By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
When bringing craft beer into your holiday meal planning, it’s not as simple as grabbing a bottle of your favorite winter seasonal and a turkey leg. If you consider how flavors match up and even how beer can bring out hidden notes or enhance savory and sweet classics, then you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
Porter French Onion Soup
I love pairing Alaskan Brewing’s award-winning Smoked Porter with my turkey dinner each year, but what if I added it to the actual recipe instead? I recommend a not-too-bitter malty and roasty porter like Deschutes Black Butte in broths and sauces — or in this instance, a soul-warming French onion soup.
Preparing this salty, beefy and satisfying classic with beer is easy, but taking the time to first slowly caramelize the onions with butter is worth it. This recipe for Porter French Onion Soup will make enough for at least six people.
2 pounds onions, preferably sweet onions with one white onion for pungency
2 garlic cloves
1 cube beef bouillon
4 bay leaves
1 12-ounce or 22-ounce bottle of porter
8 quarts beef broth
1 cup unsalted butter
2 fresh sprigs of thyme and/or rosemary or 1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons flour
--Add cup of unsalted butter to large pot, then add 2 pounds of onions sliced into thin half-circles. Keep heat at a simmer and make sure there’s plenty of oil from the butter or add a little olive or vegetable oil, if necessary.
--Cook onions until they turn a deep golden brown. Add two finely chopped garlic cloves. Onions are ready when fully brown, but not burnt. When edges turn black, remove from heat and add broth. To prevent burning but still allowing to caramelize, add plenty of butter or oil, stirring every few minutes.
--Once onions are caramelized, add 12-16 ounces of porter and all of beef broth. Chop bay leaves, slice garlic and add to pot. Add paprika and single cube or large tablespoon of beef bouillon.
--Turn heat up to medium to reach low, steady boil. Once the carbonation is knocked out of the beer and everything is melding, add Worcestershire and black pepper. Tie together fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme with twine and add to pot or sprinkle dried version of herbs.
--Continue simmering and stirring every 5 minutes for 20-30 minutes as liquid begins to evaporate and flavors meld. Pull out spoonful and taste balance of spices. If needed, add salt. Slowly stir in four tablespoons of flour to thicken.
--To serve, use oven-safe bowl. Toast French baguette or other small slice of bread with garlic butter and place on top of soup. Top that with slice of creamy cheese, such as provolone, gruyere or Munster and cook in oven until cheese melts and bread edges are crisp. Then, enjoy.
IPA Mashed Potatoes
I could go the obvious route with my second holiday recipe and prepare a beer-brined turkey, but that’s been done to death. Instead, I’ll focus on the bedding of any holiday meal that’s arguably just as important as the main dish and that’s the mashed potatoes.
If you’re worried the IPA will make your mashed potatoes too bitter, relax and have a homebrew. It will just make them brighter and more herbaceous. Since I just happened to have a bottle of Deschutes Sagefight IPA on hand, it made for the perfect choice. But if you don’t have that handy, I suggest using an IPA with greener/grassier hops, perhaps something with some garlicky Mosaic hops like Breakside Wanderlust IPA.
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup IPA
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 bay leaves
4 sage leaves
1 sprig fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 1/2 cups cream
--Wash skin and poke holes in potatoes, then add to salted, boiling water until they soften and start to break down. Pour out liquid through pasta strainer, then add leftover potatoes to same pot with olive oil and butter.
--Peel garlic skins and chop finely or push cloves through garlic press. Add to pot along with IPA.
--Cook on low-to-medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring and gently mashing potatoes until softer.
--Add cream and chopped/torn herbs or dried herbs. Also add black pepper and salt. Raise heat to just below medium and keep stirring to avoid burning potatoes at bottom of pot. Add salt and herbs to taste.
Vegan Amber Ale Gravy
I am a meat eater myself and if you are too, it’s hard to beat a gravy using real drippings from your holiday turkey. But this is a tasty, healthier alternative that’s better than anything you’d buy in the store. For beer selection you could go with a cheap macro lager, but for more flavor I recommend a sweet malty amber or spiced fall/winter seasonal like a pumpkin ale or even an Oktoberfest beer.
2 medium onions (I chose one yellow and one white)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 tablespoon herbes de Provence, dried
1 1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon vegan butter
12 ounce amber ale or spiced fall/winter seasonal
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 sprig thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
--Chop onions and add to medium-to-large pot with olive oil coating bottom. Chop or press garlic cloves and add to pot with herbes de Provence, Worcestershire, paprika, pepper and salt.
--Cook over low-to-medium heat. As pot warms, pour beer over ingredients slowly, followed by 1 cup vegetable broth.
--Bring heat up slowly to simmer. Stir frequently to keep onions from burning. Wait until they look soft, then turn off heat.
--After it’s cooled a bit, pour all ingredients in blender and puree for 45 seconds. Pour puree back into pot and rinse with 1 cup vegetable broth, adding that to pot.
--Turn up heat until puree reaches low boil. Add vegan butter, oregano, thyme, Worcestershire and brown sugar. Keep stirring to blend and prevent burning. Slowly stir in cornstarch.
--Turn down heat to low simmer and cook for another 15 minutes or until gravy looks thick.
Monthly recipes and pairings from your favorite brewpubs around Oregon.