Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cooking with Beer: Chicken

March ends on an up note with one last beer braised dinner for early Spring.  Either chicken breasts or thighs are fine for this.  Go with skinless since the cooked chicken will want to nestle into a tortilla or become a spicy chicken salad after it is shredded gently with a fork.  Use cuts on or off the bone, just remember the bone does add flavor to the cooking broth. 

Chicken Cooked in Beer
3 servings, easily doubled
2 large skinless chicken breasts (or 4 thighs)
1 cup beer
1 cup chicken broth
olive oil for browning
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
dash cayenne (up to 1/8 teaspoon)
salt and pepper

  1. Salt and pepper skinless chicken breasts.  
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown chicken in a bit of olive oil on both sides.  
  3. Drain any excess oil.  Lower heat and add 1 cup beer and 1 cup chicken broth to skillet.  
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cumin and a dash of cayenne.  
  5. Cover skillet and simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes.  Chicken will be very tender and pull apart easy with a fork.  Continue cooking another 5-10 minutes if needed.  
Serve with roasted jalepeno peppers, sliced avocado, a scattering of black beans and a dollop of sour cream in a warm flour tortilla. 

Spicy Beer Chicken Salad
To make rough-chopped, spicy chicken salad, let chicken fully cool in the broth.  When cool, remove chicken pieces from broth and shred with a fork or chop into bite-sized pieces and place in a medium bowl. To the bowl, add the flesh of 1 avocado, roughly chopped, a large bunch of fresh, chopped cilantro (about 1/4 cup chopped), 1 chopped tomato plus 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil (try Goya), the juice of 1/2 lime and 1 squirt of hot sauce (like Cholula brand).  Taste for seasoning and add a bit of salt and pepper,  more hot sauce or a touch more lime juice as desired.  Serve in a roll, warm pita pocket or over chopped lettuce.  Sliced black olives, pickled jalepenos, chopped scallions—all nice garnishes.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cooking with Beer: Lamb

This fast lamb chop meal is inspired by the Peruvian lamb dish called Seco de Cordero.  That famous stew flavors lamb shanks with beer, cilantro, onions and peppers.   Stripped down to cook in just dark beer and cilantro, these lamb chops take on an attractive gloss and slough off their fat in just half on hour.

Fresh mint is added at the end with some extra cilantro to really brighten up the flavor.  I like to remove the meat from the bone in chunks and serve it in a warm flour tortilla with some shredded lettuce and more herbs, plus a little mild goat or feta cheese.  The chops also do very nicely as is alongside a green vegetable and baked potatoes or salad. 

Beer-Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops
4 servings
4-6 thin shoulder chops (1/2 inch think)
salt, pepper, cumin
olive oil to brown
1 cup dark beer
2 tablespoons pureed cilantro sauce (Puree1/2 cup chopped cilantro including stems, juice of 1 line, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 cup water or broth)
2 tablespoons each chopped fresh cilantro and mint

To serve:
4-6 flour tortillas
1/2 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
shredded lettuce
extra cilantro and mint to garnish

  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and cumin on each side of chops.  
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Brown chops on each side, until they are deep brown—about 4-5 minutes per side.  Transfer chops to a separate platter as they are browned.  
  3. Return all chops to skillet, lower heat to medium-low and add beer. Cover and simmer chops.  
  4. Meanwhile, make cilantro sauce by pureeing cilantro with lime juice, olive oil and water.  
  5. When chops have cooked for about 15 minutes, stir in cilantro sauce.  
  6. Cover skillet and cook another 15 minutes, until meat is falling off the bone and meat looks glazed.  Very little liquid will remain.  
  7. Remove chops from skillet and serve with cilantro sauce garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and mint.
To serve with warmed flour tortillas, remove meat from bone and cut into chunks or strips. Stuff each tortilla with meat, lettuce, herbs and cheese.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Cooking with Beer: Ham

Take any last of winter chills out of March by cooking meats in beer.  It is a simple technique.  Ham, chicken and even lamb benefit from a slow braise in full bodied or light beers.  You can even use non-alcoholic beer and there are some better ones on the market these days. 

