- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 5, 2007

You know how refreshing a cold beer can be as the temperature rises, but you may not think of beer as part of a sophisticated culinary experience.

A well-made beer can heighten both your drinking and cooking pleasure, and fine-quality beers are especially well matched to summer grilling recipes, according to Lucy Saunders, author of “Grilling With Beer” (F&B; Communications).

As a frequent participant at gatherings that highlight craft beers, a term for handcrafted, single-batch brews, Miss Saunders noticed that her fellow beer aficionados also enjoyed cooking outdoors.

Because she is also a recipe developer, she made the natural connection of adding craft beers to foods for the grill. In fact, she says the specialty roasted barley malts in beer enhance the flavors of barbecued food.

Matching craft beers to recipes can be a pleasurable experience. “Craft beers are fun and experimental,” says Miss Saunders, who lives near Milwaukee.

Beer has some advantages over cooking with wine, especially if you’re part of a Two’s Company household, Miss Saunders says.

Beer bottles are half the size of the average wine bottle, so you’re unlikely to have leftovers when you cook with beer. As a twosome, you’re probably not going to sample two different wines during a meal, but you can sample two different brews.

“Split one beer for the main course and one for dessert. You can have taste and variety,” she says.

When shopping for beer as an ingredient, read the label so you choose the characteristics you want in your recipe, Miss Saunders says.

Beer is affordable, so you can be selective. “If you don’t think a beer’s quality is good enough for quaffing, don’t use it for cooking,” she says.

Also, the expert says, treat the beer gently during cooking. “Brewers design their beer for drinking, not boiling. Beer shouldn’t be brought to a rolling boil. Treat beer gently so the flavors come through.”

During grilling, add a beer-based sauce toward the end of the cooking time. Otherwise, the food can burn.

For more information on cooking with beer or Miss Saunders’ cookbook, visit her Web site, www.beercook.com.

Just in time for Father’s Day, here is an adaptation of Miss Saunders’ recipe for mustard-sage glaze, scaled back for two. Miss Saunders suggests it for chops, steak or fish. I recommend the glaze with pork chops.

Mustard-sage glaze

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 teaspoons minced fresh sage

1/4 cup amber ale

1 tablespoon melted butter

1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper mix (a combination of pink or red, white and black peppercorns)

Combine ingredients and set aside for flavors to blend while you preheat the grill. Makes 1/4 cup, enough to glaze 2 pork chops or 2 chicken breast halves.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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