In summertime when the livin’ is easy, guests wander into the backyard, bearing cold beers to sip while standing around the grill. A smart host provides a large bucket of ice to keep them cold. There’s something about an outdoor fire that inspires lingering while sipping a cool drink.
When the revels are over, the few stragglers (bottles or cans) may continue rolling around at the bottom of that bucket, under the melted ice, begging to be neatly tucked into the fridge for the next cookout. Once cooled, beer doesn’t fare well at room temperature and needs to be kept cold.
Over the course of weeks—and more backyard gatherings— hosts find that the accumulation of orphan beers take up a lot of real estate on the “high rent” refrigerator shelves. The space where hot dogs, burgers, and their accompaniments usually live.
It’s always great fun finding an alternate use for the sudsy stuff. Most cooks know that beer makes a great braising medium for sausages or brats. A pot of short ribs welcomes the addition of leftover stout. And there’s not a flank steak or brisket that doesn’t benefit from a beer-blasted marinade or barbecue sauce. The tenderizing magic of beer, ale, or stout awaits.
Bakers might experiment with light or dark beer in a recipe for quick bread and muffins. (A breakfast beer anyone?) Baked goods puff up higher when beer meets flour. Other cooks might spike a batter to coat shrimp for frying. The bubbles produce the requisite crunch. Light golden beer or pale ale does the same for fried onion rings. No worries about alcohol content; it merely floats away during cooking—or so food scientists tell me.
None of this precludes the usual gathering around the grill while burgers, dogs, and steaks sear. The culinary use of the foamy stuff certainly allots more space in the fridge to store lollipop lamb chops and St. Louis ribs for the next event.
Makes a dozen muffins
In this recipe, beer lightens the batter to produce a higher crown. For late morning brunch, spread them with ginger-flavored cream cheese made by whipping the two ingredients together with a few drops of milk or cream to encourage smooth blending.
- ½ cup rye flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup molasses
- 1/3 cup stout
- 1 egg
- 1 cup dark or golden raisins (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease 12 muffin cups. (Get all the nooks and crannies so the muffins don’t break up when removing them.)
- Whisk together the flours, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, brown sugar, molasses, beer, and egg—completely.
- Pour the wet (beer) mixture into the dry (flour) mixture. Add raisins, if using, stirring until just combined. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the centers of one muffin should look dry when they are done.
BEER-BATTERED ONION RINGS
Makes 6 servings
Any type of light-colored beer or pale ale works in this recipe. Take these to the table in a basket lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
- 3 large onions, peeled and trimmed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup beer
- Vegetable or canola oil for frying
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Slice the onions crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Pull the slices apart into rings, reserving any broken pieces for another use.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and pepper. Stir in the beer, beating until no longer foamy.
- Toss the onion rings in the batter. Transfer them to a plate right away, shaking very lightly so that any excess batter drips off.
- Heat oil in a large stick-free skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the onion rings into the skillet in a single layer, cooking in batches until lightly golden, about 1-1/2 minutes per side.
- Transfer the onion rings to baking sheets, in a single layer. Set in the heated oven, for about 5 minutes to crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot.
Marblehead resident Linda Bassett has worked as a cook, trained up-and-coming chefs, studied food history and led food tours. Her book, “From Apple Pie to Pad Thai,” is about local cooks and cooking.