Beer as an Ingredient
Beer can be an excellent ingredient - especially when a beer expert helps you choose the brew.
By MARK BITTMAN
Published: September 1, 2011
Here’s a rough history of my beer-drinking career: at age 18 (then the legal drinking age in New York), I started with Rheingold — cheap, watery stuff that later went off the market. Down the road, after messing around with Narragansett (or ’gansett), I moved “up” to Heineken. (Up in status, I suppose. In quality? Questionable.) Eventually I discovered real beers: Bass Pale Ale, no longer favored by the cognoscenti but then a beacon of refinement, became a favorite. Before too long, the beer world exploded, and I found myself visiting the Good Beer store in Manhattan, which has something like 600 types of craft beers.
I learned how to drink beer with food (beyond hot dogs, Indian food and the like) from Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster of New York’s Brooklyn Brewery and editor in chief of the soon-to-be-published “Oxford Companion to Beer.” So it seemed only natural, when I found myself cooking with beer more often, to ask Garrett how to determine what’s best.
Cooking with beer makes sense: not only is it more flavorful than water, but it’s also more flavorful than any store-bought chicken stock and less ethically objectionable as well. And unlike wine or liquor, you can substitute beer cup-for-cup for stock or water when you’re braising or making soup. Yet like wine, beer is acidic, which comes in handy when you’re baking quick bread, cake or fried foods, because you need a little acidity to activate baking soda.
In fact, beer’s flavors are arguably more varied and complex than any ready-made liquid besides wine. And like bread, to which it’s closely related, beer loves to team with meat, cheese and strong flavors like onions, garlic and spices.
I knew all this in theory, and I had done some work on these things before contacting Garrett. For starters, I wanted to make a beer bread; a basic quick bread with whole-wheat flour and a little cornmeal. I had experimented with this a couple of times and loved both the ridiculously easy method (stir, pour, bake) and the finished loaf’s tender crumb and warm, yeasty flavor. (Yeast bread with no yeast. Interesting.)
Similarly, I had made carnitas — that irresistible Mexican pork shoulder braised for hours with spices, then fried in its own fat until crisp — with beer as the braising liquid, but I wanted further guidance. Lastly, a kind of old-fashioned cheddar-beer soup is less my style, but still intriguing — I was eager to try that as well. Most versions of this soup contain copious amounts of cream in addition to the cheese, but I was confident I could come up with a version using cauliflower to provide the velvety body.
The dishes I made were good but could be better; the difference could be the right beers. So I consulted Garrett, and he did not disappoint. In fact, he was so specific that I had to ask him for common substitutions for those of us who are not fanatics (see the recipes).
For the bread, he suggested a doppelbock (double bock), often referred to as liquid bread: a semisweet, supermalty, high-alcohol beer whose aroma reminds you of bread baking in an oven. Belgian wheat beer (witbier), he said, would be best for the carnitas, because these beers are often spiced with coriander and bitter orange, obviously akin to braised meat, Mexican-style; they are also a little sour, which lends the meat a nice complexity.
Finally, for the soup, he had me use Belgian dark abbey ale (and plugged his own, but, hey — we owe him that), whose yeast strain, he said, “has its own funky sulfurous quality and caramel notes” that show off both cauliflower and cheese nicely.
It’s delicious, but frankly this all gets a little over my head. You can use any full-bodied, full-flavored beer in any of these recipes. Rheingold, you’ll be pleased to know, is back on the market with a reformed recipe.
Grilled London Broil: Try It Spicy and Smoky
Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
By MELISSA CLARK
Published: September 2, 2011
A LONDON broil is one of those mystery steaks without a firm identity.
Preparing the steak.
The name originally referred to a flank steak that was, not surprisingly, broiled, and sliced against the grain. But these days, a London broil can be cut from several parts of a steer (including top round, bottom round, shoulder, sirloin), and grilling can be the method of choice. What brings all these disparate elements together is affordability and size: London broil steaks are always big, thick, lean and inexpensive. They are ideal for feeding a hungry crowd, though don’t try to do so in London, where no one will have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.
