Drink it, cook with it. Three dishes made delectable with a dash of the brown stuff.
Flourless Chocolate Cake, $9
Beer Bistro, 18 King St. E.
Substituting beer for liquids in bread baking is a no-brainer, says Brian Morin, part-owner of the Beer Bistro. “It’s one-for-one beer to liquid, and since beer’s more acidic than water it’ll add heft to the proteins in your bread, so you’ll have stronger buns or dough. With dessert it’s a little trickier—if you’re substituting milk or cream for beer you still have to replace the fat somehow,” he says.
Morin changes the type of beer he uses in his flourless chocolate cake with the seasons.
“At this time of year, I like an oatmeal stout because its creamy texture keeps the cake nice and light, and adds chocolate and vanilla tones. In the wintertime, I love using barley wine—it has deeper, dark red fruit notes. The beer’s high alcohol and carbonation help make the cake a bit lighter.”
To make his cake, Morin melts semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder, and folds in whipped egg whites, then whipped cream, and then he adds a bit of beer and sugar. He bakes it slowly for 90 minutes.
Eat it with: a beer with rich chocolate notes, like a Rochefort 8 or contrast it with a Fruli—“strawberry and chocolate really like each other,” says Morin. “You never want the dessert to be sweeter than the beer or it will overpower the brew and it’ll disappear.”
Shepherd’s Pie, $12
Monk’s Table, 1276 Yonge St.
This cozy dish is made with ground lamb, carrots, onions, celery, and thyme. Executive chef Evgeni Shteinberg braises the lamb in Old Speckled Hen for half an hour at 350—but any malty English-style ale will lend the lamb a richer, sweeter tone.
“For home cooking I would encourage people to try different beer,” says Shteinberg. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an English ale, port, or a light beer, anything works. If you want a stronger taste, choose a stronger, maltier brew like a London porter; for something sweeter, reach for a Somersby’s cider; or for a punchier flavour, try an Innis & Gunn,” says Shteinberg.
“The secret is in the topping—a good one can change the final taste and add extra flavour. It can also preserve the taste and the juices inside,” he says. “I like to top it with Stilton and serve with a light salad and a toasted baguette on the side.”
Eat it with: Innis & Gunn. Its carbonation helps cut through the fat, and with an oaky backbone and soaring vanilla and toffee notes, it’s “the best with this dish,” says Shteinberg. “A sip or two will wash away the lamb flavours in the pie so all you’re left with is the taste of the beer.”
Belgian-style Mussels, $16
Smokeless Joe, 488 College St.
Owner Joe Sacco knows his beer and mussels—he’s been making the dish for 16 years. “It’s simple,” he says. He sautés garlic, then celery and white onions in a generous amount of butter, then he adds Blanche de Chambly and a drop of white wine to give it an acidic kick, and finishes it off with kosher sea salt and black pepper.
“Make sure your broth is hot and put the mussels in so they’re completely covered with the sauce. Close the lid and after a minute or two, toss them. They should be done in five to seven minutes—you know they’re ready when they’re all open,” he says. “Whatever you do, don’t overcook them! That’s the worst.”
As for the beer choice, Sacco says Belgian Wit beer will do as its notes of orange peel and coriander play off the mussels’ sweetness. “But don’t use a German wheat beer,” he says, “its banana and clove characteristics will throw everything else off.”
He tops the dish off with a slice of lemon and serves with a baguette on the side to sop up the broth.
The most important tip? Get good mussels! Sacco loves San Antonio Fish Market in Woodbridge, and says downtowners could try the City Fish Market (2929 Dufferin St., 416-256-7373).
Eat it with: Blanche de Chambly. “Buy a six pack,” says Sacco, “and drink while cooking.”