Recipes for Eagle Rock Public House’s Fried Cod Sandwich; Stout Beer and Mustard Wings; and Beer-Battered Mac-and-Cheese Bites.
It’s one thing to pair beer with food, especially for holidays or events where you’ll probably be serving or drinking a lot of it — but beer is also pretty fun to cook with. (After all, we do it with wine all the time.) You can add beer to almost anything, from chili to shrimp boils, bread and cakes to queso. More than just a novelty ingredient, beer adds an extra dimension and depth to a dish, lending notes ranging from roasted barley to sweet fruit, chocolate to crisp acidity.
“Craft beers have a lot of personality, but there’s a lot you can do with regular commercial brews too,” says Jerry Su, chef at Eagle Rock Brewery Public House, the brewpub outlet for one of Los Angeles’ most popular craft breweries. In fact, for a lot of cooking, commercial brews are ideal, simply because the price point is better than for more limited craft offerings. “Coors is a natural for a shrimp boil. With commercial beers, you can also trust that the flavor is consistent. You know what you’re getting.”
First, consider the type of beer you want to use and what style would best complement a dish. Wheat beers — often called “white,” “wit” or “weiss” — tend to be a little mellower, with crisp, fruity notes that can pair well with everything from fish to grilled red meats.
Su uses Eagle Rock Brewery’s Manifesto beer in a light batter for the brewpub’s deep-fried cod sandwich, topped with a pickled jalapeño slaw and tangy malt vinegar aioli. The Belgian-style wheat beer is not too terribly hoppy or bitter, perfect with fish. “It’s mild,” Su says, “and lends great flavor.”
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Other beers run the gamut from fruity and sharp to yeasty and malty. Take a complex stout beer — rich and dark, this beer is thick and creamy, redolent with molasses, coffee and roasted barley notes. The flavors are naturally suited to grilled meats, hearty stews and rich desserts.
Depending on how the beer is used in a recipe, the flavors can change as you cook with them. Add beer toward the end of a recipe, and the notes will largely remain true to the beer’s original character. But try cooking — particularly heating and reducing beer — and the flavors will concentrate and even evolve over time. For stout and mustard chicken wings, complement a robust stout reduction with whole grain mustard and chopped garlic, along with minced thyme. A little honey and malt vinegar will offset the bitterness of the reduced beer, and grated Parmesan and soy sauce will add a touch of umami to your glaze.
“The key is using your palate and working with the harmony of flavors,” Su says. “Try a small amount (of beer) before adding it to a recipe.”
Keep in mind that as the beer is cooked, most, if not all, of the alcohol will burn off. And unlike wine, the carbonation in the beer can make it a valuable ingredient for certain types of dishes, particularly when it comes to deep-frying.
“Beer batter is something that’s super common,” Su says. Whisked into a simple batter consisting of nothing more than flour, salt and a touch of baking powder, a beer batter puffs up light and crisp. It’s a classic batter for deep-fried fish.
For a slightly different take, use it to batter mac-and-cheese bites, incorporating a sharp, bitter IPA to stand up to the richness of a cheddar- and smoked-gouda-based sauce.
Experiment a bit and you might find yourself cooking with beer frequently and using it in a variety of dishes. Still, always be sure to keep extra on hand — you know, for when you actually want to drink it.
EAGLE ROCK PUBLIC HOUSE’S FRIED COD SANDWICH
Makes 6 sandwiches
Basic sweet pickled jalapeño
1¼ cups cider vinegar
1¼ cups water
¼ cup salt
1¼ cups sugar
1 cup thinly sliced jalapeños (from 2 to 3 large jalapeños)
In a heavy saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar over high heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat. Place the jalapeños in a large jar or medium glass bowl and pour over the liquid. Weight the jalapeños down so they stay submerged, and set aside until cool. Cover and refrigerate the submerged jalapeños for at least 12 hours to pickle. The jalapeños will keep for up to two weeks, covered and refrigerated.
Pickled jalapeño slaw
½ head green cabbage, julienned
1 red onion, julienned
Strained pickled jalapeños
¼ cup pickling juice (from the jalapeños)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. In a large bowl, mix together the julienned cabbage and red onion, along with the strained pickled jalapeños.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the pickling juice with the vinegar and olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Pour the vinaigrette over the slaw and season with a few pinches of salt to taste. Mix the slaw well and set aside for at least 10 minutes before using. This makes six to eight cups of slaw, possibly more than is needed for the rest of the recipe; the slaw will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to three days.
Malt vinegar aioli
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 1½ cups canola oil
¼ cup malt vinegar
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the egg, yolk, mustard, lemon juice, garlic and kosher salt, blending until homogeneous. With the processor running, slowly stream in the oil. As the oil is added, the mayonnaise will begin to emulsify and stiffen. Enough oil has added when the mayonnaise is thick and will form peaks. Stir in the malt vinegar by hand to form the aioli. This makes a generous cup aioli, which will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to a week.
