September is a golden month in the Pacific Northwest. Ponds lie calm and clear, the air is still, the haze gives a golden glint to the harvest moon, and new snow begins to whiten the highest mountains. Even though school starts up, clubs resume, and summer relaxation is drawing to a close, one cannot resist heading out some place for a few end-of-the-year trips to enjoy the beauty of September.
A six-pack of beer is often part of the supplies that go into an RV. Statistics state that this is basically a beer-drinking country. Beer is also wonderful to cook with. Besides being cheaper than wine, it’s subtler and homier. As for what beer to cook with—the experts say to use the same one you’re going to drink with the meal.
What really is beer? It is a generic term for low-alcohol beverages brewed from a mash of malted barley and other cereals like corn, rye or wheat, flavored with hops and fermented with yeast. Technically, beers are only those beverages in which the yeast sinks to the bottom of the tank during fermentation.
Beer has been around for a long time. Researchers report that pale yellow deposits in jars more than 5,000 years old appear to be the oldest known chemical evidence of beer. The deposits are calcium oxalate, a substance that settles out when barley beer is stored or fermented.
Microbreweries and brewpubs are multiplying throughout the Northwest. Brewers are attracted to the area because of the good water and the locally grown hops.
I had a phone call some time ago asking if I had a recipe for beer bread. I found one and tried it, and it is delicious.
GUINNESS BEER BREAD
3 cups of regular flour, sifted (if no sifter, spoon the flour into the measuring cups)
3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of melted butter
12-oz. can of beer
Mix ingredients with beer. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes.
Note: One suggestion was to pour the butter over the mixture. But if you want a more traditional loaf of bread, mix the butter into the other ingredients.
And what to serve with the beer bread? How about this:
BEER AND CHEESE SOUP
1 bunch of scallions
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3/4 cup of bottled roasted red sweet peppers, drained
3/4 cup of pale lager or nonalcoholic beer
2 cups of refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
2 cups of milk
8 oz. of American cheese, shredded
1/4 teaspoon of paprika, plus additional for sprinkling
In a large pot over medium heat, cook sliced scallions, white part only, in 1 tablespoon of hot oil until tender. In blender combine red peppers, cooked scallions, beer, and 1 cup of potatoes; process until smooth. Return to pot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.
Add milk and cheese to the pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until cheese is melted and soup is hot (do not boil). In a skillet, cook remaining potatoes in remaining hot oil over medium-high heat, 8 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Drain on paper towels; sprinkle with paprika.
Pour soup into bowls; top with potatoes, sliced green tops of scallions and paprika. Serves four.
And here’s a dish cooked in chili-onion sauce and served on a bed of hot noodles:
DEVILISHLY SPICY CHICKEN
1 fryer chicken (about 4 lbs.) cut up, skin removed
2 tablespoons of butter
2 medium onions, chopped
12 oz. can of beer
1/3 cup of chili sauce
3 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of dry mustard
4 cups of hot cooked egg noodles
10-oz. pkg. of frozen petite peas, thawed
In skillet, cook onions in butter until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in beer, chili sauce, Worcestershire and mustard. Put chicken in sauce and coat well; cover and simmer 20 minutes, then turn pieces and simmer another 20 minutes, until meat is no longer pink.
With slotted spoon, lift out chicken and place on hot noodles; keep warm. Boil sauce, uncovered, until reduced to 2 cups, about 8 minutes. Stir in peas; spoon over chicken. Serves 4-6
GRILLED SNAPPER WITH BEER SALSA
1 1/2 pounds of red snapper
1 cup of oil
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup of chopped cilantro
Bone fish and lightly score flesh. Place in shallow dish and cover with oil. Sprinkle with garlic and marinate 1 hour. Drain fish, reserving marinade. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Grill fish over medium-hot coals, 10-12 minutes for small pieces, 18-20 for larger pieces.
Place on serving platter and garnish with onion and cilantro; serve beer salsa on side.
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 medium onion, peeled and quartered
6 medium tomatoes, roasted
2 jalapeno chiles, roasted whole
4 ancho chiles or dried red California or Mexican chiles, roasted, deveined and seeded
2 cups of beer
Put all ingredients in food processor and grind carefully to retain chunky texture. Adjust salt to taste
We may live without poetry, music and art,
We may live without conscience, and live without heart.
We may live without friends, we may live without books,
But civilized man cannot live without cooks!
Hint of the Month: Pack two of those six-packs of beer when you head out on that next trip. n
Marian Platt is a food writer who lives in Sequim, Washington.