A few weeks ago, I announced that Beer 47 will be hosting The Sesssion #47 and the topic is Cooking with Beer. For my contribution to this topic I chose to find a few recipes, cook them, and report the results. I made three dishes: Norwegian lamb patties with spiced baltic porter gravy, Kölsch chevre spinach salad, and beer brats.
Norwegian Lamb Patties with Gravy
When I first came up with this topic for The Session #47, I was browsing the September 2010 issue of the home brewing magazine Brew Your Own [Amazon] and there was an article about cooking with your home brew. One recipe that caught my eye was the Norwegian Lamb Patties and Gravy made with Baltic Porter. Based on what was available in the pantry, I made a few minor changes to the recipe. For instance, tapioca starch instead of corn starch and olive oil instead of rendered fat. The beer that I used for this recipe was Victory Baltic Thunder, a double baltic-porter with a sweet malty flavor, high alcohol content, brown color, and some bitterness. I was actually not expecting the flavors that I experienced from this beer. It didn’t seem very porter-like and it lacked many characteristics that I would expect from a porter, like roastiness. Victory Baltic Thunder seemed more like a double-brown-ale or barleywine with some added bitterness.
Norwegian Lamb Patties with Spiced Baltic Porter Gravy Recipe
This is a modified version of a recipe by Sean Paxton that appeared in the September 2010 issue of Brew Your Own magazine.
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup milk
- 4 oz. Baltic porter (preferably room temperature and flat)
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1.5 tbsp. tapioca starch (or cornstarch)
- 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp. all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. ground clove
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp. fresh ground ginger
- 1 cup Baltic porter (preferably room temperature and flat)
- 1 cup hot beef stock
In a bowl mix lamb, egg, milk, 4 oz. porter, salt, and pepper. I really didn’t want to clean even more kitchen tools so instead of using the Kitchen Aid mixer for this step, I mixed the lamb patties by hand. It worked out fine but I really had to whip them up with my hands quickly to get the right texture. Next time I would definitely use a mixer. You want the mixture to be light and fluffy.
Next, in a pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Make patties about the size of silver-dollar pancakes (a little larger than a silver dollar) and put the patties into the oil and cook until browned on each side. The patties should have a nice brown crusty appearance but not burned. After the patties are cooked on each side, to keet them warm, remove them from the oil and put them in the oven at 300ºF.
Reduce the heat on the pan, add 2-3 tbsp of flour, and whisk until the flour has absorbed. My mixture turned out to be a dark brown color but the recipe says that it should be light golden brown. I probably also added too much flour at this point. I recommend adding 1 tbsp. at a time until you get the texture you want. Next, add the spices, cook for about a minute, and then add the porter and beef stock. Cook for about 5 minutes to reduce, burn off the alcohol, and cook out the flour flavor.
This is the point at which I discovered that the gravy did not turn out as expected. It was extremely bitter.
When I sampled the lamp, however, before putting it into the oven, it had a really nice flavor and texture with a hint of sweetness from the beer and just tinge of bitterness. The lamb patties, on their own, were actually very good and my wife and I enjoyed them as leftovers the next day. The gravy, however, was much too thick, extremely bitter, and not very good at all. It smelled nice, a bit like spiced apple cider, but it wasn’t quite salty enough and the bitterness was overwhelming. In order to fix the problem, I kept adding sugar and salt until the gravy tasted okay. I added much more salt than sugar and although I didn’t record the amont I added, it seemed like a lot of sugar with a reasonable amount of salt.
I attribute the extreme bitterness of the gravy to three things. First, the crusty stuff in the pan after I took out the lamb patties was a little dark and charred, the lamb patties, however, tasted fine so this maybe only added a small amount of bitterness. Next, the total volume of the spice blend, to me, seemed enormous for the amount of gravy being made. I would use a similar amount of spice in an entire 5 gallon batch of beer. To test this theory, I licked some left over ground spices and it was indeed bitter. Finally, the beer that I used was much more bitter than I expected. I should have looked up some reviews of Victory Baltic Thunder to understand the flavor of the beer. I should have also realized that being a double-style beer, it would have higher IBUs to balance the sweetness of the beer. I think the beer was the true culprit but the other factors certainly contributed.
Beer Brats and Kölsch Chevre Spinach Salad
Since my first attempt at a meal made with beer was a limited success I wanted to try again with two more recipes. I also wanted to do something that would be somewhat quick to make. I looked through Sam Calagione’s book Extreme Brewing [Amazon] and found an interesting recipe for Warm Pilsner Chevre Spinach Salad. Next, I scoured the internet for a beer brats recipe. A found a few variations that were basically the same as the Beer Brats recipe on About.com and it only required four ingredients: cooking oil, bratwurst, onions, and beer.
