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Secret Sauced: Cooking With Beer
A few things led to today’s newsletter: 1) As I a few weeks ago, more and more of you have been asking for newsletters with full menus, or at least recipes that can fit together into a single meal. 2) We’re more or less in cookout season, meaning an uptick in people bringing beer to your house and, often, leftover beer in your fridge. Sure, you can just drink it, but it's also really great to cook with.
As an 18-year-old chugging Rheingold —very cheap, very watery—I probably couldn’t have imagined that I’d someday be discussing the finer points of braising carnitas in wheat beer, or baking chocolate cake with stout, but here we are. I’ve always thought that cooking with beer makes a ton of sense: it’s more flavorful than water (that’s obvious), but it’s also more flavorful than store-bought chicken stock (that’s maybe less obvious). Unlike wine or liquor, you can substitute beer cup-for-cup for stock or water when you’re braising, and honestly, beer’s flavors are probably more varied and nuanced than any ready-made liquid other than wine. There are plenty of dishes where beer is —or should be— the liquid of choice, and those are the ones I want to highlight below.
The fact that these four recipes all complement each other and could easily — and very happily — be served together in a single meal is a bit of an accident. When I started thinking about my favorite ways to cook with beer, Beer-Braised Black Beans — so simple, but kind of eye-opening if you’ve never tried it — was the first thing that came to mind. Carnitas Braised in Wheat Beer was the second, at which point it seemed like we were far enough on our way to a Mexican-inspired meal that I had to round it out. Enter Salsa Borracha (a cooked tomato salsa spiked with beer and tequila) and Chocolate-Chile Stout Cake, which is exactly how it sounds (a chocolate cake made rich and moist with dark beer and a little fiery with some ground chile). If you serve these all together, you might want to throw a vegetable or salad in there for good measure. Whether or not you douse it in beer is entirely up to you.
I like making this with Belgian wheat beer because they're often spiced with coriander and bitter orange, akin to Mexican-style braised meat; they are also a little sour, which lends the meat a nice complexity. The result is delicious, but frankly, you can use any full-bodied, full-flavored beer that you like to drink.
Translates as “drunken salsa” because it’s cooked with beer and finished with tequila. How bad could it be?
It’s amazing how much flavor you get from adding a cup of beer to black beans, and nearly any beer will work: Lagers and wheat beers yield a lighter and fruitier dish, porters will be rich, and stouts richer still, with deep, caramelized flavors.
Creamy, malty stout is the base of this dark, serious cake. The beer contributes tangy undertones and rich moisture, while a touch of ground chile heats up the dark chocolate that’s laced throughout. Double up on the chocolate flavor by using a chocolate stout and serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar, lightly sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream.
Talk To Me, Goose!
Questions, comments, brilliant suggestions? Just want to share the recipe for your grandma's potato salad, or your mom's meatloaf, or your uncle Drew's three-day 100-percent rye loaf (yes, please)? Don't hesitate to reach out anytime.