Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cooking With Beer? Yes, Please!

This year I am determined to organize my recipes and cook more from my cookbooks. I have a pretty good collection of them and there are an amazing number of recipes that I haven’t even tried.  I often use recipes from web sites or the numerous cooking magazines that I subscribe to, sadly neglecting the cookbooks themselves.  So this week, I turned to the ultimate cooking tome; Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” for my inspiration. 
Those who know me in any capacity are well aware of my love for beer.  Fortunately, Michigan (and Grand Rapids in particular) has an abundance of local craft brewers, which takes my beer affinity to the level of near-obsession.  As a beer aficionado, I am drawn to recipes that list it among the ingredients. As I was browsing Julia’s collection, I came across Beef and Onions Braised in Beer.  It was a no-brainer! 
As always, when you cook with beer, make sure that you use something you would actually drink.  The alcohol cooks off, but the flavor intensifies during the cooking process.  If you don’t like it right out of the bottle, you won’t like it in your bowl either.  All beers are not created equal, so stick with the style of beer that the recipe calls for.  Using a porter in place of a pale ale will not give you good results.  Beer is like wine in that certain styles go better with certain foods. 
The recipe was quite simple and resulted in amazingly tender beef and a slightly tangy gravy, thanks to the addition of splash of vinegar at the end.  The beer really deepened the flavor of the gravy and was a nice twist.  I served it over lightly buttered egg noodles, which are a favorite of mine.  Perfect dinner on a gray winter’s day! 
Carbonnades a la Flamande (Beef and Onions Braised in Beer) by Julia Child
Serves 6

Heavy skillet
3-lb lean beef chuck roast
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups (1.5 lbs) sliced onions
Salt and pepper
4 cloves mashed garlic
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cut the beef into slives about 2 by 4 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.  Dry meat on paper towels. Add oil to skillet and heat until oil is shimmering.  Brown the beef slices, a few at a time, then set them aside on a platter.

Reduce the heat to moderate. Stir the onions into the skillet, adding more oil if necessary, and brown the onions lightly for about 10 minutes.  Stir frequently. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the garlic.

Dutch Oven or other cast iron deep baking dish
Salt and pepper
Arrange half of the browned beef in the dish and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Spread half of the onions over the beef.  Repeat with the rest of the beef and onions.

1 cup beef stock or beef bouillon
2-3 cups light beer (Pilsner or lager style)
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 large herb bouquet (6 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp thyme tied with kitchen twine)
Heat the stock or bouillon in the browning skillet, scraping up the cooking juices and de-glazing your pan. Stir in the brown sugar. Pour it over the meat.  Add enough beer so that the meat/onions are barely covered. Bury the herbs among the meat. Bring the casserole to a simmer on top of the stove, then cover and place in the lower third of the the preheated oven. Keep at a very slow simmer for 2.5 hours, at the end of which time the meat should be fork-tender.

1/2 Tbsp cornstarch blended with 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Remove herb bouquet.  Drain the cooking liquid out of the baking dish into a saucepan. Skim off fat.  Add the starch and vinegar mixture to the cooking liquid and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Pour sauce back over the meat.  Serve with parsley potatoes or buttered noodles.

Bon appetit!

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