Beer for a Year, month three…

Greetings beer lovers!

This month’s special brew is Summit’s Horizon Red Ale.  The brewmasters at Summit Brewing call this beer “an inspired hybrid that blurs the boundaries between IPA and Amber styles. The exceptional blend of American hops (including the harder-to-find Horizon variety) gives it an intense pine, citrus and earthy character in the nose and on the tongue.”  Read more about Summit Horizon Red Ale.

As I mentioned in the first blog post about my beer winnings, I am not a huge beer drinker normally, but if I do drink it, it’s gotta be something I can “chew” on if you know what I mean.    I was excited to try this Red Ale, as I usually like Red beers and it definitely showed it’s character right away!  However, I knew I would have my work cut out for me, because, as with the Summit Extra Pale Ale, there was a bitter note I would need to overcome when cooking with it.  So, we talked and talked (the hubby & I) about the options we had.  We talked about making a batter out of it, which we will still may do, but then I stumbled upon this recipe from Taste of Home for Swiss Beer Bread.  Then the hubby said he could make Beer Cheese Soup.  I know what you are thinking, but you said you wouldn’t go there?  And you are right, I hadn’t planned on it, but I thought would be a perfect compliment to the bread!  I usually try to stay away from bread (gluten) whenever possible but I am weak when it comes to freshly baked bread…, let’s get started!

This is what you’ll need to make the Swiss Beer Bread:

4 ounces Swiss cheese-grated

1/4 cup caramelized onions-finely chopped

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 bottle (12 ounces) Summit Horizon Red Ale

2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Stir beer into dry ingredients just until moistened. Add the caramelized onions and almost all of the cheese, keeping a small handful aside to put on the top as soon as it came out of the oven.  Transfer to a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Drizzle with the butter. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven & sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. 

What I love about this bread, besides the fact it is delicious, is that you can add pretty much anything you want to it.  You could swap out the Swiss cheese for Cheddar, you could add crumbled bacon to the batter, chives or other herbs.  I slathered it with butter while still slightly warm, but it would be delicious with honey or even a fruit butter.

Now let’s talk about the soup……this took a bit more of our patience and perseverance, but the finished product is amazing!

Here is what you’ll need for the Beer Cheese Soup:

1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced

1 small carrot, finely diced

One 12oz. bottle of Horizon Red Ale

3 tablespoons of Worchestshire sauce

4 cups of milk (we used 2%)

1 cup of half & half

3 cups of chicken stock plus 2 tablespoons of chicken base

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

16 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 thick-cut bacon, cooked & crumbled

olive oil at the ready and salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup of butter & 1/2 cup +/- of flour for roux*

Preheat your large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove top.  Once heated, add a good coating of olive oil and sweat the onions & carrots.  Then add the Worchestshire and reduce the liquid until just about syrupy.  Add your beer and continue to cook  for a bit.  Add your stock and once up to temp, add a tablespoon or two of your roux.  Using a whisk at this point, you’ll want to slowly add the milk and then the cream.  Tasting along the way and adjusting the flavors as you go.  Continue to add the roux to thicken.  Once you feel you are where you want to be flavor wise, add the cheese and continue to whisk until smooth.  Turn off heat and ladle into soup bowls.  Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and any other items you’d like to add!  (you won’t ever see me putting popcorn on as a garnish….I have never understood that, but feel free to do it if you like it that way!)

One thing I need you to be sure to do, is to taste this as you go along.  Recently, a question was posed to a group I belong to, the Minnesota Food Bloggers about what advice you’d give a novice cook or baker.  My answer should have included-taste as you are cooking!  It’s so important.  You’ll want to keep the awesome beer flavor while toning down the bitter aspect of it.  We got three meals out of this soup, (nice large bowls we ate with bread or a salad) meaning one batch will either feed 6-8 or split up like we did.

*To make the roux, melt butter in a small sauté pan.  Slowly add the flour, using a whisk, cooking until the mixture has thickened and is caramel in color.

Enjoy & see you next month!!



Beer for a Year!

Wait, what? Yes, that’s what I said, Beer for a year! I was at an event at the end of November, where I won Beer for a year, from Summit Brewing. Even though, as most of you that know me, I don’t really drink beer, I was still so excited! I love our local, hometown brewery- Summit Brewing and was thrilled to be able to share this wonderful gift with my friend’s & family that do drink beer! I got my first case, Summit Extra Pale Ale and decided I wanted to blog about this each month. I am not only going to tell you about the beer I choose each month, as I get to pick from some great options, but I am going to challenge myself to cook with the beer.

So let’s talk about the first month’s brew, Summit Extra Pale Ale. On their website, they call this, “the brew that launched a brewery.” Also stating it is a pioneer in craft beer, Summit EPA has been gracing the pint glasses of serious brew lovers since 1986. Bronze in color, with a gold medal-winning flavor. With caramel, biscuity malts superbly balanced with an earthy hop bite and juicy citrus. They suggest pairing this beer with sharp cheddar, grilled meat, fried seafood, soft, ripened cheese.

I decided, to start small. Cooking with beer can be easy and can be challenging. There’s always Beer Cheese soup, or some version of Beer bread. I can braise Chicken or Sausages in beer. But I wanted to challenge myself and respect the beer along the way. What could I make with Summit Extra Pale Ale, that would accomplish both? How about a little Mushroom Ale Risotto! Yes!

I adapted this recipe from this Jeff Smith recipe. And major adaptations it was….really the only thing I followed was the measurements for the rice, chicken broth and beer…and I used a lot more beer than he did! As you get to know me and my cooking style, you’ll see I am more of a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook, but I know some of you want something you can follow, so here is a list of the ingredients:

1 cup of arborio rice

Baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced (as much as you want, and you can really use any type of mushroom for this)

2.5 cups of chicken stock, warmed slightly

1.5 cups of room temperature Summit Extra Pale Ale (see notes below about using one of the other delicious Summit Beer offerings)

1 T. of butter

2 T. olive oil

2 medium shallots, finely chopped (or one small sweet onion)

3 garlic cloves, minced

A good heaping handful of Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese

Salt & pepper as needed

The first thing you’ll do after assembling the ingredients is start by melting the butter & olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots (or onion) and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the rice and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the rice is translucent. Combine the stock with the beer and season a bit with salt & pepper. Begin by adding one cup of the beer broth to the rice, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed. Continue this process, adding the broth mixture, one cup at a time, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy liquid, most likely around twenty minutes after beginning. (Switch arms, or stirring partners during this process so you don’t wake up the next day wondering what the heck you did the day before!) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in as much rice as you’d like. I love using the Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese because it imparts a nice sweet flavor profile. I’ve had lots of Risotto in my day, all of which was either made with wine or stock, but never beer. I love how unique this dish is; the beer lingers on the tongue once you get past the rice & mushroom flavors! If I were to do anything different, I would try another type of Summit Beer that maybe wasn’t as bitter as the Extra Pale Ale (not saying I don’t like that!). Or, it might be nice to add cider or something sweet instead of the stock….so many options!

Pair this gorgeous Mushroom Ale Risotto with a frosty Summit Extra Pale Ale and a nice crispy salad and enjoy!

See you next month when I try my hand at another delicious Beer dish…going darker on you then…stay tuned!