Culinary Spotlight: Flavoring With Beer

Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt

Usually, when you think of beer, you think of that rewarding, ice-cold beverage. It also is a genius way to add flavor to anything. Either by adding to baked goods to highlight the malty flavors or adding beer to soups or stews to add a deep and earthy flavor.

When choosing which beer to use, you have to take quite a bit into consideration. Will you be wanting to use a sour ale? If so be ready to pucker up because the sourness translates well into whatever you are adding it to. Do you like bitter foods? If so, use an India Pale Ale. Cooking beer will always add bitterness to a dish but when using an IPA, it will really embrace the bitter from the hops.

The most popular, and my favorite beers to cook with are the more malty profiled beers, i.e. Stouts, porters, brown ales. When using the maltier styles of beer the malts in the beer will provide a natural sweetness as well as the slight bitterness will help balance creamy foods or foods high in sugar.

Now that you have picked your beer, what are you going to do with it? The choices are virtually endless. You can braise, stew, simmer, poach, use in batters and baked goods, brining and marinades.

The top ways to get the optimum beer flavors into the food would be by either braising with it or brining with it. When braising, you’re breaking down the sugars in the beer as well as in the protein you’re cooking to get the deep malt flavors out of the beer.

When brining, you’re making a salt solution with the beer. Brining is salt’s ability to alter the proteins, causing muscle fibers to unwind and swell. The brine gets trapped in the proteins when cooked. The liquid binds to the muscle, creating flavor and a juicier product.

Whichever way you choose to use beer with food, there is no wrong way to find a way to add a little bit to your food while still saving some to drink.

Porter Braised Pork Loin with beer gravy, potato and gruyere pierogi, sautéed kale, crème fraiche

Serves 4

Brined Pork Loin
• 2 pork loins trimmed
• 2 cups of water
• 16 oz porter beer
• ¼ cup coarse salt
• 6 tablespoon brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Beer Gravy
• 1 whole onion, chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, minced
• 12 oz porter
• 1 sprig rosemary

Pierogi Dough
• 2 pounds all-purpose flour
• 1 whole egg
• ½ tablespoon olive oil
• 1 ¾ C warm water
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 cups mashed potato
• 1 cup grated gruyere cheese

Sautéed Kale
• 1 bunch blanched kale
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil

• For the pork brine, bring the water, beer, salt, sugar and peppercorns to a boil. Bring off heat and cool
• Once cooled pour over the pork loins and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
• For the pierogis add all ingredients to stand mixer, mix on low until combined • Rest dough for 15 minutes.
• To make the pierogi filling just mix together the already made and cooled mashed potato, gruyere, salt and pepper
• When dough is rested, spray a countertop with pan spray so the dough stays on the table (the opposite of flour). Roll the dough with a rolling pin until 1/16 of an inch thick.
• Take a 3 inch round cookie cutter and cut as many out of the dough as you can. Once the rings are cut, discard the extra dough.
• Take 1 tablespoon of the filling and place in the center of each ring of dough. Use your finger and wipe around the edge of the circle with some water, close up the pierogi in a half-moon shape and seal by squeezing with your fingers.
• For the Pork Loin • Once the pork has brined for at least 4 hours, rinse the brine and pat the pork dry
• Heat a medium-sized saute pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
• Sear each side of the pork and place into a 375-degree oven for 10 minutes or until the pork reached 145 degrees and let it rest.
• To finish the pierogis, don’t discard the oil from the pork and place the pierogis in the hot oil over medium heat, fry until browned on both sides.
• Serve the pork sliced over garlic kale, brown ale gravy and crème fraiche (found at your local grocery store).

Written by Joe Brunner

South Fargo native Joe Brunner is the co-owner and executive chef at Fargo dining staple Mezzaluna.

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