Not Just for Breakfast
Beer’s for cooking and food pairing too.
Thursday, April 6, 2006
What Ramsay Borthwick is about to say will no doubt inspire debate. “Everybody thinks that wine and cheese go great together,” the Scottish import says with an apologetic grin. “They don’t. Wine tends to coat the palate and so does cheese. You end up with a gummy, full feeling in the mouth, and you need water and crackers to clean it out.
“With beer, its natural effervescence acts against the milk solid and fat nature of the cheese and refreshes the palate each time. Plus there’s an incredible range of beers to match a range of cheese.
“Try a Hefewizen and a goat’s cheese, or an IPA with a strong cheese like a Stilton.”
To many a gourmet, this will smack of heresy, but the brewmaster at Marina’s English Ales Brewery says he’s just a little ahead of his time—that craft beer is just approaching the level of sophistication, marketing and availability that wine enjoyed “about 20 years ago.”
Borthwick’s not without equivocation (“I’m not kicking wine out, just presenting beer as an equal”) or evidence: Beer does compare favorably with wine when it comes to price and spice.
“You can get a lot of quality beer in place of a nice bottle of wine,” says Ramsay. “And wine doesn’t go with spicy food. It doesn’t stand up to Mexican, Thai or Indian food.”
But cooking with beer may represent its biggest payoff.
“There’s initial skepticism,” Borthwick says. “But people who try it with an open mind are amazed how well it works.”
He’s not talking just beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips. For the Aquarium’s Chefs Series Dinner in early March, Borthwick and Aquarium Executive Chef Dory Ford hatched a five-course beer-and-food pairing.
“Ramsay came in with five beers and we talked about the whole range of flavors,” says Ford. “We did some tasting, put together the menu, and got really good feedback.”
The line-up included everything from a Beef Carbonade slowly roasted in (and served with) Monks Brown Ale to a Big Sur Golden Ale sorbet that capitalized on the beer’s citrus notes and set palates free. (See Ford’s Carbonade recipe below.)
Borthwick says the future appearance of more beer pairings in top-flight restaurants shouldn’t come as a shock—English Ales already has contracts to stock local gourmet rooms, like the Lodge at Pebble Beach and Tarpy’s.
“Food and beer flavors build on one another,” he says, “Brewing is a lot more like cooking than wine-making is.”
The Canadian-born Ford agrees, and savors the opportunity to try new things.
“There’s room for everybody—wines and beers,” he says. “I like to tackle things I’ve never done before—[cooking with beer] has been a growth experience for me and my clients.”
The Weekly asked Borthwick and Ford to share their
beer-blessed understandings, and they responded with a recipe
and some reliable guidelines (and the Weekly threw in a bonus
beer recipe). Serve with beer.
Dory’s Kinda Easy Monks Brown Ale Beef Carbonade
Slice a large onion. Cut a pound-and-a-half beef flank or chuck steak into thin slices and brown over high heat in a frying pan in 3 tablespoons lard (or Canola oil). Drain. Fry the onions until golden in the same fat. Arrange the meat and onions in a casserole dish in alternating layers, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. Deglaze the frying pan with one bottle of Monk’s Brown Ale and half a glass of beef stock (or canned beef broth with a low salt content). Make a brown roux with 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup of flour, add the beer mixture and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Pour mixture into the casserole, cover, and leave to cook at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours. Serve in the casserole dish.
Ramsay’s Pretty Easy Beer Cooking Guide
With the following food groups, substitute the following beers for water, or any liquid or wine used in a recipe. Remember to pair the beer with the dish.
Chocolate desserts—Imperial stouts
Roast Chicken—Bock, British Bitter,British Pale, Marzen, Belgian Pale
Jambalaya—American Pale Ale andIPA, Saison, Pilsner, Schwarzbier
Mushrooms—Scottish Ales, Dunkel, British Brown Ales, Dubbel
Salmon—Weissbier, Helles, American Wheat, Kolsh, Saison, IPA
The Weekly’s Super Easy Beer-Simmered Sausages
Poke holes in the skin of mild to hot Italian sausages, place them in a frying pan filled with enough beer of choice (a pale ale is good) to submerge the sausages past halfway. Add garlic and cracked black pepper to beer. Simmer over medium high heat, rotating them until white on both sides (6-8 minutes). Grill briefly and served sliced with Sierra Nevada mustard or on a roll. Cheers.