Beer adds a rich, earthy flavor to soup, stew and chili, and gives a punch to items such as brats or mussels.

It’s only natural that the taste of beer is compatible with cooking. We drink beer with food, and many bars, restaurants and especially breweries spend time curating menus that pair with specific beers.

“Cheeses are a really nice pairing with beer,” said Erica Healey, vice president of American Solera brewery. “So hopefully by offering a range of styles and flavors, everyone can find something that satisfies their palate in terms of a food and beer pairing.”

Healey’s current favorite is brie cheese with Oklahoma Chic, an American lager, that is described as “crushable lemon-lime saltines in a convenient 12 oz package.”

Using beer as an ingredient adds another layer of flavor to recipes. Just as wine adds depth of flavor when added during cooking, beer brings its complexity, surprisingly, from only four ingredients, one of which is water. The other three — hops, grains, and yeast — give beer its flavor, which varies with each style brewed. Different brews range from light and citrusy to toasty malt, bitterly hoppy, or even dark and chocolatey.

The process of choosing a beer to cook with has become more sophisticated over the last few years. It used to be a can of Budweiser stuffed into the cavity of beer-can chicken, while now we have local breweries making pilsners rivaling the King of Beers.

One of those breweries, Rapture Brewing in Kellyville, founded by Nate Beaulac, Peter Prulhiere and Mitch Hull, sells beer brewed on their 80-acre farm, along with brats made from the free-range pigs of Prairie Creek Farms. Farm-to-pint glass at its best.

“The Fassler Hall restaurants are a large part of our business,” Beaulac said. “From the farm perspective, we sell pork products (brats and sausages) to all three Fassler locations (Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Little Rock, Arkansas), and now they carry our beer.”

Beaulac hinted that the simpler the beer used to boil brats, the better they turn out. His suggestion is Rapture Saison Farmhouse Chrome Yellow, and they are now producing a pilsner that would be great for cooking.

Beers are available by the can at supermarkets, liquor stores and even the Saturday morning farmers’ market. So grab a few and experiment with these recipes, beer-can chicken included.

Beer Braised Beef Tacos

Serves 6 to 8

Warm corn tortillas, tender beer-braised bison and roasted butternut squash, is a perfect fall taco combo. With a topping of fresh cilantro, creamy queso fresco and quick-pickled red onions, this dish is sure to become a family favorite. Here’s the best part. The beef can be made in advance.

3-4 pound chuck roast

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons canola oil

12 ounces coffee stout (made with Prairie Artisan Ales Prairie Bomb)

1 small (1-2 pound) butternut squash, peeled and small diced

Corn tortillas

Cooking oil spray

Fresh chopped cilantro and crumbled queso fresco, for serving

Quick pickled onions (see Note)

1. Heat oven to 300 degrees. Season roast with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over high heat in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe pot. Add beef and sear each side until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Pour in the stout and ¼ cup water. Cover and place in the oven. Braise until fork tender, about 5 hours, turning the meat once. Set aside to cool slightly, then shred meat, returning it to the cooking juices. This can be done up to two days in advance — refrigerate until ready to proceed.

2. To make tacos, heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss squash with remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden and tender, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, shred the meat with a fork and return to the cooking juices. Simmer on low, uncovered, for 10 minutes until the cooking juices have reduced by half. Stir roasted squash into the meat.

4. Warm the tortillas by lightly spraying each one with cooking spray and placing on a skillet over medium heat, flipping occasionally to warm both sides. To serve, top tortillas with meat and squash and serve, topped with cilantro, queso fresco and pickled onions.

Note: To quick pickle onions: Combine 1 cup red wine vinegar with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon kosher salt; stir until dissolved. Peel and thinly slice a red onion. Place onion slices in a glass jar or sealable container. Pour the vinegar mixture over the onions, seal and refrigerate for 2 hours.

— Adapted from Steel House Kitchen

Beer Brats

Serves 4 to 6

This hearty meal is perfect for tailgating or a backyard cookout, served on split rolls or hot dog buns with homemade grainy beer mustard.

