Friday, June 13, 2008

Beer isn't just for drinking ... really

Here at The Star, we'll pretty much cook with anything. (You may remember our great canned meat experiment: Trash Meat Tuesday....) Beer and brats is among our favorites.
Now the question will be what else can beer be used to cook with. I put it in my chili, and I poured a porter someone had left at our house into beef stew one time.

As a cooking ingredient, it's pretty versatile and, by reading Pitcher This, I've come to see just how many different beers and beer personalities there are out there.

The folks from the National Beer Wholesalers Association have passed along some recipes they feel would be good for Fourth of July.

Spinach Salad with Bock Beer Vinaigrette looks to be easy to prepare and present as part of a picnic buffet. Whisk a vinaigrette dressing by combining Bock Beer with rice vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, chopped tarragon and an extra-virgin olive oil. Marinate sliced peaches and chopped red onion briefly in the mixture, then add baby spinach leaves, toasted pecans, chopped hard boiled egg and crumbled blue cheese to the salad. This recipe serves four for an easy weeknight meal, but it can be doubled or even tripled easily to serve a crowd.

For a delicious dessert, serve Wheat Beer Peach Cobbler (above). Pitcher This columnist Ben Cunningham recommends Leinenkugel Honey Weiss to prepare this dish.

This recipe makes the preparation simple by calling for frozen bagged peaches, but if time for peeling allows, substitute with fresh fruit. Start by boiling a bottle of fruit or honey-flavored Wheat Beer down to a thick reduction. Stir in sugar, light brown sugar, cornstarch, Chinese five-spice powder and the peaches; boil until hot and cooked through. Pour into a large serving dish and top with refrigerator buttermilk biscuits. Bake just 15 minutes and cool slightly before serving with vanilla ice cream.
A crispy, fruit Lambic Beer would be a perfect accompaniment to this dessert.

Wheat Beer Peach Cobbler
Serves 10

1 bottle (12 oz) Honey Wheat Beer, or any Fruit-brewed Wheat Beer
1 TBLS butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
3 TBLS cornstarch
½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
4 bags (1 lb each) frozen peaches, or 4 pounds fresh sliced peaches
2 cans (7.5 oz each) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (20 biscuits)
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup sugar

Pour Honey Wheat Beer into soup pot or other large pot; bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil 5 minutes, or until reduced to ¾ cup. Turn off heat and let reduction cool completely.

With butter, generously grease a 3-quart baking dish (9 ½ x 11 inches). Preheat oven to 450 F.

Add ¾ cup sugar, light brown sugar, cornstarch and five-spice powder to beer reduction; stir until sugars dissolve. Stir in frozen peaches and toss. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce to medium-low heat. Simmer mixture about 8 minutes, tossing peaches several times, until juices thicken and peaches are hot.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Arrange 20 biscuits on top of hot peach mixture. Brush tops of biscuits with milk; sprinkle with additional sugar. Bake in oven 15 minutes, or until biscuits are puffed and golden brown and peach mixture is bubbling. Cool on wire rack 15 minutes before serving.

Spinach Salad with Bock Beer Vinaigrette
Serves 4

Bock Beer Vinaigrette:
1 cup Bock Beer
½ cup rice vinegar
1 ½ TBLS honey
2 tsps Dijon mustard
2 tsps chopped fresh tarragon or parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Spinach Salad:
3 medium peaches, pitted and sliced
½ small red onion, chopped
1 package (7 oz) baby spinach
½ cup pecans
3 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

Make vinaigrette by combining in medium bowl the Bock Beer, vinegar, honey, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Stir well to blend. Gradually whisk in olive oil; whisk until well-blended. Pour into a small bottle with tight-fitting lid for storage. (Makes 2 ½ cups vinaigrette.)

Pour 1/3 cup of vinaigrette dressing into a large salad bowl. Add peaches and red onion; let stand for 5 minutes, tossing once. Add spinach and pecans; toss well. Top with egg slices; sprinkle with blue cheese.

Nutrition Information, Per Serving:
310 calories; 25 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 13 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 10 g protein