In the midst of my "let's clean out all the refrigerators" pre-Pesach craziness, I discovered the remaining 11 cans of 12 of the beer that my neighbor contributed to our Super Bowl party. Being a "let's try anything as an ingredient kind of cook" I already know that beer could be used in just about every method of cooking known to man.
I've used it in baking, braising, in batters for frying, sauces, marinating, poaching and even glazing. However, real knowledge about what beer is and what its complex mix of flavors can do to other ingredients is what's key to making a so-so recipe really terrific.
Most American, English and German beers are considered kosher. However, some stouts and flavored beers do require certification. Beers fall into three different categories: lagers, ales (the difference between them is the type of yeast used in fermentation) and specialty beers.
The four main ingredients for most beers are water, malted barley (or wheat), hops and yeast. Ales are usually higher in alcohol content and have a more complex flavor. Lagers are usually lighter in color and can be somewhat drier than ale.
In specialty beers, just about everything but the kitchen sink goes. I have seen brewers use chocolate (pretty good), pumpkin (really yucky), fruit juices (the jury's still out), candy and just about anything else you can think of. Specialty beers I drink on a dare; I don't cook with them.
Beer can be used in marinades to tenderize meat, as well as with sweeter vegetables like onions, carrots and corn. It gives them an earthier flavor, but you may need to add just a touch of sugar or honey to the vegetable dish to counteract the bitter component of the beer. The yeast in beers is also terrific when used as a leavening agent in baking or in batters.
So what type of beer works best (for cooking, and not just drinking)? Why whatever you have on hand, unless it's pumpkin, and then I say just pitch it. If however, you're actually buying beer to cook with, I suggest you start with pale ale; for my money, it's the most adaptable for most of the following recipes. Please note that the follow recipes will help you use up chametz in a most delicious way.
Note: For those of you who don't imbibe alcohol, you can utilize the non-alcohol types of beers and get pretty much the same results.
This marinade is great for grilling chicken and beef.
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsps. minced garlic
1 cup onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced fine
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsps. honey
8 oz. beer
2 Tbsps. black pepper
juice of 6 limes
Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.
Makes a generous 2 cups of marinade.
(Dairy or Pareve)
Recipe modified from cookingwithbeer.com.
12 oz. amber ale
11/2 cups flour
2 Tbsps. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsps. melted butter or margarine
21/2 cups oil
8 large apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/3-inch thick rings (Granny Smith are best), soaked in ice water until ready to use, then pat dry
sugar-and-cinnamon mixture for dusting
In a large bowl, whisk together the ale, flour, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and melted butter. Set the mixture aside.
Pour oil into deep Dutch oven cast-iron frying pan. Heat the oil to about 350° to 360.°
Dip the dried apple rings into the batter and coat them evenly. Fry the apple rings in small batches. Turn once to cook evenly. Skim the extra pieces out of the oil and add more oil as needed. Be sure to keep the oil hot.
Let the cooked apple fritters drain on paper towels for a few minutes, then sprinkle them with the cinnamon-sugar mixture and serve.
Ribs in Beer
6-8 boneless ribs
salt and pepper
2 onions, chopped
2/3 cup hickory brown-sugar barbecue sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. mustard
2 Tbsps. brown sugar
1 tsp. red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup beer
Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs.
Spread the chopped onions over the bottom of a roasting pan or crockpot. Put the meat on top of the onions.
In a bowl, combine the beer, ketchup, mustard, pepper flakes, brown sugar and barbecue sauce, and mix to combine.
Pour the mixture over the meat, cover, and cook in the oven at 350° for 4 to 5 hours, or in the crockpot on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours.
To serve, place the meat on a serving platter and cover. Let the liquid sit for a few minutes, skim off the fat, then pour the gravy over the top. The gravy will be kind of thin, so you can thicken it with a little cornstarch and cold water mixed together added to the gravy and heated for 2 minutes.
Beer-and-Lime Chicken With Carrots
2 whole chickens (about 4 lbs. total)
1 Tbsp. salt, or to taste
1 Tbsp. black pepper or to taste
11/2 to 2 limes, halved
1 can beer
paprika to taste
11/3 cups water
1 lb. baby carrots
Preheat oven to 350°.
Season the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from the limes over the whole chicken, and then place the squeezed halves into the cavity of the chickens.
Pour 1/2 of the beer into the chicken, then place the chicken on a roasting rack in a roasting pan. Pour the remaining beer over the top of the chicken and then pour the water into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the top of the chicken lightly with paprika, and a little more salt and pepper.
Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil, add the carrots to the bottom of the pan, baste with the juice in the bottom of the pan, and sprinkle a little paprika on the carrots. Cook for an additional 30 minutes, basting occasionally.
To serve, remove the chickens from the oven, let set for 3 minutes and then cut them into quarters. Place the carrots on a serving platter, place the chicken quarters on top and serve with the sauce on the side.
Quick, Self-Rising Beer Bread
I've had this recipe forever, and my kids love it.
3 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup grated cheddar or pepper-jack cheese
6-8 green onions, chopped
12 oz. beer
Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease the bottom and all the sides of a loaf pan well. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and sugar together.
Add the cheese and chopped green onions. Mix to combine.
Add the beer and mix until the ingredients are combined, but be careful to not overmix.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50 minutes to a 1 hour, or until the loaf is golden-brown and sounds hollow sound when thumped.
Cool on a wire rack and then serve. This can be made up to a month in advance and frozen.
Makes 1 loaf.
Eileen Goltz, a freelance food writer, is the author of Perfectly Pareve.