Since the beer brats would take only a few minutes to make, I made the Kölsch Chevre Spinach Salad first. I also wanted to allow the dressing time to cool down from boiling hot to warm before I used it in the salad. The original recipe called for a pilsner style beer but I couldn’t find any craft Pilsner at my local Whole Foods so I picked up a 22 oz. bottle of Kent Lake Kölsch-style Ale made by Iron Springs Brewery in Fairfax, California.
Warm Kölsch Chevre Spinach Salad
- 4 oz. dried cranberries
- a bunch of spinach
- 4 oz. chevre goat cheese
- 1 cup almonds, chopped (or sliced)
- 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
- 5 oz. honey
- sugar to taste
- 12 oz. of Kölsch beer, (preferably room temperature and flat)
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
First, dry roast the almonds, cloves, and nutmeg over medium heat in a pan. I used the pan in the photo below. Stir or toss so that the spices don’t burn and cook until the almonds are darkened. Set aside. Pour the honey into the pan. The gooey texture of the honey will become much more watery when it hits the heat. The original recipe calls for a lot of demerara sugar so I just added sugar a little bit at a time to taste. Cook on medium heat until it simmers. Next, add the Kölsch and cook until it simmers. Then, add vanilla and olive oil. No, it won’t explode when you add the oil but be careful anyway. Simmer this mixture until the volume has reduced by about half. Turn off the heat and let cool from boiling to warm. Crumble the cheese and put it with the spinach and cranberries in a bowl. Pour the warm dressing in the bowl and toss to coat. Serve immediately.
The salad came out delicious and it was by far the best of the three recipes that I made. I let the dressing cool down just enough to only wilt the spinach a little bit. Since I mixed the chevre goat cheese before I added the dressing, it mostly melted and become a part of the dressing so I crumbled a little on top before serving. Although, it was very tasty like that, next time I would add the cheese last and quickly toss it just before serving. Even doing this, some of the cheese will likely melt but I’m thinking you’ll have a few more big chunks to enjoy. I would definitely make this dish again.
For the beer brats, I wanted a beer that would work well with the sausages, that I’ve had before and that I knew would not be bitter. I selected Moose Drool Brown Ale from Big Sky Brewing Company. I changed the recipe slightly by using only three bratwurst instead of six. I picked up the bratwurst at Whole Foods where they are fresh made, as you can see in the photo.
Beer Brats Recipe
- olive oil, enough to cover the bottom of your pan
- 1 medium sized red onion, cut into rounds
- 3 bratwurst sausages
- 6 oz. of Moose Drool Brown Ale, preferably flat and room temperature
Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat, add sausages, and brown them. Have the lid to the pan handy in case it starts to sputter and splash oil. Next, remove the sausages, they should be mostly cooked through. You’ll be adding the sausages back later. If needed, add more olive oil. Add the the onion rounds to the pan and saute them until they are translucent and golden but not brown. Add the bratwurst and the beer to the pan. Let the sauce reduce down until it is thick.<
The beer brats came out great. The sausage was cooked just right, tender and not dry. The sauce was sweet and rich from the onions and beer and it went great with the Kölsch Chevre Salad. There was still, however, just a slight tinge of bitterness, it wasn’t distracting but it makes think that I should have used a sweet onion, like a Maui or Vidalia. I really enjoyed this recipe and would definitely make it again and even try it with different styles of beer.
Be very careful of your selection of beer for your recipe. Try adding a little at a time and see how it tastes to make sure it doesn’t come out too bitter. If the recipe calls for a style that is not normally bitter, then stick with the maltier less bitter styles of beer. Even if the recipe calls for an IPA, I would stay away from double-IPAs or hop bombs unless the recipe looks like it will balance out that extreme bitter flavor. Just use a typical IPA like Lagunitas IPA, Sierra Nevada, or similar.
It also helps to choose a recipe from a reputable source, like the Home Brew Chef, Sean Paxton, or books specific to the subject. I have found that the food recipes in Sam Calagione’s book Extreme Brewing [Amazon] have all been very solid. Although I do wish his book had more recipes! If you find a recipe from another source, I would personally be wary of recipes that don’t include something sweet like sugar, honey, caramelized onions, roasted or sautéed garlic.
Finally, enjoy yourself while cooking with beer!
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