With all of the holiday cooking and parties coming in the next month, there’s plenty of ways to incorporate beer.
Throwing beer into any old recipe isn’t exactly recommended, so GR|Mag talked with the culinary team at Brewery Vivant, perhaps one of the more forward thinking breweries in the state — even country — when it comes to food.
Executive chef Chris Vander Meer and sous chef Vanessa Aguilar are fans of integrating beer with food, but also simply sipping on it while cooking — at least at home.
In terms of pairing, which Vander Meer touches on, stay away from big boozy beer — save those for after dinner — or hop bombs. Farmhouse ales and saisons, Brewery Vivant’s specialties, are a good bet, as are brown ales and lagers like a pilsner or helles.
GRMag: Do you cook during the holidays, or leave it to others?
Aguilar: I try not to, but worse comes to worst, I end up in the kitchen.
Vander Meer: I get lucky, my mom does it. It wouldn’t be the same if she didn’t.
GR|Mag: What’s your best advice for cooking the turkey?
Vander Meer: A lot of attention and just reading some guidelines. How many hours approximately do you want to cook it? The right temperature? Making sure you use a thermometer.
Aguilar: Brine the turkey if you want. Now a lot of people are frying it and it’s no longer as simple as putting it in an oven.
GR|Mag: What’s the best way to incorporate beer into the cooking of a holiday dinner?
Vander Meer: If nothing else, a lot of people make gravy from the pan drippings, and I always like to put beer in gravy.
The only thing about cooking, if you heat it up don’t use a hoppy beer, that makes it extra bitter. Pretty much any other beer works. [Brewery Vivant] Farmhand works great for most recipes, but I like a darker beer for gravy. They don’t go bitter.
GRMag: Aside from mashed potatoes, what are your must have sides?
Vander Meer: Stuffing is huge for me. It used to not be that big for me, but I can’t do without it now. Or green bean casserole.
Aguilar: When we discuss dinner as a family, everyone votes to do mashed potatoes since it’s so easy. Brussels sprouts are forgotten and in-season; so good, so versatile. They can be used in a cold salad or heated. I like to do things a little outside the box. Being Hispanic, we do rice and beans and brisket. I wouldn’t call it thanksgiving without rice and beans, but Brussels sprouts are my go to.
GR|Mag: Any other way to incorporate beer into the sides?
Vander Meer: There are, definitely. You can work with beer the same way, using darker beers, in green beans; I make a gravy with beer when I start those. In stuffing, there’s a variety of ways to go, I often finish the stuffing with beer.
Vander Meer: Good beer and wine [laughs]
Aguilar: I’m not a big sweets person, so no apple or pumpkin pie, but I’ll eat the crust. A nice glass of wine, or even cheese.
Vander Meer: You can throw beer in the crust for the liquid.
GR|Mag: Favorite beer for the whole dinner?
Vander Meer: For our beers, Farmhand. It won’t overpower anything and it’s not too outside the norm. There’s enough brightness to cut through the fat for a turkey.
GR|Mag: What’s your go-to for a potluck holiday party?
Vander Meer: It changes for me so much, but usually a casserole of some sort.
Aguilar: For me it’s some sort of exotic protein. My family, they like pork and beef, they don’t think outside the box. Growing up I wasn’t a big fan because they cooked the hell out of it. For me it’s doing something a little different, boar or venison.
GR|Mag: Biggest tip for cooking a big meal?
Vander Meer: Pay attention to the food.
Aguilar: Have a plan before you start. Plan ahead, a week before, knowing what you have to buy, how long to let it thaw. Just the steps it takes to cook the meal.
GR|Mag: How do you avoid overeating at the dinner table?
Aguilar: I don’t know a thing called portion control. I struggle with it. My family asks how I’m so hungry all the time, but I’m starving all day, in my mind I’m concerned feeding our guests. I’m tasting food all day, but I don’t eat a whole meal. I do pay for that. Each week, we have family dinner at grandma’s and I eat more in that day than whole week.
Vander Meer: I love the left overs, I can turn anything into a sandwich. We get creative with it too and see what we can mix together and make into a new thing. But we’re always over eating, unfortunately.
*Photo courtesy of Thinkstock