They were, however, a meaty, brawny staple of my childhood. My mother marinated one giant steak for hours in red wine and garlic, and broiled it for dinner. Then she repurposed the copious leftovers all week. We ate it packed into sandwiches, thinly sliced and piled onto salads, or chopped up into hash.
It’s a perfect steak for cooking once and eating twice (or three or four times) and tastes even better when the meat is cool enough to really savor its beefy minerality.
No matter if you broil, pan-sear or grill it, like most economical cuts, London broils want to stay rare and juicy and a little chewy to show off its best side. Cooked through until completely brown, these steaks toughen and dry up. Warning to well-done steak lovers: You might want to buy a different hunk of beef.
Another rule of London broil success is to always season it ahead. The thicker your steak, the longer you should marinate it to let it really absorb all the flavors. The last thing you want is a steak that’s tasty on the exterior and bland within. My mother used to plop her steak in a marinade in the morning, stick it in the refrigerator, then cook it at night. It’s a good practice. But even as little as an hour will do if that’s all the time you have.
Since London broils are so beefy and rich, you can heap on the seasonings without worrying about overdoing it. I like my steaks spicy and smoky with chipotle chile and glazed with honey for a caramelized and barely sweet edge. But soy sauce, mustard, balsamic and brown sugar are other classic flavors you could use if you like.
Then grill the meat over the hottest flame you can manage. Eat some now, eat the rest later. You won’t regret that leftover hunk of meat in the fridge.
Garlicky, Smoky Grilled London Broil With Chipotle Chiles
Time: 15 minutes plus at least an hour’s marinating
1. In a bowl, whisk together the chipotle, honey and garlic. Whisk in the oil.
2. Season the steak all over with the salt. Pat the meat evenly with the chipotle mixture and let rest for at least an hour at room temperature, or as long as overnight in the refrigerator. If you’ve chilled it, let the steak come to room temperature before grilling.
3. Light the charcoal or preheat the grill. Brush off any bits of garlic or chile from the meat and grill, covered, until the meat is charred on the outside and done to taste inside, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let the meat rest 5 minutes before thinly slicing. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
Ale, Cheddar and Cauliflower Soup
Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Chopped fresh cilantro or chives for garnish.
1. Put the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When it melts, add the bacon (if you’re using it) and cook until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the cauliflower, beer, stock, bay leaf and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily; cover and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir in the mustard, and purée the soup with an immersion blender or semi-purée it with a potato masher.
3. Toss together the cheddar and cornstarch. Add the cheese mixture to the soup a handful at a time, stirring all the while, until it’s well incorporated and the soup is smooth. Serve hot, garnished with the herb.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Carnitas Braised in Witbier
Time: 1 hour
1. Put the pork, onion, garlic, bay leaves, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chili and some salt and pepper in a large pot with a lid or a Dutch oven. Add the beer and water if needed to cover. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil and skim any foam that comes to the surface. Partly cover and adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily. Cook until the meat is quite tender, about 1 hour, then cool.
2. Remove the bay leaves, spices and chili with a slotted spoon and discard. Break or roughly chop the meat into bite-size pieces, return to the pan and cook uncovered until all the liquid has evaporated. Continue to cook the meat in the remaining fat until it’s crisped and browned; add a little oil if it sticks or becomes dry. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with the lime wedges, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Time: 1 to 1 1/4 hours, largely unattended
1. Heat the oven to 350. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with a little oil or butter. Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add the oil or butter and beer, and stir just until everything is combined.
2. Pour into the loaf pan and bake until the loaf is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan and serving.
Yield: 1 loaf (8 to 12 servings)
With Bocks, It’s All About the Malt
By ERIC ASIMOV
Published: April 18, 2007
FOR many Americans, bock beer once was simply a synonym for dark beer. In the early 1980s, before the craft beer revolution hit Austin, Tex., where I was a graduate student, we had the usual array of insipid mass-market lagers to choose from, and then we had Shiner Bock, a legacy of the huge wave of German immigrants who in the 19th century settled central Texas towns like Fredericksburg and New Braunfels.
