Wednesday Food: Beer Thanksgiving
The most drawn-out culinary spectacular of the year. Touted the greatest holiday by some outside the kitchen. For those of us standing oven-adjacent with our hands up the backside of a poultry carcass, potato caked up our arms from mashing, locks of hair bound by the sugars of cranberry, for us it’s a more complicated affair.
I hunted down the best collection of cooking-with-beer recipes relevant to the usual offerings of Thanksgiving. Would it be superfluous, bordering on ridiculous, to serve all these dishes in a single sitting? Absolutely. Am I dying to do it anyway? Absolutely. Let’s get started.
GOURD COURSE. Butternut Squash and Gingerbread Beer Soup. Beer Wench.
Adding a spiced beer like Bison Organic’s Gingerbread Ale or Samuel Adam’s Old Fezziwig Ale builds dimension in a soup that tends to be flat or bland or taste only of its primary component. The texture is velvety and rich, and the spiced savory flavors will open up your palate for the rest of the meal. When working with the butternut squash, make sure your knife is VERY sharp. Otherwise, splitting one of those things is like hacking at a two by four with a rusty ice skate.
BATHED ROOT VEGETABLE. Lager-Braised Carrots. Bon Appetit.
Cooking carrots in a bath of juice and lager like Pilsner Urquell or Brooklyn Lager results in a tender, juicy vegetable dish. Coating them in their own reduced sauce gently glazes the carrots and helps them retain moisture. If you don’t have juicing equipment and don’t want to spend extra on carrot juice, substitute apple cider. I think the first simmering in the recipe is supposed to be uncovered, though they say otherwise. How else would the liquid reduce by half?
PULVERIZED TUBER. IPA Mashed Potatoes. Homebrew Chef.
I’ve made these mashed potatoes a handful of times now and continue to relish the unique flavor introduced by a hoppy beer. You wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that something as mild and classic as mashed potatoes would be the right place for bright floral hops, but somehow the sweet earthiness of the potatoes are improved by the citrusy bitterness of the beer. Avoid the pinier Pacific Northwest hops and use something like Russian River’s Piny the Elder or the holiday appropriate Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Note that the few tablespoons used are plenty. Put the rest directly in your mouth.
THE GRAVY RUNNETH OVER. Dopplebock Mushroom Gravy. Homebrew Chef.
Perhaps my favorite new recipe. Perfect when ladled on top of the IPA mashed potatoes or drowning a slab of turkey breast. I like the wild mushrooms with malty dopplebock but can’t wait to use Sean Paxton’s suggestion of an Oud Bruin. For the dopplebock approach try Ayinger Celebrator or Capitol’s Dark Dopplebock. If you’re a boundary-pusher try Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja or Liefeman’s Goudenband. Although, I’d be hard pressed to do anything except drink either of those bottles once they’re opened.
BRASSICA COURSE. Nut Brown Brussels Sprout. Edible Paradise.
I love brussels sprout when roasted and default to that method for cooking them. But it’s important to apply new techniques to favorite dishes, lest our favorites become frayed and tired. The recipe doesn’t specify a style of beer but I like the nutty roasted quality of a nut brown with the pungent cabbage earthiness of the sprouts. Samuel Smith is a classic and inexpensive option or the slightly stronger Dogfish Head Indian Brown.
REQUISITE GREEN BEANS. Oktoberfest Green Beans with Tarragon Aioli. Everyday.
These green beans are a beautiful alternative to the ubiquitous green bean casserole. The beans retain their clean, green taste (a verdant vegetable can make a synesthetic out of anyone) but the batter provides a fatty crunch laced with traces of the Oktoberfest beer. I can’t believe the source of the recipe, but I can’t deny it. This one comes to you from, oh god, HOW? WHY? Rachel Ray Everyday. Let this be the only day with Rachel Ray. Good thing Oktoberfest eases the pain. Try one from Hacker-Pschorr or Great Lakes.
PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE. Tipsy Turkey. Homebrew Chef.
I haven’t had the chance to test this recipe but I find that dishes from the Homebrew Chef rarely disappoint. Also, I’d assume you have everything ready to go for the turkey tomorrow so this recipe is probably moot. If you can’t afford the suggested GALLON of Jubelale from Deschutes consider something tasty but cheap, like Ace Pear Cider. There are only three meat-eaters at my table this year so we’re going with an alternative to whole turkey and preparing turkey roulade.
RED. Cranberry Wit Sauce. Homebrew Chef.
I don’t always understand the place of cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving table. I love the aesthetic of the can mold of course, and the ruby color adds much needed contrast to any plate. When well prepared the sour cranberry tang can also be a nice palate cleanser, but I could never cover another element like potato or turkey with it. I guess I’ll chalk this one up to tradition. Hoegaarden and Allagash White are reliable Witbiers.
THE FINAL TRIMMING. Amber Ale Herb Stuffing. Craftbeer.com.
Use stale sourdough bread for this stuffing recipe. An amber ale will enrich all the flavors with its malty balance and toasted, bready aroma, and will even add depth to the color. I usually double the celery for any recipe. If you can get it, cook with (and drink) Speakeasy’s Prohibition Ale or Rogue’s American Amber.
GINGERBREAD STOUT CAKE. Self-explanatory. Craftbeer.com.
Something for the sweet tooths? sweet teeth? sweets tooth? at your table. The recipe suggests Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout. If you want something less candied (or live in a bullshit region where Southern Tier isn’t distributed) try a bourbon stout like Goose Island’s Bourbon County.
Conspicuously absent is any recipe for pumpkin pie. I wouldn’t want to waste beer on any instantiation of pumpkin pie because pumpkin pie is disgusting. I’m not heartless. Relocate that amalgamation of flavors in any other vehicle for consumption and I’m on board. But the texture of that gelatinous baked good makes me want to yak. So pass the stout cake.
Enjoy your feasts. Raise your pint glasses high.
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