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Houston Chefs Cookin’ with Beer

Chef Jason Gould’s Beer-Battered Avocado at Cyclone Anaya’s

By JOHN DeMERS

When in doubt, ask a chef – at least if the question is about cooking, not so much if it’s about love or the meaning of life. But yes, cooking. That what I did when I got invited to speak about cooking with beer at this coming weekend’s Brewmasters International Beer Festival at Moody Gardens in Galveston. The whole thing is being staged by Food & Vine Time Productions and presented by Spec’s, so the odds are very good there will be plenty of beer. And as I suspected, having spent many a night over the past 25 years swilling beer with chefs, there were lots of great responses.

GRANT GORDON, executive chef at Tony’s:

“One of my favorite recipes is a classic beer and cheddar soup. This soup is an American classic which stems from Wisconsin. All you need is a full-flavored beer, I prefer Shiner Bock or Lone Star, and a nice robust cheddar. Keen’s Cheddar, Lincolnshire Poachers, and Montgomery Cheddar are three of the best in the world. They all hail from Neal’s Yard in England. Some veggies, a good blond roux, and you can make yourself a great soup.”

JASON GOULD, corporate chef for Cyclone Anaya’s:

“I love Negro Modelo Beer-Battered Stuffed Avocado. It’s half a ripe avocado filled with fresh jumbo lump crab, then dipped in a Negro Modelo beer batter and deep-fried till crisp. I serve it on a spicy tomato salsa with lime cilantro sour cream and a salad of mixed greens, jicama and cucumber dressed with a charred tomato vinaigrette. This preparation takes a seemingly rich, heavy dish and makes it light and refreshing, something fried things usually are not.”

JOHN SCHENK, executive chef at Strip House:

“I love to cook beef short ribs with St. Arnolds Brown Ale. Even better, I like to pair them with collard greens cooked with the same beer. Both are braised and have that deep, luxurious flavor that develops over extended cooking time.  The beer adds a nice nutty flavor to the meat and helps to tenderize it at the same time. The collards are cooked for a much shorter time so the beer retains more of its flavor. So it accents and re-focuses the beer flavor imparted to the short ribs. For a final pairing, I love to have creamed corn as an accompaniment. That way one gets the sweet with a bit of the bitter from the greens and the beefy-nutty short rib flavor. It’s a real tasty treat.”

RYAN PERA, executive chef at The Grove, Discovery Green

As an avid home brewer, I like to use beer at home as well as on the menu at The Grove.  Here are some examples: mussels with Bombshell Blonde, house chorizo and fries; lamb stew with Saint Arnolds stout and root vegetables; IPA house-cured bacon; sauteed shrimp with pilsner, hot chiles and summer tomatoes; Belgian Flammanade with Saison.

PHILIPPE SCHMIT, chef owner of the anticipated Philippe Restaurant + Lounge

“La cuisine et la biere. When I think of beer and cooking, I can still see my chef a long time ago braising a Carbonade, a Belgium-influenced braised beef with beer, and showing me how much love you needed to put into cooking , putting a lot’s of patience for a worthy result and reward. In his honor , I end up making several time a braise short ribs with beer, sometimes serve with the caramelized endives so popular in the Belgium cooking or a potato mashed with leeks.”

DAVID DENIS, chef-owner of Le Mistral:

“I love to make blue Mediterranean mussels with beer, Napa cabbage and smoked duck breast. I start dish by opening my mussels in a pot, pouring the beer on the top with some shallots and letting them steam for about 10 minutes. Of course I reserve this golden cooking liquid. In a different pot, I sauté my thinly chopped Napa cabbage in a little bit of butter, adding my smoked duck breast until we will get a light coloration. I deglaze the cabbage with the golden juice, add some heavy cream and slowly let it cook for 10 minutes. Just before serving, I put the cooked mussels on top of the cabbage, cover the pot and let everything steam for another 5 minutes. If you are looking for a culinary orgasm, just try it !!!

ROBERT DEL GRANDE, chef-owner of RDG + Bar Annie

We use a “beer mop” for our skirt steak – the boys in the kitchen like it.

