Beer has traditionally been an ingredient used for very specific culinary purposes. You’ve got beer batter, beer cheese or pretzels and, of course, don’t forget beer sausage. But beer can and should be used for so much more. With how many different beer styles and producers there are in the Northwest, there is no better time to grab a bottle of suds and make some delicious grub.
Writer, blogger, chef and The Beeroness Jackie Dodd recently came out with her all-new cookbook “Lush,” which focuses on cooking with the seasons and how to make beer a perfectly incorporated ingredient to many dishes. We sat down with her to pick her brain on why cooking with beer is trending.
Why is it important to change the way we think about cooking with beer?
Beer has so much to offer when it comes to cooking that other liquids just can’t touch. Carbonation, flavors, yeast and endless ingredients that creative brewers put in their beers — it all adds up to a super liquid. Unfortunately, beer has historically been looked down on when it comes to cooking with alcohol, passed over in favor of wine. Although I love wine — I’m an equal opportunity drinker — beer just has so much more to offer in the kitchen.
What is your personal favorite recipe in the book and why?
I have a few favorites — it’s OK, recipes aren’t like children so it’s ok to publicly declare favorites. The Beer Polenta with Creamy Chard and Eggs, and the English Pea and Pilsner Crepes with Burrata are favorites, both are dishes I could eat every day. They are vegetarian recipes but ones that would never get turned down by a meat eater, they’re so delicious and filling.
Many cookbooks rely on boldness and obscurity of those difficult-to-find ingredients, sending readers to specialty grocery stores just to seek out one thing. What is the importance of using simple, fresh ingredients which anyone can go out and find?
You mean like Gwyneth Paltrow’s $200 smoothie? It’s always been important to me to impress upon people that great food, and great cooking, isn’t dependent on expensive cookware or esoteric ingredients. There is so much beauty and flavor in fruits and vegetables that can be coaxed out with just a few steps. Technique is more important that buying the most expensive ingredients.
What does cooking with the seasons mean to you and, going beyond freshness and availability, why should people use seasonal produce and beer?
In-season produce is grown in the ground, the way it was intended, the flavors are the best you’ll find. Produce grown out of season relies on greenhouses, artificial light and elements, making the flavors a fraction of what they can be. There are also ingredients that are almost impossible to find out of season, like apricots and English shelling peas, when those types of ingredients come into season it’s pretty exciting for people who love food. Beer is the same way — right now we get to enjoy wet hop beers, but come January they will be almost impossible to find. Seasonality just gives you the best there is to eat and drink.