This is a one dish meal of ham and vegetables oven-simmered in a tightly sealed package of beer and chicken broth.  The slightly salty broth is the secret ingredient in the special gravy made from the pan drippings.  You can toss in some new potatoes with the other vegetables or bake sweet potatoes alongside.  We’re loving the sweet potato option of late. 

Ham Dinner with a Beer Gravy

2 pound (cooked) ham or smaller
1 large cabbage, cut in sixths
6 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 celery ribs, cut in half
optional: 6-8 new potatoes
1 cup beer
1 cup chicken broth
(If your ham is very small (1 pound or less), use about 1/2 the liquid.)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
Broth from pan (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup cream or milk
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  
  2. Place ham, cabbage, carrots and celery in a roasting pan with high sides.  Pour on beer and broth.  
  3. Use a large sheet of aluminum foil to cover pan, making sure edges are sealed. Bake for 1 hour (some larger hams will need 1 1/2 hours). The ham is ready when it reaches an internal temperature of 140˚F.  
  4. If the vegetables are tender but the ham has not yet reached the ideal temperature, remove the vegetables and keep warm while the ham finishes. 

When the ham is ready, make the gravy.
  1.  In a medium skillet, melt the butter.  Sprinkly flour over the melted butter and stir to combine, creating a roux.  Cook 1-2 minutes.  
  2. Slowly pour a few tablespoons of broth into the roux and stir well to smooth out any lumps.  Add 1/2 cup more of broth, stirring mixture as liquid is added to create a thick gravy.  Stir in another 1/2 cup broth and taste.  
  3. At this point you may want to add either the remaining broth, or if a bit salty, some plain water.   
  4. Just before serving, stir in cream and parsley.  Serve over ham and cabbage.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Spare Ribs, Slow in a Flash

“What are you doing?” asked my husband.  He eyed me incredulously as I opened a package of uncooked spareribs three minutes before we were leaving to meet friends. 

“I’m making spare ribs for dinner.  I’ll be ready to go in one minute,” I replied as I tossed them with salt, black pepper, smoked paprika and brown sugar.  These were singles—already cut apart---and I stacked the seasoned ribs against the sides of a crock pot, meaty side facing the pot’s inner surface.  The curve of each rib matched that of the pot perfectly. (Two full racks can fit with the ribs standing up.)   I turned the crock pot to low and was finished prepping dinner.  Washing my hands took longer than preparing the ribs.  We left on time. 

When we got back 3 hours later, the ribs were cooked but not yet truly tender.  A small pool of fat had fallen to the center of the crock pot.  I turned the heat to high and left them another hour.  When the meat was falling off the bone, I removed the ribs and let them drain on a few paper towels.  Later we reheated the ribs in a hot oven (375˚F at least) where the edges crisped and a light coating of BBQ sauce formed a glossy coating. These ribs are served with more warmed BBQ sauce on the side for those who like their ribs well sauced.

Any favorite BBQ sauce  will do.  My BBQ sauce is “ketchup & molasses” based and has a touch of orange in it.  Come by and try it sometime. 

Crock Pot Spice Rub for one rack of spare ribs:
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Acknowledgment: Versions of this clever technique can be found around the internet.  I learned the base technique from but apply a simpler (faster) rub and "finish" the ribs in the oven, away from the extruded fat.  You can use this easy technique during the summer months too and finish the ribs on the grill rather then the oven.  Keeps the kitchen cool.

What Goes with Ribs?
My favorite side with ribs is collard greens, another simple to prepare dish that only requires time to develop its personality (like ribs).  See my recipe in the Feb. 25, 2010 entry of PureFoodsProject.  Another nice side is corn pudding.  Find it in the Oct. 26, 2011 entry.