Type “uses for beer” into a search engine and you’ll get plenty of hits—for instance: “9 Surprising Uses for Beer!” or “14 Household Uses for Beer!” But let’s be serious here for a moment, put down the mouse and say to yourself (in a stern voice), “Why do we need 14 uses for beer?” Isn’t it enough just for beer to be beer? So I did what any intrepid reporter would do: I opened a beer and called an expert. In this instance, my expert was Chef Allen Smith of the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and he told me I’m wrong,; beer does have another purpose in life, and that purpose is to transform food, not as an accompaniment, but as an ingredient. “I cook with beer pretty often,” Chef Allen says. He likes to take advantage of the many flavors available in a brew. “They can really enhance a recipe,” he says, adding that cooking with beer can be a challenge for the novice: “You have to know the flavor of the beer and be careful not to overpower the food.” Hoppy, darker beers have a nice nut-like flavor, and hold up in heavier dishes. “Sometimes,” for instance, “a soup or a stew needs a kick.” Add beer, which livens up dishes like carne adovada, since it adds such richness that “you can cut down the amount of butter you might use.”
Santa Fe School of Cooking
Chef Allen created a five-course menu for SFSC’s Bike and Brew beer dinner––each to be paired with the beer used in the recipe. The chef shares his recipe for Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Strawberries and Pale Ale Vinaigrette. The Pale Ale is lighter and has a “sparkling, effervescent, fresh flavor. It adds another element to the salad without drowning out the greens and fruit.”
Not only do guests sit down for this delicious meal, but the evening features a cooking demonstration class as well—and for each course, either Chef Allen Smith or a representative from Odell Brewing speaks about the dish and the beer pairing, explaining the nuances of each and why they work together. Chef Allen shares his techniques, demonstrates how the dish is made, and guests get to go home with recipes, so that they can wow their friends when they host their next dinner party. Allen says one thing he loves about working at the School of Cooking is the balance between cooking, creating dishes and teaching––and this dinner combines it all.
“We’re thrilled to be partnered with Odell’s Brewery out of Fort Collins, Co, for this fun and festive evening of tasting beer, cooking with beer and enjoying some great food and cooking techniques!” says the school’s director, Nicole Ammerman. “Twenty percent of the proceeds from this event will be donated to a local nonprofit, Chainbreaker [Collective, which helps] refurbish bicycles to give to folks in need of two-wheeled transportation!”
Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Strawberries and Pale Ale Vinaigrette
1 cup Pale Ale beer
¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot minced (heaping Tablespoon)
1 Tablespoon flower honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good salad oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
In a nonreactive saucepan, slowly reduce the ale to about ¼ cup. Pour into a jar; add the white balsamic, Dijon mustard, minced shallot, the honey, salt and freshly ground pepper. Close the lid and shake well. Add the salad oil and olive oil, and shake vigorously, refrigerate.
6-8 cups seasonal greens (such as baby arugula) washed and chilled
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 ripe pears, peeled, halved, cored, cut in half again (lengthwise), and sliced thinly—coat pears lightly with some of the vinaigrette
1 pint fresh, ripe strawberries, washed and sliced
8 ounces Gorgonzola cheese (or other blue cheese)
½ cup toasted and chopped pecans—To make: 1 Tablespoon butter, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon sugar. Toast in a 175° oven for 45 minutes, tossing about every 15 minutes
Toss the salad greens with a teaspoon sea salt and about ½ of the vinaigrette, and arrange on 8 salad plates or soup plates. Distribute the sliced pears amongst the greens; sprinkle the sliced strawberries around on the salad. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola crumbles over the salads. Garnish with the toasted and chopped pecans.
The Santa Fe School of Cooking hosts their cooking class and dinner on Thursday, May 19, at 6 p.m. Tickets are $85 per person. The school is located at 125 North Guadalupe in Santa Fe. 505.983.4511. santafeschoolofcooking.com.
Piñon Pub at Whole Foods
The folks at Whole Foods just put in their very own taproom, the Pinon Pub. With 24 local and small batch beers on tap, they too have been inspired to create some great new cooking-with-beer recipes. This one comes from Benji Fitts, the regional marketing manager at Whole Foods.
Ale-Braised Baby Bok Choy with English Cheddar
This delicious and speedy side dish pairs bok choy with tangy cheddar and rich walnuts. Serve it alongside roast pork or poultry, or pair it with brown rice and baked tofu for a very satisfying vegetarian meal.
4 heads baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
1/2 cup ale
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup shredded aged English Cheddar
3 Tablespoons chopped walnuts
Freshly ground black pepper
Place bok choy, cut-side up, in a skillet large enough to hold it snuggly in a single layer. Pour ale over bok choy, sprinkle with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and simmer until the base of the bok choy is fairly tender when pierced at the thickest part of the bulb with a paring knife, about 5 minutes.
Uncover the pan, sprinkle the bok choy with cheddar, cover again and continue to cook until cheddar melts, about 2 more minutes. Transfer bok choy to a platter with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with walnuts and black pepper.
The Pinon Pub is located in Whole Foods at 753 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. 505.992.1700. wholefoodsmarket.com.
Story by Caitlin Richards