In truth, Shiner Bock was barely a cut above the other beers, darker for sure, and with just a touch of malty flavor to set it apart. But desperate for even a hint of character and eager to show disdain for lackluster brews, my friends and I flocked to the bock, which back then was kind of the unofficial beer of Austin.
Nowadays, as Americans have become accustomed to stouts, trappist ales, porters and all manner of dark brews, the talismanic appeal of Shiner Bock seems somewhat quaint. At the same time, as more bock beers have become available, to say nothing of doppelbocks, maibocks, weizenbocks and eisbocks, the blanket association of bock beer with dark beer fails miserably. In fact, most maibocks are not even dark but decidedly amber.
For insight into the world of bocks, and to mark spring with a traditional Bavarian seasonal beverage, we recently tasted 25 bottles, primarily from Germany and the United States. For the tasting Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Richard Scholz, an owner of Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and Lew Bryson, a beer writer and the managing editor of Malt Advocate magazine.
The term bock dates back centuries, at least toward the end of the Middle Ages, when the Hanseatic city of Einbeck became well know for its strong, malty lagers. In Bavaria, where the style was particularly valued and eventually duplicated, the beer was called Einbeck, rendered in the local dialect as Einbock, and later simply as bock.
Bock also means billy goat, which became the symbol for this style of beer. That’s how the story goes, anyhow, and we’re sticking to it.
Unlike pale ales and India pale ales, which emphasize lively bitter hop aromas and flavors, bock beers are all about the malt, which gives them a seductively sweet aroma.
Anybody who has visited a brewery will recognize the malt aroma. While the hops are played down in the mix, they still have a crucial role. Their bitterness, while not obvious, balances the sweetness of the malt, making the beer clean and refreshing rather than cloying.
That is the general theory behind bocks, but what about the variations on the theme, in particular, the doppelbocks, or double bocks, which we found the most consistently interesting of the brews?
As with so many beer styles, we have monasteries to thank for doppelbock, in particular the devout monks of St. Francis of Paula.
Forbidden to eat during the 40 days of Lent, they brewed a particularly rich and nutritious beer, a sort of liquid bread, to sustain them through Easter. The monks called their beer Salvator, for Savior, and to this day doppelbocks can be identified by the distinctive “ator” names they go by. The monks eventually secularized their brewery, Paulaner, which continues to make Salvator among many other beers.
The term doppelbock has no literal meaning. The beers are thicker and fuller-bodied than ordinary bocks, but the difference is maybe 8 percent alcohol rather than 6.5 percent.
Still, it raises the question of how the fasting monks maintained their sober equilibrium on a steady diet of doppelbock. Mr. Scholz pointed out that today’s doppelbock is not exactly true to recipes the monks used.
“It’s fermented until dry, 7 or 8 percent,” he said. “It used to be 3 percent, with a lot of residual sugar.”
While doppelbock in particular is associated with Lent and Easter, maibock is brewed to celebrate May Day. These beers tend to be more amber than dark, though there’s no rule about it. They’re very malty and, alone among bocks, they have a more pronounced hop bitterness.
Weizenbock, sometimes called dunkler bock, is a dark wheat beer, still very malty and strong. In fact, our No. 1 beer, the Ettaler Curator, was termed a dunkler doppelbock, which is perhaps too twisted a label to decipher other than to say it combined the wonderful floral and spice aromas of a wheat beer with the malty crispness of a bock. Delicious!
The only category we ruled out was eisbock, which, like ice wine, eliminates some of the water to produce a stronger, often sweeter, brew. In the end we had 13 bottles from Germany (one bock, nine doppelbocks, three maibocks), 9 from the United States (five bocks, three doppelbocks and one maibock), one doppelbock from Italy, one bock from Poland and one doppelbock from Austria.
As I said, the doppelbocks were by far our favorites, taking eight slots in our top 10, with the other two going to maibocks. Why was this? I’m not sure, but I do have some theories. We tasted the bocks first so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by comparison to the richer doppelbocks. But even on their own terms they tasted bland or subdued, even my once-beloved Shiner.