FRIED COD SANDWICH
Peanut or canola oil for deep-frying
1½ cups flour, plus 1 cup for dusting, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pint Eagle Rock Brewy Manifesto beer, or similar Belgian-style ‘wit-bier’ or white ale
3 dashes Tabasco
6 (5-ounce) cod fillets, preferably Ling cod
Malt vinegar aioli
Pickled jalapeño slaw
Toasted challah roll
1. Fill a 4-quart pot with frying oil to a depth of three to four inches. Heat the oil to maintain a temperature of 350 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together 1½ cups flour with the baking powder and kosher salt. Whisk in the beer until the batter is smooth, then whisk in the Tabasco. Set aside.
3. Dredge the cod pieces in the remaining flour, then remove the cod and dip each piece into the batter. Carefully lower each piece into the oil and fry until golden and crispy, about four minutes (frying time will vary depending on the thickness of the pieces). Drain on a rack.
4. Assemble the sandwiches: Spread 1 to 2 tablespoons aioli on each half of the toasted rolls. Top the bottom half of each roll with a piece of fried fish, and top the fish with about 1 cup of loosely packed slaw. Top each sandwich with the remaining roll and serve immediately.
— Adapted from a recipe by chef Jerry Su of Eagle Rock Public House.
STOUT BEER AND MUSTARD WINGS
Serves 8 to 12
2 (12-ounce) stout beers
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (¾ stick) butter
½ cup whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 to 8 large cloves)
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1¼ teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
Freshly ground pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
4 pounds trimmed chicken wings, cut at the joints and wing tips discarded (about 3 dozen pieces)
2 to 3 cups cornstarch, for dredging
1. Place the beer in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Gently simmer the beer until it is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 15 minutes (watch that the beer does not foam over the top of the pan while it is simmering). Remove from heat.
2. Whisk the butter in with the beer, then the mustard, thyme, garlic and cheese. Whisk in the honey and malt vinegar, followed by the hot sauce, soy sauce and several grinds of pepper. Taste and adjust the flavorings if desired. Place the sauce in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Fill a 4-quart pot with frying oil to a depth of three to four inches. Heat the oil to maintain a temperature of 350 degrees.
4. While the oil is heating, dredge each wing in cornstarch, tossing to coat the wing completely. Shake off the excess cornstarch and set aside. For a crunchier texture, dredge the wings a second time just before frying.
5. When the oil is heated, begin frying the wings, several pieces at a time. Fry the wings until the skin is golden and crisp, four to five minutes. Drain the wings on a rack and continue frying.
6. While the wings are still hot, toss them in the large bowl with the sauce until completely coated. Remove the wings, shaking off the excess sauce, and serve immediately.
BEER-BATTERED MAC-AND-CHEESE BITES
Makes about 8 dozen bites
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound small elbow macaroni
½ pound bacon, cut crosswise into thin strips
2 to 4 tablespoons butter, or as needed
3½ cups flour, divided
1½ cups half and half
4½ cups IPA beer, divided
¾ pound smoked Gouda, grated
¾ pound sharp cheddar, grated
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and pepper
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ cup chopped chives
1½ cups grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups cornstarch
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the vegetable oil, then the macaroni. Cook the macaroni according to the manufacturer’s instructions to al dente, then drain. Spread the macaroni out on a rimmed baking sheet to cool slightly while you make the sauce.
3. In a medium, heavy pot, render the bacon until crisp, stirring frequently, eight to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, leaving the fat in the pot. Drain the bacon on paper towels.
4. Measure the bacon fat in the pot. You will need ½ cup. If short, add butter as needed to have a total of ½ cup fat.
5. Heat the fat in the pot over medium heat and slowly whisk in ½ cup flour to create a roux. Cook the roux for two to three minutes until it is lightly colored, then begin to whisk in the half and half and 1½ cups beer. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the sauce begins to bubble and is thickened.
6. Stir or whisk in the grated cheeses until melted and incorporated, then stir in the bacon. Stir in the macaroni.
7. Spoon the macaroni and cheese into a greased 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Place the dish in the oven and bake until the sauce begins to bubble on the sides and the top is faintly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack to room temperature, then cover and place the baking dish in the refrigerator until the macaroni and cheese chilled and completely firm, preferably overnight.
8. Fill a 4-quart pot with frying oil to a depth of three to four inches. Heat the oil to maintain a temperature of 350 degrees.
9. Make the beer batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 cups beer with the 3 cups flour, 1¼ teaspoons salt, and the baking powder. Whisk in the chives and Parmesan cheese and set aside.
10. Remove the macaroni and cheese from the refrigerator. Cut the macaroni and cheese into 1-inch squares.
11. Working with a few squares at a time, toss the bites into cornstarch to coat, then gently roll them in the beer batter to coat completely. Shake off the excess batter and carefully dip the bites into the hot oil. Fry the macaroni and cheese bites until the batter is puffed and lightly golden and the batter is crisp, about two minutes. Drain the bites on a rack, and continue frying. Serve the bites hot.