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College football season kicks off this Saturday. You’d like to invite the gang for a few beers, but you’re tired of fumbling around with the same old cheesy bean dip.

Why not elevate your culinary playbook with some tasty grub that rises to the level of the local, craft beers you plan to serve?

Bay Laurel Culinary chef/owner Chris Greenwald of Petaluma, who cooks for Bay Area festivals like Outside Lands and wineries like Williams-Selyem, suggests cooking up a few hearty dishes where the beer adds another level of complexity.

“Just like with wine, the earthy and bitter edge of the food will work with the hoppy, yeasty beer,” Greenwald said. “When you cook beer down, it doesn’t get real sweet like wine. It holds its savory quality.”

When he taught a tail-gating class at Healdsburg’s Relish Culinary Adventures, Greenwald worked up a recipe for an IPA Braised Brisket, simmered in Lagunitas IPA made just across the highway from his commercial kitchen on Industrial Drive. He is currently offering the beer-braised brisket on the Bay Laurel Culinary’s take-out menu.

“We make sandwiches out of it, using the 11-inch demi-baguette rolle from Costeaux Bakery,” he said. “They have a nice chew to them, but they’re easy to eat.”

Although the recipe calls for 10 pounds of well-marbled beef brisket and two bottles of IPA, meat shrinks down to about 5 pounds after it cooks, low and slow, in the liquid.

“It’s good for a crowd,” he said of the beef dish. “And it’s also good for leftovers.”

For the vegetarians in the crowd, Greenwald suggests serving up some savory Rancho Gordo Chili Beans spiked with spices and a dark, local beer such as the Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing, Boont Amber Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing Company or the Bear Republic Barrel Aged Old Baba Yaga.

“These are grown-up beans. The beer adds a really meaty, bitter and earthy flavor,” he said. “I use the Santa Maria Pinquinto beans from Rancho Gordo — those were the beans that were used in the Santa Maria barbecue.”

You could go old-school with your toppings and serve the beans with some grated cheese, green onions and cilantro. Or you could make Greenwald’s recipe for a refreshing relish with jalapenos, white onion, rosemary and apple cider vinegar.

As a side, consider baking up a batch of homey corn muffins. Ciara Greenwald, Chris’ wife and business partner, has been searching for the perfect cornbread recipe for a long time. She discovered a technique of cooking up half of the cornmeal ahead of time, which lightens up the texture while the other half keeps the cornbread crunchy. She also likes to add in cheese and some charred Anaheim chiles, for extra flavor.

“We like the muffins with the beans because it makes it more of a meal,” she said. “And we like to use the Anson Mills cornmeal.”

Another dish from Greenwald that can elevate your game-day buffet to a professional level is his Spicy Lamb Curry with Chickpeas and Avocado, which is pumped up with a blend of chili powder, mace, coriander root, curry, jalapenos and cilantro. Greenwald likes to balance the heat with a cool, yogurt-based Pineapple-Cucumber Raita.

“It’s an Indian-style take on tortilla soup,” he said. “It’s fun for a group because people are watching the game together. You do all the work ahead of time, and everyone assembles their own.”

As a side dish for the curry, he suggested picking up a couple of packages of naan bread for dipping.

“Trader Joe’s has a good, frozen naan,” Greenwald said. “You can just heat it up in the oven, with some butter. That would be delicious.”

But what about the starting lineup of appetizers, which can whet the appetite of the crowd during the first half of the game?

Oysters are a great choice, Greenwald said, because they pair well with all kinds of brews, from a Belgian-style saison to a stout. Mussels steamed in beer is another classic dish that’s tasty and easy to prepare.

It’s not a football party without a few dips, however. If you are a smoked seafood fan, Greenwald suggested buying a smoked white fish, such as some smoked trout or smoked mackerel, and dressing it up with lemon, mayonnaise and shallots.

For his Mediterranean platters, the chef also makes a smoked eggplant puree from eggplants that he’s thrown on the grill on a cast-iron plancha or comal and cooked until they’re charred, dry and soft.

“Throw away the charred skin and puree the flesh with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt,” he advised.

And, because everyone loves cheese, you’ll get extra points with your guests for blending some mascarpone and Gorgonzola cheese together with some onion powder, garlic powder and chives.

“Blue cheese works with beer because of its acidity,” he said. “And it has the funk that works.”

Need an easier option? Simply pick up a cheese that has a beer-washed rind, such as the Willoughby cow’s milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, which is washed with Alchemist Brewery Petit Mutat, a cherry sour beer; or the Lorelei from Briar Rose Creamery in Oregon, a goat’s milk cheese washed with Steam Fire Stout from nearby Fire Mountain Brewery.

The rest of the game plan is simple: Make sure you cook the main dish the day before, so the flavors have time to mingle and you are free to enjoy the game with your friends.

“If it’s a Sunday game, make it on Saturday, and if it’s a Monday night game, you can make it on Sunday,” Greenwald said. “My favorite part of football is the eating ... I’m sure I’m not alone.”

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The following recipes are from Chris Greenwald, chef/owner of Bay Laurel Culinary. If you can’t find the Bear Republic Barrel Aged Old Baba Yaga, you can sub in the North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout or the Anderson Valley Brewing Company’s Boont Amber Ale.