Usually in a tasting that includes American craft brews and imports, the Americans do well because at the least they have the edge in freshness. But the bocks from Anchor, Clipper City, Rock Art and Abita did not show well at all. For that matter neither did the imported bocks.
This suggests three things. First, doppelbocks are inherently more interesting than ordinary bocks. They combine the maltiness of a bock with the fruitiness of ales to make a beer more complex than most lagers.
The Augustiner Maximator is fascinating: thick and sumptuous but not cloying. The Salvator, too, shows the genius of the monks. Only one of the three American doppelbocks made the list, the Sprecher, which oddly misspells the German term, calling itself Dopple Bock. It was creamy and a bit sweet, with some hop bitterness that was not classic but was distinctively American.
The fact that the German doppelbocks were so good suggests a second point: The added richness and body in this style possibly act as preservatives, allowing these beers to withstand the rigors of travel better than more fragile styles.
And it underscores a third point: American brewers have yet to embrace this style, or lagers in general. There is a widespread idea that lagers in general are dull and simple, an understandable reaction to American mass-market beers. But the doppelbocks at least show the intricate possibilities of lagers.
Of the two maibocks that made the list the better was the Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock, an amber beer that showed both the malt and the hops sides of this style.
The last word goes to the Italian double bock, La Rossa from Moretti. Most people know Moretti as a fairly innocuous lager, but La Rossa is malty and full-flavored. I never would have guessed it was Italian. I guess I should have thought outside the bocks.
Ettaler Curator Dunkler $3.50 *** 1/2
Doppelbock Germany 16.9 ounces
Wonderfully fragrant, with aromas of malt, flowers and spices; complex and delicious. (Importer: B. United International, Redding, Conn.)
Augustiner Maximator $2.30 *** 1/2
Doppelbock Germany 12 ounces
Thick, rich and bottomless with flavors of coffee, malt and anise; balanced and dry. (Global Village Imports, King of Prussia, Pa.)
Einbecker Mai-Ur-Bock Germany $1.90 ***
Amber-colored, sedate and malty, balanced by refreshing bitterness from hops. (B. United International, Redding, Conn.)
Hirsch Doppelbock Germany $3.75 ***
Sweet, malty and earthy, yet lively, fresh and balanced.
(HDT Importers, Portland, Ore.)
Paulaner Salvator $1.75 ***
Doppelbock Germany 12 ounces
Rich and spicy, with complex flavors of malt, coffee and caramel.
(Star Brand Imports, White Plains, N.Y.)
Ayinger Celebrator $3.85 ***
Doppelbock Germany 11.2 ounces
Rich and malty with smoky, roasted flavors of coffee, spice and caramel.
(Merchant du Vin, Tukwila, Wash.)
Moretti La Rossa Double Italy $1.55 ***
Richly flavored with caramel, smoke and anise; sweet malt turns dry at the end. (Star Brand Imports, White Plains, N.Y.)
Weihenstephaner Korbinian $2.50 ***
Doppelbock Germany 16.9 ounces
Sumptuous, balanced flavors of malt, fruit and caramel.
(Bavaria House, Wilmington, N.C.)
Sprecher Dopple Bock $8 ***
Glendale, Wis. 22 ounces
Rich, sweet, creamy, complex and balanced with subtle hop flavors.
Hofbrau Munchen $2 ** 1/2
Maibock Germany 16.9 ounces
Amber-colored with rich, malty sweetness balanced by a hoppy bitterness. (Hess Beer Importers, Moorestown, N.J.)
WHAT THE STARS MEAN:
Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the panel’s reaction to the beers, which were tasted with names concealed. The panelists this week are Eric Asimov; Florence Fabricant; Richard Scholz, an owner of Bierkraft in Brooklyn; and Lew Bryson, managing editor of Malt Advocate magazine. The tasted beers represent a selection generally available in groceries, supermarkets and beer distributorships. Prices are those paid in the New York region.