4-6 raw bratwurst sausages, pricked a few times with fork or a sharp knife

2 12-ounce or 1 16-ounce bottle/can of your favorite beer (made with Renaissance Brewing Co. Indian Wheat)

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 white onion, sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil or vegetable oil

Spicy beer mustard (recipe follows), for serving

1. Place sausages in a saucepan big enough to hold them in a single layer. Add beer and enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

2. Heat grill to medium-high. Toss bell pepper and onion in a bowl with olive oil and add to grill. Remove brats from beer and add to grill with veggies. Cook, turning occasionally, until brats are golden and cooked through and veggies are tender (about 6 minutes).

Spicy Beer Mustard

Makes about 2½ cups

Pair this piquant spread with grilled brats and baked pretzels or with favorite lunchmeat for a zesty sandwich. Make a double batch if desired — store the mustard in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

¼ cup brown mustard seeds

¼ cup yellow mustard seeds

¾ cup malt vinegar

1 cup beer, such as amber or brown ale (made with Iron Monk American Amber)

2 heaping tablespoons honey

¼ cup dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ cup dry ground mustard

1. In a medium bowl, combine the black and yellow mustard seeds with the vinegar and ¾ cup of the beer. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the remaining ¼ cup of the beer with the honey, brown sugar, salt, allspice and turmeric and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, transfer to a blender and let cool. Add the ground mustard and the mustard seeds with their soaking liquid to the blender and puree. Transfer the mustard to a glass jar. Cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

— Adapted from Food & Wine

Beer-Steamed Mussels with Kielbasa

Serves 2 to 4

This classic Belgian dish makes good use of their delicious ales. Sliced bread is a necessity for sopping up the rich, garlicky sauce. Or serve them the Belgian way, with “Frites” (use a bag of oven-fried French fries to save time) and mayonnaise for dipping.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ pound kielbasa sausage, quartered and thinly sliced

1 medium leek, white and pale green part only, cut in half lengthwise then across into ¼-inch half-moons, washed well

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped

2 pounds mussels, cleaned and debearded

1 12-ounce beer, preferably Belgian-style ale (made with Anthem Brewing Arjuna Belgian-Style Wit)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

¼ cup coarsely chopped dill

Sliced, toasted sourdough or baguette, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large high-sided skillet (with a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and sauté until starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add leek, garlic and pepper and sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add mussels. Pour beer over mussels and shake the pan to combine. Cover and steam until mussels open, about 4 minutes.

2. Add the butter, mustard and dill to the pot, swirling and shaking the pot until the butter melts. Scoop mussels into serving dish and ladle the broth over them. Serve with bread for sopping up the sauce.

New Mexican Beef and Beer Chili

Serves 6 to 8

Chile powder is dried and ground hot chiles, not the familiar chili powder blend, which contains chile powder, as well as cumin, garlic and oregano. Chile powder can be mild, like paprika, made from sweet peppers, or hot, when made from ancho, pequin or New Mexican chiles.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 pounds boneless short ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 large white onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

3 tablespoons chile powder

2 tablespoons finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1 12-ounce bottle pale ale (made with Dead Armadillo Tulsa Flag)

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles

4 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken stock

¼ cup masa harina (see Note) or fine cornmeal

Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped red onion and warm corn or flour tortillas, for serving

1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season beef well with salt and pepper and add a third of it to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove from pot with slotted spoon and repeat in two more batches with remaining beef; set beef aside.

2. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, chile powder and chocolate to pan. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Add beer, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add meat back to pan, along with tomatoes, green chile, beer and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until beef is very tender, about 2 hours.

3. Ladle 2 cups of the sauce into a heatproof bowl and whisk in the masa harina. Whisk the mixture back into the pot and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, ladle into bowls and top with cheddar and onion. Serve with tortillas.

Herb-Roasted Beer Can Chicken

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh rosemary, thyme and flat-leaf parsley

grated zest of 1 lemon

whole chicken

1 can of beer (made with Anthem Brewing OK Pils)

1. Heat grill to medium-high with a drip pan below the grates to prevent flare-ups.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine spices, herbs and lemon. Rub the inside and outside of a whole chicken with the herb blend. Open 1 can of beer and pour out (or drink) ¼ of it.

3. Place chicken, legs pointing down, wings up, over can of beer. Place the beer can on the grates (or in a roasting pan) over the drip pan, cover and cook until the juices run clear, about 1 hour.

Alternative: Set the chicken-topped beer can in a roasting pan or small soup pot and roast in a 425 degree oven until juices run clear, about 1½ hours.


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Judy Allen

tulsafoodlady@gmail.com

Twitter: @tulsafoodlady