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Cooks’ Exchange: Beer is for more than just drinking

August 22, 2018

When hot summer days arrive, it’s only natural to think of an ice cold beverage to quench your thirst. Today, however, I decided to move beyond lemonade and in a different direction by featuring recipes that call for room temperature beer.

The idea came to me when Abbie, my son Bill’s beagle-mix, decided she needed to enjoy the summer with me. Being younger and quicker than me, I found myself wearing out earlier than ever before and decided after purchasing a fancy new grill earlier in the day, to grab my “Mesquite Cookery” book and settle in at the end of the pier for some time out with food on my mind while being cooled with a breeze off the lake.

The book was written in 1984 by sports celebrity John “Boog” Powell, who excelled in baseball during his Key West, Florida high school days and became an all-star first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. After retiring, he returned home, operated a marina there, and became a master of mesquite wood chips and charcoal with recipes collected from around the world. Much like a 101 course, he also refined everything there was to know about creating a winning fire for his barbecuing techniques with simple sumptuous recipes, marinades and sauces, many using Miller Lite Beer.

After curling up with the book and Abbie nearby, it was time to select a few of “Boog’s” favorite recipes, many including beer while Abbie patiently waited for me to pay attention to her.

Powell described sauces in many different ways, advising cooks to be sure that if the food is charred a little too much to always have an exceptional sauce recipe prepared to create a feast to be proud of.

Beer barbecue sauce

1 ½ cups ketchup

12 ounce Miller Lite Beer

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon red pepper

2 teaspoons prepared French’s mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all above ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Then, approximately 10 minutes before using, simmer sauce uncovered so it will thicken slightly.

Makes 3 cups

To prevent overcooking meat to the point of dryness, basic meat cuts, except for ribs, should range from 1 to 3 inches in thickness. It’s important is to let meat reach room temperature before placing on your grill as this makes for the most balanced flavor and juiciest results.

Also important is “nicking” the border of fat around the steak at ½-inch intervals before placing it on the hot grill to prevent “buckled-up” steaks. And with pork, baste the meat regularly with some plain oil to keep moist.

Beer-barbecued pork chops

8 loin pork chops, about 1 ¼-inch thick

Sauce

¼ cup cider vinegar

¼ cup Worcestershire sauce

¼ cup unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon celery seed

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cayenne or freshly ground black pepper

14-ounce bottle ketchup

1 cup flat Miller Lite Beer

Combine sauce ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently to maintain a smooth sauce. Set aside for later use (Makes approximately 3 cups sauce).

After attaining a very hot fire, place chops on the grill and sear meat for about 5 minutes on each side. Remove chops from grill, cover grill with heavy-duty aluminum foil, then poke holes into foil for ventilation. Again, place chops onto grill and spoon generous amounts of sauce over chops. Cook for 10 minutes on one side, then turn chops over, placing generous amounts of sauce on second side. Continue turning chops approximately every 5 minutes, adding sauce until chops are thoroughly cooked, about 30 minutes. The meat is done when the inside is white. You can check by cutting through to the bone of a chop.

Serves 4.

By now, if you are convinced that adding beer to certain recipes works like a charm, think baked beans, and smile.

Boston baked beans with beer

2 15-ounce cans Navy or Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained

½ cup beer, not dark beer

1/3 cup finely chopped onions

1/3 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons molasses

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon ground ginger

4 bacon slices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rinsed and drained beans in 11x7-inch glass baking dish. Combine everything, but bacon, in a medium small bowl and pour over beans; toss to coat. Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Arrange in single layer over beans. Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes or until most liquid is absorbed and bacon is brown.

4-6 servings

— From “Cooking with Beer”

One more recipe using beer is the beer batter recipe from the Norske Nook recently mentioned during a Friday night conversation of what makes the world go around for people in Wisconsin. Found in “Farm Recipes and Food Secrets from the Norske Nook” cookbook by Helen Myhre and Mona Vold published in 2001 by the University of Wisconsin Press, is a clever suggestion when using this recipe for chicken or fish, “to allow one can of beer for the batter and one for yourself.”

Beer batter

4 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups of flour

2 cups of beer (to begin with)

Enough Crisco oil to fill deep fryer to one-half full

Mix eggs, salt, flour, and beer together in a flat bowl. Pour oil into a deep frying and heat. (When a 2-inch cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 3 minutes, the oil is ready.) Wipe chicken, or fish, pieces dry, and dip them, one by one into the batter. Place pieces in the fryer. (Chicken will take about 30 minutes, but check because you don’t want it pink; fish takes only a few minutes.) Turn over to make sure they are brown on both sides, and well done. When removing meat from the fat, place on a paper towel to remove any excess oil. (If the batter gets too thick, add a little more beer. So don’t sip too much of it or you’ll run short!)

When a request arrived for a chili recipe using no chili powder, I heard immediately from reader Mike Repas wondering if such a recipe was possible. Having more than one chili cookbook, I searched to no avail until finding one in a soup book that uses such a small amount of chili powder that the reader could leave it out. It was found in Dot Vartan’s “Is It Soup Yet?” and described as being a “terrific quick chili with black beans and pinto beans to create a rich flavor.”

Black bean and pinto chili

1 pound ground beef

½ cup chopped onion

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

15-ounce can black beans

15-ounce can pinto beans

28-ounce can diced tomatoes

6-ounce can tomato paste

1 1/3 cups water

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

Cheddar cheese, optional

Sour cream, optional

In a large saucepan, brown ground beef with chopped onion. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook for 14 minutes. Serve topped with cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Serves 6

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