By Erin Kelly, Contributing Editor
All this time, you thought you knew what you were doing when it came to beer. You had your chosen brand, and bought it with pride. You knew what kind of beer tasted best and—most importantly—you knew how to drink it. Guzzle it, even. But all this time that beer has warmed your belly and lightened your step, it could have been braising your bratwurst and battering your hush puppies. If only you’d known how to cook with it.
No need to worry. We’ve got David Blossman.
"Well-balanced beers are the best choice for cooking,” says Blossman, president of Abita Brewing Company. Abita, located 30 miles north of New Orleans, brews more than 130,000 barrels of beer every year, including Abita Amber, Turbodog, and Purple Haze. Abita is also responsible for Abita Beer, Cooking Louisiana True, a cookbook with Abita-rich recipes from culinary powerhouses like Chef Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Susan Spicer and Marcelle Bienvenu.
According to Blossman, the cooking process tends to intensify the flavors of the brew, which is why well-balanced beers are the best way to go.
"A bitter beer, or a beer that has been dry hopped, will become even more bitter with cooking,” Blossman says. "I usually save heavily hopped beers, like IPAs, for the cook to enjoy while working in the kitchen, instead of using them as an ingredient.”
He suggests Abita Amber and Turbodog as ideal beers for batter, because they add a nice caramel and roasted flavor. But beer isn’t just for battering.
"People associate wine with cooking, but beer is a great choice too. You can use it tomarinate, braise, bake and add distinctive flavor to a variety of foods,” Blossman says.
And if you’re worried about all those extra carbs, don’t. Throwing back beers may give you a beer belly, but tossing it in your recipes won’t have the same consequences. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that alcohol loses a notable portion of its alcohol content, and its calories, when heated.
So, pour yourself a beer and save one for the stovetop. Start with these recipes from Cooking Louisiana True.
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons dry buttermilk powder
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 12-oz. bottle of Abita Amber
1 large onion, diced fine
1 large green bell pepper, diced fine
Black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil [use oil leftover from frying fish, if available]
Salt, to taste
Put the eggs in a large bowl; beat well. Stir in the buttermilk powder. Add cornmeal and flour; mix well. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the beer. Stir and check the consistency; keep adding beer, a little at a time, and stirring until consistency is thick yet pourable. Stir in the onion, green pepper and black pepper. Adjust the batter with more of the beer until the batter slides off the spoon.
Heat the oil in a large skillet [you can use the same skillet to fry fish]. Make sure the oil is hot; it should be about 360 degrees. Spoon the batter into the hot oil, about seven hushpuppies at a time. The batter will cool the oil faster than fish filets do, so don’t overfill the pan with hushpuppies. Fry for a minute on one side, then turn them over. When the hushpuppies are golden brown, remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain. Season with salt immediately. Serve hot.
Pairs well with any Abita beer.
Football Brats with Abita Beer
1 (19 oz.) package Johnsonville Hot and Spicy Brats
2 to 3 (12 oz.) bottles Abita Turbodog, depending on the size of your pot
1 (14 oz.) can purple sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
Large kosher dills
Using a fork or sharp knife, puncture holes randomly in the bratwursts. Place the brats in a pot large enough to accommodate them easily. Add enough beer to cover them completely. Cover the pot and bring the beer to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the brats are plump and cooked through. Transfer the brats to a platter and set aside.
Reduce the remaining liquid in the pot to an almost syrupy consistency. Add the sauerkraut; mix well and heat through.
Put brats on serving plates; cover with sauerkraut mixture and serve with a dollop of mustard and a dill slice on the side.
Purple Haze can be substituted for a sweeter flavor. Brats can be served on poboy bread for a great sandwich.
Pairs well with Turbodog, Amber or Fall Fest.
Warm Potato Salad
2 1/2 pounds red potatoes, peeled if desired
4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons minced green onions
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet onions
3/4 cup Abita Amber
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
Pinch or two granulated sugar
Hot sauce, to taste
Cook the potatoes in lightly salted boiling water until tender. Drain potatoes and let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, coarsely chop the potatoes and put them in a large salad bowl. Add the eggs, parsley and green onions. Season with salt, black pepper and cayenne. Gently toss to mix. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the beer, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a gentle boil. Cook for about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a food processor or electric blender. Add the mustard. With the motor running, add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil through the feed tube or hole in lid. Season with hot sauce.
Drizzle the dressing over the potato mixture and toss gently to coat evenly.
Pairs well with Amber, Pecan Harvest or Golden.