I have, for years, pushed to keep liquor out of cooking because my pleasure in life is for everyone to enjoy each and every meal prepared. But, of course, their comes a time when an adult pleasure is warranted, especially in cooking during the colder months here in New England. Heck, even Benjamin Franklin said "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Not to mention that the original beer brewers were us Yankees.
Find, below, a useful guide to popular types of beer and at the end, enjoy a winter dish I think you will find extraordinarily perfect using beer.
Because of the craft brewing explosion in the past couple of decades, we are inundated with beer styles in liquor stores and neighborhood specialty shops. Today, the wide array of flavors run from the crisp and slightly hoppy pale pilsners to the creamy, sweet malt-flavors of English style brown ale. I truly remember the days when the only beer you could find was the monotonous American lager, so our choices were few and far between.
Now, not only are we poised to make a decision of what to drink, but which one to eat. Let me explain.
Chefs everywhere are even expanding their menus and offering pilsners with truffles and caviar, a sweet stout with raw seafood, pale ales with stout, red meat and throwing out that cliche aperitif in lieu of porter ale to accompany desserts.
Here is a chart to help you identify the flavor components of some of the most widely brewed beer styles, example of which can be paired and cooked with any meal these days.
When choosing what beer to either drink or cook with, keep in mind the varieties of flavor, some subtle while some outstanding. For example, if you want a good stout beer but don't mind that "heaviness" that often accompanies it, drink cream or milk stouts, But if you enjoy stout but don't want to "fill up", try a bitter, less sweet stout. My favorites of each are listed both on the chart and below that accompanies the chart. I think you will find it quite usefull the next time you take that trip to the beer store.
1. Boulder Stout, Mackeson's Milk, Left Hand Milk and Sam Adams Cream Stout
2. Willoughby Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter, Hill Farmstead Everet, Night Watchman and Double Decker
3. Southern Pecan, Red Hydrant Ale, Turbodog and Newcastle Brown Ale.
4. Bigfoot, Old Foghorn and Old Backus Barleywine
5. Check out http://spencerbrewery.com/ for the best, and the only brewery in the US that is allowed to make this great alcohol. Certainly there are other, original and imported trappist beers, but don't bother!
6. Allagash White, Big Bison Ale, Russian River and New Belgium Abbey Belgian-Style Ale
7. Allagash White, Hop Sun, Pyramid Crystal Wheat Ale and Circus Boy
8. Goat Rancher, Andy Gator and Anchor Bock
9. Sun King, Hanger 24 and Sam Adams Pumpkin Oktoberfest
10. Sam Adams Double Bock, St. Victorius and Autumnal Fire
11. Gulden Draak
13. Dogfish Head Raison d'Etre
14. EKU 28
15. Black Sun and Portsmouth Black Cat Stout
16. Bitter Esters Dry Stout
17. Guiness Extra Stout
18. Palo Santo Marron, Coffee Bender and No Crust
19. Firestone, Sweetwater 420 and Stone Pale Ale
20. Maine Beer MO
21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust
22. El Toro, Camerons Cream Ale and Old Atyle(pabst)
23. Jack's Abbey Leisure Time Lager, Ballast Point Fathom IPL and Mama's Little Yella Pils
24. Abita Amber
25. Baba Black Lager
26. Samuel Adams Black Lager
27. Guiness Black Lager
28. Litovel Schwarzbier Premium Dark
29. Three Philosophers
30. Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock
Winter Stout Roasted Roots
1 pound each parsnips or rutabagas
1 pound turnip
1 cup cream stout *
1 teaspoon crushed, dried thyme leaves
8 cups vegetable broth or water
2 pounds potatoes
3 cups cauliflower florets, uncooked
6 ounces(about 2 cups)baby carrots
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Salt and black pepper to taste
Nonstick cooking spray
Peel and cube potatoes, place in a medium saucepan along with cauliflower florets. Cover with broth and cook, on medium, until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Drain well and mash with butter, salt and pepper: set aside.
Meanwhile, peel parsnip and turnip, placing in another saucepan with carrots and remainder of broth, adding water if needed to cover. Boil over medium-high heat until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Toss vegetables with beer, thyme and salt and black pepper.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees F. Spray a 2-3 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with mashed potato mixture. Add cooked turnip mixture in the center and bake 35-45 minutes, or until the top is starting to brown. Remove from oven to serve immediately.
NOTE: This recipe is great done a day ahead of time as well. Simply line the casserole dish with potatoes, cover and keep in refrigerator. Keep remainder of cooked vegetables with beer and seasonings in the bowl and cover to refrigerate. When ready to roast, toss the turnip mixture well and "dump" into the center of the potato mixture. Add an additional 15 minutes to the cooking time.
* Or substitute 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup apple juice, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, whisked well.