Oktoberfest season is upon us. Besides the most obvious way to celebrate, what better way to honor this festive time of year than by cooking with beer?

Wine gets most of the accolades when it comes to cooking with alcohol, but beer has plenty to offer our palates. Alcohol brings out the flavor in food by bonding with fat and water molecules. The magic of chemistry is what brings out more flavor and aroma in marinated meats. 

Beer’s slight acidity makes it an excellent meat tenderizer. A bit of the bubbly poured into your marinades will allow you to eat leaner cuts of meat that may be tough otherwise. Poke holes in the meat and marinate for a few hours or overnight. Beer doesn’t alter the flavor of meat as much as wine or vinegar, so add your favorite spices or simply savor that meaty taste.

The yeast content of beer helps make breads and battered foods lighter and fluffier. You don’t necessarily need to follow a recipe that includes beer. In baked goods or batters, try replacing some or all of the liquid in the recipe with beer. Beers with higher malt content add a subtle nutty sweetness.

Certain beers will lend their flavor to foods, so novice beer-chefs should stick to cooking with a beer they like. Dark, rich beer is great boiled for a bit in a hearty stew, while a light, hoppy IPA is best added toward the end of cooking. Experiment with dishes you already enjoy by adding some of your favorite beer. If you’re pleased with the results, you may become a serious beer-chef who replaces nearly any liquid in recipes with beer. 

Some foods pair so perfectly with certain beers, once you try them you won’t want to make them any other way. Beef and brown ale are like peanut butter and jelly. Slow-cooked beef casserole or chili are made richer by adding a combination of beef stock and brown ale. Chocolate is enhanced by dark beers like stouts and porters. Try substituting part of the liquid in your next batch of brownies with a dark beer. You’ll be amazed.

Unless you really love the flavor of beer, avoid overkill by cooking with beers that won’t overwhelm the flavor of the other ingredients. Generally, rich foods go well with dark beers while lighter foods are enhanced by a more subtle-tasting beer.

Beef, beer and barley stew

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound beef stew meat

1 teaspoon salt, divided

14 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups coarsely chopped onion 

2 bay leaves

2 thyme sprigs

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups sliced carrot

2 cups chopped, peeled turnips 

34 cup uncooked pearl barley

5 garlic cloves, minced and divided

2 (8-ounce) packages mushrooms, quartered

3 cups water

3 cups low-salt beef broth

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer (such as stout) 

3 small beets

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Heat oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle beef with 12 teaspoon salt and pepper. 

Add beef to pan; saute 10 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Add onion, bay leaves, and thyme sprigs to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover; stir in tomato paste. Increase heat to medium-high. 

Add carrot, turnips, barley, 4 garlic cloves, and mushrooms; saute 3 minutes. Add beef, 12 teaspoon salt, water, broth, Worcestershire, and beer; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, for 112 hours. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

While stew is simmering, trim beets, leaving root and 1 inch stem on each; scrub with a brush. Place in a medium saucepan, and cover with water; bring to a boil. 

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until tender. Drain; rinse with cold water. Drain; cool. Leave root and 1-inch stem on each beet; rub off skins. Cut each beet into 6 wedges.

Combine parsley, thyme leaves, and 1 garlic clove. Ladle about 2 cups stew into each of 6 bowls. Top each serving with 3 beet wedges, about 112 teaspoons parsley mixture and 1 teaspoon horseradish. 

 Adapted from cookinglight.com

Crockpot beer chicken

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts 

1 bottle or can of your favorite beer

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

12 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours. Feel free to change out the spices and herbs and use whatever you’d like. 

 Adapted from laaloosh.com

Spicy beer shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

12 cup chopped onion 

23 cup beer

2 tablespoons tomato paste

14 cup sweet chili sauce 

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or 1 tsp. dried cilantro

Few pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and patted dry

Cooked brown rice, quinoa or baked sweet potato, for serving

In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter until melted. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beer, tomato paste, sweet chili sauce, and cilantro. Bring to a boil. If you want more heat, add a few pinches of cayenne pepper. 

Once boiling, add the shrimp in a single layer without crowding the pan. Cook for 3 minutes. Flip then cook another 3 minutes or until the shrimp is pink, cooked through, and curled up (you may need to cut a test one since it’ll be hard to tell with the sauce). 

The timing may vary depending on your size of shrimp. Serve on top of rice or baked sweet potato. 

 Source: chocolatemoosey.com

Have questions? Email them to amandastone31@gmail.com or mail her c⁄o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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