Hearty, beer-infused dishes for football parties
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 tailgating 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 Co. 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 jalapeños, 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, jalapeños 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.