Rancho Gordo Chili Beans with Bear Republic Barrel Aged Old Baba Yaga

Serves 10 as a side dish

1 pound Rancho Gordo pinquito beans

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoons vegetable oil (rice bran)

1 white onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons chili powder

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon brown sugar

8 ounces Barrel Aged Old Baby Yaga Beer (or similar)

Soak beans in cold water for at least 8 hours. Drain water and discard. Add fresh water to beans to cover by 3 inches and place over high heat to boil. Add salt and bay leaf. When beans begin to boil, reduce heat to simmer and skim periodically. Cook beans at low boil until just tender (about 90 minutes.)

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add onion. Sauté onion until translucent, then add garlic and sauté a few minutes more. Add spices to the onion/garlic mixture and cook a few minutes more to release spice fragrance. Add onion/spice mix to beans and continue to cook beans until tender. Add beer. Check for seasoning and serve hot. Serve with White Onion, Jalapeno and Rosemary Relish (below) or garnish of your choice.

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White Onion, Jalapeno & Rosemary Relish

Makes about 1 cup

1 white onion, minced

1-2 jalapenos, minced

— Pinch salt

1 tablespoon Gravenstein apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (rice bran)

4-5 baby tips of rosemary, minced

Macerate the onion and chile with the salt and vinegar for 5 minutes. Add oil and rosemary and mix. Serving immediately.

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Muscavado sugar is considered a partially refined to unrefined sugar with a strong molasses content and flavor. You can order it from India Tree Gourmet Spices (indiatree.com). Bob’s Red Mill sells an old-fashioned dark brown sugar with molasses that is similar.

IPA Braised Brisket

Serves 10 to 12

1 well-marbled beef brisket (about 10 pounds)

For rub:

3 tablespoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon Muscavado sugar

1 tablespoons black pepper

1/2 tablespoons ancho chili powder

1/2 tablespoon celery seeds

1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil (rice bran)

For aromatics:

2 white onions, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

1 head garlic (cut in half to expose all cloves)

2 bay leaves

— Sprig of thyme

1-2 chile de árbol (optional for heat)

For liquid:

2 bottles IPA (such as Lagunitas)

1 pint beef stock

Trim the brisket of any extra fat hanging off the meat, being care not to take off too much (fat is flavor.)

Mix the rub together and cover the brisket with it, making sure to massage it into the flesh.

Wrap the brisket in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Heat the vegetable oil in a very large rondeau or similar wide, shallow pan with a lid (that can hold the entire piece of meat comfortably. Generously sear brisket on both sides.

Remove brisket from the pan and add aromatics tothe drippings. Caramelize the vegetables without burning. Deglaze the pan with the beer, let the alcohol burn off, then add the beef stock. Bring it all to a simmer. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Return the brisket to the cooking vessel and cover with parchment paper, then tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the cooking vessel in the 325 degree oven.

Cook brisket 90 minutes, then flip over and (replacing foil tightly) cook for 60 more minutes. Check for doneness. Brisket should be tender but not falling apart. If brisket needs more time to relax, repeat last step and cook in 45-minute intervals from this point forward.

When brisket is done, remove and cover. Let rest for at least 30 minutes. Strain braising liquid through a fine mesh sieve and reduce by half (skimming off fat) in a saucepan. Check sauce for season, adjusting if necessary, and serve with the sliced brisket.

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For this Indian curry, you could use an IPA or a lighter pilsner, such as the Scrimshaw from North Coast Brewing Co., or the Taj Mahal Premium Lager or Kingfisher from India.

Spicy Lamb Curry with Chickpeas, Avocado and Pineapple-Cucumber Raita

Makes 6 servings

3/4 pound lamb shoulder, cut into 1-inch dice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 tablespoons butter

1 white onion, chopped

1 1/2 carrot, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tablespoons curry powder

1 tablespoon cilantro root, minced

1 pinch cayenne

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup IPA beer

2 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch dice

1 Roma tomato, cut into 1-inch dice

1 quart beef stock

1 big pinch whole mace (nutmeg flowers)

1 cup cooked chickpeas

1/4 cup cilantro, minced slightly

— Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups Pineapple-Cucumber Raita (recipes follows)

— Diced Avocado

— Warm garlic naan

Mix the lamb with the first three seasonings and let sit for one hour or up to overnight.

Heat oil and butter in a soup pot and sear lamb pieces until nicely browned on all sides. Remove lamb and any excess fat from pan, and then cook onion, carrot and celery until softened and slightly caramelized. Add garlic, jalapeno, curry powder, coriander root and cayenne to vegetables and cook for 1 more minute or until nicely fragrant. Turn heat down slightly and add tomato paste; cook this until it turns a rust color, about 2 minutes, then add beer. Reduce beef by half and add reserved lamb pieces potatoes, tomato and stock to soup.

Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat so oup just simmers; add mace. Simmer the soup for 30-45 minutes or until lamb and vegetables are tender. Add chickeeas and simmer 10 more minutes to incorporate flavor. Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as necessary. To serve, ladle curry into bowls and top with avocado, raita and cilantro. Eat with warm, garlic naan.

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Pineapple-Cucumber Raita

Makes 1 1/2 cups

1/2 Mediterranean cucumber, peeled, seeded and 1/4-inch diced

1/4 cup fresh pineapple, drained well, diced

6 ounces plain yogurt, drained

1 pinch cayenne

1/2 lemon or lime, juice only

— Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve immediately.

Staff writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @dianepete56.

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