Cooking with Beer

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I don’t like drinking beer.  So why am I writing this?  Because I love to cook with beer.  Every time I smell beer, all I can think of is college parties, especially those keg parties out in the woods.  I had fun at parties when I was in college just as much as any student, but even back then, I couldn’t stand the smell of beer for hours at a time.  It’s just different when you cook with it.  Beer makes brats taste better, and what are fish and chips without a good beer batter?   When my daughter, Kara, came back from Ireland, she wanted me to make a beef stew with beer – and it was fabulous!

Since I live in Illinois near the Wisconsin border, I shop often at a large grocery store in Kenosha that carries everything.  You have never seen such a selection of beer, brats, sausages, cheeses, and butter, until you go into Wisconsin, and especially at this particular store.  Actually, even more when you go up a little farther north to Milwaukee.  So I trek up there more in the summer, when everyone wants grilled brats, hot dogs, and other sausages.  Cooking with beer adds a robust flavor that nothing else can match.  It seems to make things more airy and crisp, and adds a lightness and buoyancy to biscuits and breads.
When beer is heated, the alcohol evaporates, just as it does with wine cookery, but a completely different flavor than wine.  One of my favorite Wisconsin recipes is for cheddar cheese and beer soup.  My husband loves beer can chicken.  This cookbook may be a small paperback, but it deals a punch with the recipes inside.  For appetizers, try a beer fondue or cocktail puffs.  For soups, a beer-vegetable or a tomato-beer with dill.  Since beer is incredible with meats, the recipes for meat loaf, stew, pot roasts, chicken, veal, lamb, and of course, all pork and ham recipes are outstanding.

If you really love beer and/or German food in general, then go to Mader’s in Milwaukee.  It’s been around since 1902, and serves amazing German food.  One time last year when my daughter Kristina was going to be on a Milwaukee morning show with a food and cooking segment, I drove up and met her there.  We had to eat dinner at Mader’s and were not disappointed.  I skipped the beer, but had a beer pretzel with a mustard dipping sauce that was to die for.  And I mean a pretzel the size of a dinner plate.  Kristina and I happily shared it and could have been happy with just that for dinner.  The restaurant also has an extensive, impressive collection of beer steins.  If you love beer, you must see this!  They also have a huge collection of Hummel figures.

I will continue to cook with beer, even though I don’t drink it.  And I’ll think of Laverne and Shirley working happily at a beer distributor rather than frat boys in college, and I’ll still use the great recipes from this cookbook which would not be the same without beer.  Try this basic recipe for a beer batter and use it for shrimp or other fish.

Basic Beer Batter
1 can beer
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon paprika

Combine all ingredients in a bowl with a wire whisk.  Coat shrimp or other fish with the batter and fry in hot oil until crispy and fish is cooked through.

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8 Responses to Cooking with Beer

  1. June 15, 2010 at 6:35 am #

    There is an Irish pub in San Diego called “The Field” which serves a delicious guiness beef stew served inside a boxty (an unusual potato crepe). Like you I love beer in things, but cannot drink it on its own.

  2. June 15, 2010 at 9:35 am #

    Love the idea of the stew served in the boxty!

  3. June 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

    I love Belgian beef stew with beer. I won’t even attempt to use its proper name because I’m sure I’d misspell it. And you’re right about batter for fish. It must include beer or it’s just not right.

    I’m an occasional beer drinker, mostly in the summer when the temperatures decide to stay in the 90s for days on end, but I do have a fondness for Belgian blonde ale, especially Leffe.

  4. June 15, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    Isn’t it amazing how beer can make stew taste so good? It’s one of my staple recipes for the cold winters.

  5. June 17, 2010 at 10:57 am #

    It is. I’m wondering if making a big pot of it will make the weather think it’s winter. It’s been in the 90s for days, too hot for almost anything.

    I’m going to try your beer batter recipe tonight. We’re having fried fish and a salad and yellow squash from the garden.

    I also like to cook with bourbon. Do you have the Brown Hotel’s bourbon cookbook? If not, I think you’d like it. The apple-ginger pie with cider and bourbon sauce is to die for.

  6. June 17, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    It’s really hot here, too, and summer is just beginning. Your dinner sounds heavenly.

    No, I don’t have the Brown Hotel’s bourbon cookook. If you ever get the inclination to type up the recipe on a hot day, I would love to try it! It sounds amazing! We LOVE apple pie around here.

  7. June 17, 2010 at 2:30 pm #

    I’ll take the lazy way out. I can scan and e-mail the pie recipe to you.

    I haven’t gardened since I helped my dad when I was a kid. I’m not sure what inspired me to take it up after all these years, but I’m glad I did. I decided to grow colorful veggies and unusual heirlooms that I can’t find at the grocery. So I have rainbow chard, French sorrel, Freckles Romaine, Merlot lettuce,arugula, Easter egg and French breakfast radishes, five different summer squashes — yellow straightneck, Sunburst pattypan, Black Beauty zucchini, Rond de Nice, Cocozelle and Zephyr, three eggplants — Hansel, Gretel and Fairytale, Kaleidoscope and Parisian Market carrots, okra, Verde and Purple di Milpa tomatillos, hot peppers – cayenne, jalapeno and opera, sweet peppers — red, yellow, orange, green and lilac bell, Hershey, banana and Jimmy Nardello, Fin de Bagnol and Soleil filet beans, Trionfo di Violetto and Romano pole beans,okra, and two French heirloom melons — Charenteis and Noir de Carnes. And then there are the tomatoes. Five cherry tomatoes — lemon, red, black cherry, yellow pear and Sugar snack and lots of big tomatoes — sweet seedless red, Lemon Boy, pink and yellow Brandywines, green and red Zebra, Mr. Stripey, White Wonder, Silvery Fir Tree, Estiva, Thassalonika, Roma and Principe Borghese.

    You can see why I love Perla Myers’ cookbooks!

  8. June 17, 2010 at 8:20 pm #

    Good grief! Are you sure you aren’t Martha Stewart is disguise?? What a garden! I haven’t even heard of half of those varieties you mentioned. You need to write a garden cookbook!

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