Cooking with beer is as old as civilization itself. The first-known written record, from the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia, is a 3900-year-old beer recipe and poem honoring Ninkasi, the patron goddess of brewing.
Brewing is much older than the written record: Evidence of beer production in Mesopotamia dates back about 5,000 years.
Fast forward to the here and now: In American kitchens, some people regularly cook with beer. Others, even though they like beer, are more likely to cook with wine.
Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C. likes to cook with both. He recently added beer-braised onions to his fall Bar Burger, and sent us his recipe plus general tips for cooking with beer:
Think regional. The Germans, naturally, cook their brats and other foods with their local beer. If you are making sauerkraut, cook it with some good German beer. Likewise, when making fish and chips, make your beer batter with a nice British ale.
Never cook with a beer you would not like to drink. This is the same with wine. Your final product can only be as good as your ingredients.
A cheeseburger with caramelized onions is the fall Bar Burger recipes at Michael Jordan’s The Steak House. Photo courtesy PotatoRolls.com.
The delicate flavors of beer will dissipate over a long cooking process. If you are cooking a stew or braised beef, for example, add a splash or two to your dish before serving, to ensure you get that flavor. (We add a few tablespoons after we take the dish off the heat.)
Experiment with your favorite recipes. In virtually any recipe that calls for wine or stock of any type, you could replace them with beer.
The American Craft Beer Cookbook pairs recipes with all the craft beer styles. Photo courtesy Storey Publishing.
A FIRST STEP IN COOKING WITH BEER
Beer braised onions are an easy way to start cooking with beer. You can add them to first courses, entrées and sides. As a start, serve them with meat or poultry, baked or mashed potatoes, beans, burgers, eggs, grains, grilled fish and sandwiches (especially great with grilled cheese, roast beef, turkey or vegetable sandwiches).
Chef Canalizo’s fall Bar Burger includes onions braised in Ommegang Nut Brown Ale (from New York State) and melted Cheddar cheese on a Martin’s potato roll, and served with homemade potato chips. Here’s his recipe for the onions:
RECIPE: BEER BRAISED ONIONS
Ingredients For 4 Burgers
For The Burger
2 pounds ground beef
4 buns (hamburger roll substitutes)
For The Braised Onions
2 white Spanish onions, sliced
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup brown ale* (substitute amber ale/red ale)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. MELT the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and toss to coat with butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are a golden color. Add the beer and herbs and continue to cook for 5 more minutes until caramelized.
2. FORM the meat into four eight-ounce patties. Season with kosher salt and pepper and cook to the desired temperature. While the meat is cooking, toast the buns.
3. TOP each patty with cheddar cheese and beer braised onions, place on the bun and serve.
BAKE YOUR OWN HAMBURGER ROLLS
Skip those puffy, white-bread standards and try delicious gourmet hamburger rolls. Here’s a recipe.
*Brown ale is sweeter, darker and less bitter than the typical lager beer. If you can’t find an American brown ale, imported Newcastle Nut Brown Ale is typically available in stores with a good beer selection.