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Beer In Cooking

As summer wanes and autumn arrives, the thoughts of many of us turn to beer, as in Oktoberfest. Something about the crisp chill in the air goes well with malty, hoppy, frothy mugs of beer. And if you are a dedicated fan of the suds, you probably have figured out that you can go beyond drinking it. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has a few thoughts about cooking with beer.

The first thing we should point out is this: since many recipes call for the addition of water or some other liquid, substituting beer is hardly a radical idea.

Beers have so many different flavors and so many subtle nuances that it's easy to exploit the possibilities.

Let's look at some of the ways you can incorporate beer into a menu.

Beer based batter is a favorite choice. For this you'll want a fairly light beer with lots of good carbonation and acidity. A good quality lager would be a good choice. If you want a tart undertaste, try a weizen.  If you want something with a little bit of sweetness to it, try a Belgian.  But to make the batter work, the more carbonation you can get, the better. And of course, once you whip up your beer batter, start thinking about fish and chips.

Beer braising takes advantage of the deep earthiness of many beers. Braising is one of those long slow processes that yields unbelievable results. A brief reminder, you only need to cover about half of the food in the braising pan with liquid. You will be allowing the dry side to crisp up, and then you can turn it to get the benefits of cooking in hot flavorful liquid. I went looking for recipes for beer braising, and as soon as I saw one calling for porter, I knew I had my match. Porter is one of the richest beers, with deep sweet and sour flavors, and a  dark color to boot.  Combined with chopped carrots, onions, shallots, garlic and seasonings, you cannot think of a better braising liquid than porter.

Stews are a close cousin of braising.  This is a total immersion idea, and the usual list of ingredients is the very picture of heartiness. I would think that a bottle of Guiness Stout would be a welcome addition to just about any beef stew recipe.

Stout's dark, curiously dry flavors and good acidity make it a natural for breaking down chunks of beef and extracting all their goodness and flavor. Because stout has a relatively restrained flavor profile, it blends more than dominates, and ties the other ingredients together.  If the word "richness" comes to mind when you think of stout, you can understand why it would be a winner.

One dish I cannot imagine making without beer is chili.  Pouring water into a chili bowl seems a sacrilege to me. A good beer with a lot of body, good acidity and hoppy overtones seems perfect to me.  IPA anyone?  However I did see one recipe that I thought was brilliant:  use one of those so-called chocolate flavored beers in  your next batch of chili.  The chocolate isn't at all sweet, but it is rich and earthy so I can understand the point.

Beer-based marinades is a very natural idea.  Brown ales and English style bitters seem born for this kind of work.  The beer flavors are relatively mild so they play nice with other ingredients such as teriyaki, brown sugar or honey.

If you go looking for beer and cheese sauce recipes, you won't have to go far.

Tasty, meltable cheeses can't wait to hold hands with a nice dark beer.  Toss in some Dijon mustard, a little hot sauce, and some crumbled bacon and you've got a winner.

And while beer will not replace, say, milk in a lot of dessert baking recipes, it will work wonders with chocolate brownies.  Once again, we would be calling on those porters whose flavors are anticipated by the bitter sweet dark chocolate.

Here are some of Jerry's favorite recipes.

Beer Battered Onion Rings


2 large yellow onions (about 2 pounds total)

3 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 ½ cups cornstarch

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling

1 ½ cups Waverly IPA

2 cups sparkling mineral water

1 large egg

4 to 6 cups vegetable oil (or more depending on vessel), for frying

Preheat oven to 250°F. Set two cooling racks over two rimmed baking sheets.

Cut onions crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices and separate into rings. Reserve small inner rings for another use. Add 1 cup flour to a large bowl. Toss rings in flour and let sit 30 minutes.

When ready to fry, whisk together remaining 2 cups flour, cornstarch, garlic and onion powder, cayenne, sugar and salt in a large bowl. In another large bowl, whisk together the beer, water, and egg. Gradually whisk the dry mixture to the wet mixture.

Heat an inch of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until it registers 350°F on a deep fry/candy thermometer. Working in batches to prevent crowding, dredge the onion rings in the batter and immediately drop into the oil. Cook onion rings, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes total. Transfer cooked rings to the cooling racks set over the baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and keep warm in oven while frying remaining batches.

Pressure Cooker Short Ribs


¼ cup Canola or Olive oil

4 lb. Boneless Beef Short Ribs

1 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ cups honey

10-oz. can red chili sauce (we like to use Heinz)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

12 oz. Waverly Buckwheat Brown Ale

Heat olive oil in the base of a pressure cooker over medium high heat until just smoking. Place the pork roast in the pressure cooker and brown on all sides. Add Worcestershire sauce, honey, chili sauce, salt, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder and beer. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and allow to fully pressurize. Cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. Release the pressure according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remove the lid.  Remove the roast, discard the fat, and shred the meat. While you are shredding the meat, place the pressure cooker back over medium heat and allow the sauce to thicken. Pour as much of the sauce as necessary to coat the pork. Serve immediately over rice or in tortillas.

Beer Mac & Cheese


1 ½ cups elbow macaroni

1 teaspoon and ½ tsp salt, divided

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon light flavor olive oil

1 large shallot, finely minced

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups whole milk

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

6 oz. Waverly Agave Blonde Ale

2 teaspoons full strength prepared stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot, over medium-high heat, bring two quarts water and 1 teaspoon salt to a full rolling boil. Gradually add macaroni and boil approximately 10 minutes or until pasta reaches desired tenderness. Drain.

Melt butter and olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté shallots in butter and olive oil for approximately 2 minutes or until they begin to turn transparent. Add flour to the pan, stirring constantly until a smooth paste forms. Stirring constantly, gradually add milk and continue cooking until mixture is thick and bubbly (mixture should coat the back of a spoon). Add 8 ounces of cheese and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and add beer, mustard, garlic powder, pepper and remaining salt. Stir well.

Spray a 9” x 9" square glass pan with non-stick cooking spray. In the large pot, combine macaroni and cheese sauce and stir. Pour into 9” x 9" baking dish, cover with foil and place into preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove foil and continue cooking, uncovered for another 15 minutes.

Remove macaroni and cheese from the oven. Allow to cool for approximately 5 minutes before serving

Beer Battered Brownies


2 cups all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon table salt

12 oz. Waverly Oyster Stout

Vegetable oil for deep frying

½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 8- or 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. In medium bowl, stir brownie mix, pouch of chocolate syrup, water, ¼ cup oil and the egg until well blended. Spread batter in pan.

Bake 8-inch pan 38 to 40 minutes, 9-inch pan 34 to 37 minutes, or until toothpick inserted 2 inches from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely in pan on cooling rack, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows.

In 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy saucepan, heat 2 to 3 inches oil to 350°F. In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and the beer with whisk until smooth. Working in small batches, dip brownies into batter. Fry in hot oil about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels; sprinkle with sea salt.

-Al Spoler 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.