onions with a dark beer like a Bock or a Belgian Dubbel is an easy adjustment with a big flavor payoff. Avoid pouring an IPA in the pot, as hop flavors cook down their bitterness intensifies and overtakes the sweetness of the onions.
Suds in Stews and Braises
Winter is the time to pull out a big stock pot and slow cook meat stews. Add a bottle of beer to any long braising meat (think oxtail or coq au vin), chilli or stew for an earthy, dark fruit, and caramel flavors. You can just add a 12 oz bottle and cook everything a little longer, but if you want to speed up the process remove 8 oz of the other liquids like beef stock, wine or water, from the recipe. Chimay Blue, a Belgian Dark Strong, is known for giving stews throughout Belgium their signature rich flavor. Give it a try!
The holidays bring so many desserts like spiced bundt cake, biscotti, and the classic gingerbread man. All of em can use a healthy dose of glaze. Make your glaze nice and beery by mixing two to three tablespoons of any beer with one and a half cups of powdered sugar. Stout glaze completes rich chocolatey desserts, and a kriek or framboise beer glaze is perfect on a vanilla flavored base. My favorite combination every holiday season is homemade gingersnaps finished with a Belgian Tripel glaze.