JERAMIE ROBISON, executive chef at La Colombe d’Or:

As Homer Simpson says, ‘I would kill everyone in this room for one drop of sweet beer.’  There are a few things I enjoy cooking with beer, especially bratwurst with Abita “Turbo Dog” from my home state of Louisiana.  Light caramel/brown sugar notes with a touch of toffee and sour grain round out the flavor, making it a great choice for the kitchen. Chicken and dumplings are often on the menu for big family gatherings.  In this case I’ll use a light amber lager, which lends richness to the chicken stew.  Another favorite is squash blossoms, which are stuffed with an herbed cheese mixture, lightly battered in beer and then fried to a golden brown.

GREG LOWRY, new executive chef at VOICE at the Hotel Icon:

 “I love, love, love pork belly braised overnight in St. Arnold’s Lawnmower beer!  Serve that sliced thin with roasted artichoke hearts and miso butterscotch, and I will be a very happy chef!

JOHN LY, chef-owner of Strata Restaurant & Bar:

“We did a Shiner Bock Braised Lamb Shank for our fall/winter menu last season and it was definitely one of my favorites.  This is a great hearty dish that warms you up from the inside out.  We start by sweating off carrots, onions and celery with spices like star anise, cinnamon, cloves and black peppercorns.  Then we deglaze with the heavenly honey brown beer of the gods known as Shiner Bock.  We reduce that down with some fresh orange juice and then add veal stock and seared lamb shanks.  Next, we slow braise the shanks for a few hours until they are ready to fall off the bone.  Then we strain the braising liquid and reduce it down for the sauce.  We served the lamb shank with a pancetta polenta and sauteed spaghetti squash with a Shiner Bock demi-glace.”

JASON HAUCK, executive chef at Soma

Asahi Beer Tempura Soft Shell Crab w/ Scallions & Ponzu. Substitute beer for water in a simple tempura recipe. Cake flour, egg, beer. This is a do at home recipe and a common sushi bar item. Not a progessive dish but really good and easy for any one to do.

JUAN CARLOS GONZALES, executive chef at Bistro Alex:

“Cooking with beer comes naturally because I just love beer. While all the items are seasonal, there will probably be more items for the upcoming seasons that include beer. Here are a few of my favorites so far: Rainbow Trout Pecandine that includes a stir fry of beer boiled faro, carrot “batons” and Tasso ham with bistro pecandine sauce; Creole Mustard & Rum Brine Bone-in Pork Chop accompanied with Crystal hot sauce, beer battered onion rings with sugar cane and Texas plum sauce; and Boudin Cake with all the traditional New Orleans components. It’s crispy boudin with three-mustard glaze, topped with smoked jalapeño and Shiner aioli. Also, our andouille is always made with beer.”

JUSTIN TURNER, personal chef for Shane Battier of the Houston Rockets, plus executive chef for newly launched Gourmet Prep Meals.

“I actually don’t like drinking beer at all, but love the flavor it creates when cooked with certain things. The most obvious to me is Bratwurst cooked in some Sierra Nevada Pale Ale with onions, garlic, a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary…then throw them on a hot grill to char. Topped with some good grain mustard, and it sends me right back to tailgating at Soldier Field in Chicago. Go Bears! I’ve got to say my favorite, though, is some fresh green lip mussels cooked in a broth consisting of Stella Artois, chicken stock, shallots, garlic, butter, diced oven roasted tomatoes and Italian parsley with some crispy French bread. Forget about it!

And finally, just to prove that you can’t always make everybody happy…

ELOUISE JONES, chef-owner of Ouisie’s Table:

“I appreciate your inquiry and hope that this helps to broaden the beer cooking feature so that both sides are represented. I want to be perfectly clear in order to make sure that I made it perfectly clear and that I am absolutely sure and it is perfectly clear that I don’t cook with beer.”

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About John DeMers

I've been a journalist and author forever. My favorite single word in the English language is "foodandwine." This spirit drives my 45 published books and my weekly radio show heard in Houston, Dallas and Austin.

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