Executive chef Shawn Brozic has been known to crack an ice-cold beer in the toasty kitchens of The Wyndham Playhouse Square. In fact, throughout the course of a day, Brozic may pour himself a few pints of draft lager, tip a couple fruity wheat beers from bottle to glass, even drain an entire pitcher of stout.
But as much as Brozic might like for that beer to grace his gullet, the truth is, it’s headed for the gravy. Like many creative chefs, when Brozic is looking to spice up a recipe, he reaches not for the basil, but for the beer. The beverage’s harmonious balance of malty sweetness, hoppy bitterness and yeasty bite makes it an ideal ingredient for marinating and braising meats, preparing a batter, finishing sauces and even making desserts.
Home cooks have long turned to beer as a kitchen staple — but they did so more out of frugality than creativity. The British much preferred to pour stale beer into a batter or stew than down the drain, and early settlers discovered that sour ale made a darn good meat tenderizer and could be used to pickle and preserve fish and vegetables. We couldn’t agree more, so we turned to local chefs for their takes on beer as secret ingredient.
Beer and Cheese, Please
When it comes to cooking with beer, Brian Davis has a simple philosophy: “I like drinking beer,” he says, “so I try and cook with it as much as possible.” He’s chef and partner of Lakewood’s Buckeye Beer Engine, a tavern that’s very particular about its draft beer selection. “People come to the Beer Engine because they like good beer,” he notes. “So I think it’s important that some of that beer finds its way into the food.”
Davis uses fragrant Belgian white ale to marinate chicken breasts, and he likes the chocolaty notes that stout adds to his pot roast dinner gravy. But few dishes so seamlessly incorporate beer as the Beer Engine’s rich and creamy cheddar ale soup. “An English-style bitter gives the soup a nice nutty flavor,” he says. He adds the beer at the tail end of the cooking process, just as one would with fresh herbs, to preserve the ale’s delicate hop aroma.
Cheddar Ale Soup
To accompany this starter, brewmasters and co-owners Garin and Bob Wright suggest one of the Buckeye Yuppie Extra Special Bitters, or any malty ale with well-balanced, hoppy bitterness.
1 quart heavy cream
1 quart milk
2 cups diced onions
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
3 cups raw bacon or cooked ham
4 cups shredded cheddar
4 tablespoons butter or margarine
12 ounces of an English-style bitter or pale ale
1.Render the bacon or ham in skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain fat. 2.In a stock pot, add bacon or ham, butter, carrots, onions and celery. Over medium heat, cook until onions are translucent.
3.Reduce heat, add milk and heavy cream. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
4.Remove from heat. Whisk in cheese until blended. 5.Add beer. Salt and pepper to taste.
Ribs and Beer: a Beautiful Pair
In the kitchen at Rocky River Brewing Co., executive chef Terry Bell marries ribs and beer with delectable results. Simmered for hours in kolsch, a German-style ale, the ribs grow tender while picking up many of the beer’s characteristics.
“I had never cooked with beer before coming to the brewery,” Bell says. “But with so much fresh-brewed beer at my disposal, it just made sense to try and utilize it. Beer imparts some very interesting flavors, such as smokiness, that you wouldn’t get from using wine.”
Bell uses bock beer to marinate steaks, adds aromatic wheat beer to beef up barbecue sauces and replaces some of the wine in a classic beurre blanc with hefeweizen, which, he says, introduces an intriguing banana-clove character.
Beer-Braised Baby Back Ribs
Any good lager will go nicely with these ribs.
3 tablespoons white pepper
3 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons onion powder
3 tablespoons garlic powder
4 slabs of baby back ribs
Approximately 4 bottles good-quality ale
1.Combine first four ingredients to make a dry rub for ribs. 2.Rub spice mixture evenly on both sides of ribs. 3.Place all ribs in large baking dish and add beer to just cover ribs. Cover with aluminum foil. 4.Bake at 325 degrees for four hours. Let cool for at least an hour. 5.Toss on hot grill with barbecue sauce to crisp up and reheat.
Una Cerveza, Por Favor
At Momocho, a Mexican bistro in Ohio City, chef/owner Eric Williams relies on South-of-the-Border suds when looking to spice up his Nuevo Latino dishes. “Mexican beer imparts a nice flavor and acidity to foods,” he says.
He swaps out the soda water in fry batter with golden-hued Dos Equis and dips crab-and-cheese-stuffed squash blossoms into the batter before deep frying them. A sweetened version of the beer batter is used for Momocho’s fried ice cream. When preparing his popular braised goat taquitos, Williams reaches for the bolder Negra Modelo. “Darker beers, like Negra Modelo, stand up better to stronger and more dramatic flavors like goat,” he explains.
Mexican Fried Ice Cream
“It makes sense to stick with the beer in the recipe,” he says. So reach for a cold Dos Equis to accompany this dessert.
1 gallon premium vanilla, banana or pistachio ice cream
1 bottle Dos Equis beer
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups cornflakes
2 cups chopped unsalted peanuts
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1.Scoop ice cream into 4-ounce portions and form into balls (latex gloves recommended). 2.Place balls on wax paper-lined sheet tray and freeze for 1 or 2 hours. 3.Meanwhile, mix flour, salt and baking powder. In bowl, beat eggs and add beer. Combine wet and dry ingredients to form batter. In separate bowl, combine cornflakes, peanuts, cinnamon and brown sugar. 4.Remove ice cream balls from freezer, dip in beer batter, roll in peanut mixture and place back in the freezer to refreeze. 5.Deep fry for 10 seconds at 325 degrees. 6.Top with honey or chocolate sauce.
Cory Barrett, Michael Symon’s pastry chef, whips up his own beer-infused dessert exclusively at www.feastmagazine.net.
Beer, a Sweet Finish
As the pastry chef at Lola, Michael Symon’s show-stopping restaurant, Cory Barrett has a difficult act to follow. But Barrett is getting rave reviews of his own thanks to intensely creative desserts, some of which feature beer. Barrett says that though beer may not sound like a natural choice in sweet dishes, the opposite is actually true.
“Beer has a ton of flavor and some bitterness, which makes it really easy to work with,” he says. “You add a little bit of sugar and it practically becomes dessert all on its own. If you think about it in that regard, it shares many characteristics with dark chocolate.”
Barrett makes a stout-flavored ice cream with Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Blackout Stout, and he replaces some of the oil and butter in cake recipes with Guinness beer. “Don’t go overboard with the beer,” he warns. “Beer is essentially water and too much can make the cake rubbery.” To counter that, Barrett recommends reducing the beer over heat to concentrate its flavors.
Stout Ice Cream
(Yields 1.5 qts.)
Barrett recommends a good-quality stout or cream ale to accompany the ice cream. And if you have some chocolate cake, feel free to pair it with the ice cream.
1 bottle good quality stout
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups sugar
16 egg yolks
1. Place stout, cream, and milk in a non-reactive saucepan. Whisk in dry milk to re-hydrate. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Meanwhile, whisk sugar and eggs together.
3. Once cream has boiled removed it from heat and temper into egg yolk mixture. Return to medium heat and cook to 183 degrees.
4. Remove from heat and chill the mixture in an ice-water bath. Churn according to ice cream maker instructions.