Beer and Prawns

Cooking with Beer by | Sep 2009 | Issue #32

This month’s article was inspired by the movie Forrest Gump. While watching, I was motivated by the scene where Forrest starts talking about all of the different types of shrimp dishes. Before I knew it, I was headed to the store to buy shrimp, and well, here you go: a variety of shrimp dishes with beer.

A note to those with shellfish allergies: Most of the recipes can be substituted with chicken or fish alternatives such as snapper and halibut, or other white fish.

Arrogant Prawn Gumbo
Gumbo is one of those meals that can satisfy a craving for traditional Creole food. This is a dish that has a multitude of textures; gumbo is rich, complex, sweet and spicy. Ladle this gumbo over a beer rice, pair it with a great Amber or IPA, and the mouth will go wild, as will the crowd.

Serves: 4–8 depending on how hungry the crowd is…

1 qt. chicken stock
2 lb. prawns, shells saved, deveined
22 oz. Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter, unsalted
2 each andouille-style or other hot link sausage, sliced
5 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 each onion, yellow, peeled and chopped
1/2 each red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 each yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 each green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2–6 tbsp. Cajun spice blend, depending on your heat tolerance
2 each bay leaves
1 each jalapeno or serrano pepper, optional
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 each tomatoes, roma, seeded and diced
2 tbsp. Louisiana-style hot sauce, optional
1 tbsp. file powder
3 cup rice, long grain, cooked with 4 cups of water and 2 cups of Amber
3 each green onions, sliced thin on the bias

In a medium-sized pot, add the chicken stock, the shells from the prawns and the Arrogant Bastard; place over medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. This will make a shellfish stock that will be added to the gumbo later.

In a heavy-bottom Dutch oven over medium heat, add the oil and butter. Once the butter starts to foam, add the prepped sausage, and stir until the meat has browned and flavored the oil, about 5–6 minutes. Remove the sausage and set aside. Add the flour to the oil and, using a whisk, blend into a loose paste. Turn the heat to low and slowly brown the roux (a mixture of fat and flour) for about 20 minutes. Stir frequently. The roux will start a pale white and slowly turn into a dark brown color, similar to an English-style Porter. As the mixture is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients. When the desired color of the roux is achieved, add the onions, peppers and celery (a mixture also known as the “trinity”) and sauté until the vegetables are fully cooked, about 15 minutes. At this point, start adding some of the Cajun spice blend, and salt and pepper, depending on your spice-heat tolerance. By adding the seasonings at different points in the cooking process, the flavors work into the gumbo at a deeper level and add more complexity than if only added at the end. Add in the bay leaves, chili (if desired), garlic, tomato paste and tomatoes, cooking for another 5 minutes. Then add in the hot sauce and the strained stock. Mix to combine and bring to a boil, then reduce back to a medium heat. Add in the browned sausage and taste the gumbo, adjusting the seasoning to your liking. Cook the mixture for another 5–10 minutes. Then add in the file powder and the prepped prawns. Stir to mix in and let the mixture come back to a boil, then remove from the heat, cover with a lid and let sit for 5 minutes, slowly poaching the prawns in the sauce. The file powder will slightly thicken the gumbo. This can be made ahead of time and reheated before service.

To serve, ladle the gumbo over the top of a scoop of the beer rice. Garnish with sliced green onions and hot sauce on the side.

Rock Salt-Roasted Prawns
By using rock salt as an insulator and as a cooking medium, the heat generated creates a more gentle environment in which to cook the delicate shellfish. This technique produces a juicy peel and prawns that will melt in your mouth.

Serves: 4–6 people. Recipe can be halved as well.

2 cup Damnation from Russian River Brewing Co., or other Belgian Strong
2 lb. prawns, large size, with shell and head on, washed and dried
2 lb. rock salt, like what you would use for hand-cranked ice cream

In a large bowl or sealable container, add the prawns and cover with the beer. Let sit in the refrigerator for 1–4 hours to marinate and infuse the flavors of the Belgian Strong Golden beer into the shellfish.

Preheat the oven to 475°F. Take a medium- to large-sized casserole pan (large enough to let all the prawns lay in a single layer) and fill it with the rock salt. Place the casserole pan and rock salt into the center of the oven and let heat with the oven. Once the oven has come to temperature, let sit for another 10–15 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the prawns from the beer and pat dry with a paper towel. Remove the casserole pan from the oven, and pour out half of the hot salt into a second bowl. Arrange the prawns onto the salt rocks and then pour the remaining salt over the top of the prawns. Place back into the oven and roast for another 8–10 minutes. The prawns should be a light pink/orange color, and should be fully cooked. Test one to be sure that they are cooked. Remove shrimp from the oven and, using tongs, pull the prawns from the rock salt and arrange onto a serving platter. Serve immediately.

Arugula, Basil and Hop Pesto Shrimp
Shrimp have a delicate sweetness. This sweetness can balance out a hoppy, bitter IPA. With a peppery and minty pesto, all the flavors work together to form a wonderfully complex dish.

Serves: 4–6 people

2 cup basil leaves, washed, stems removed
1 cup arugula leaves
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1 tbsp. hop cones, Amarillo or Centennial (optional)
2 each garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup Hop Ottin’ IPA from Anderson Valley or other fruity/citrusy IPA
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 1/2 lb. shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
linguini, rice, risotto, polenta or crostini to serve over

In a blender or food processor, add the basil, arugula, spinach, hops (if using), garlic, IPA and olive oil. Pulse to chop the mixture and continue to blend until a medium-thick purée is formed. Be careful not to overblend, as the green color will start to turn gray. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and garlic. As the pan heats up, swirl it to help melt the butter and infuse the flavor of the garlic into the fat. Once the garlic just starts to turn a golden color, add the shellfish and cook for 3–4 minutes. The shrimp are done when they curl up and turn pink/orange, leaving no opaque color if cut in half. Add half of the pesto to the pan and remove from heat. Stir to coat the shrimp evenly. Pour over cooked linguini, rice, risotto or polenta. Can also be placed onto toasted crostini and used as an appetizer. Add remaining pesto if needed.

Beer Tempura Shrimp with Palo Santo Marron Dipping Sauce
An Asian-style fish and chips, if you will. This batter works great on fish, too.

Serves: 4 people

2 cup ice-cold Brown Ale or English Mild-style Ale
1 cup cake flour
1 cup rice flour*
1/2–1 gallon peanut oil
1 cup Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
1/4 cup soy sauce*
1/4 cup dumpling sauce*
2 tbsp. bonito flakes* (3 grams)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 lb. shrimp, large, shelled and re-veined
10 each green beans, stemmed
8 each asparagus, woody stems removed
1 each yam, peeled and sliced into long, thin strips
1 each carrot, prepped like yam

*Available at most Asian grocery stores

Find two medium-sized bowls that will nest together. Fill the bottom half full with ice and place the other on top. Place two cold beers into the freezer and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the brews from the freezer and measure out 2 cups, drinking the remainder. It is very important for tempura to have almost ice-cold liquid. Then, with a whisk, add in the flours and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine, removing all the large lumps (however, a few small lumps are OK, like pancake batter). Add in one ice cube to the finished batter. Let sit over the ice while preparing the rest of the recipe.

In a large pot or fryer, add the oil and heat to 375°F. In a separate pan, add the Palo Santo Marron, soy sauce, dumpling sauce, bonito flakes (a type of tuna that is smoked) and sugar; bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, strain into a serving bowl. Serve this dipping sauce warm or at room temperature.

To fry the tempura, first make sure the oil is at the correct temperature of 350˚–375˚F. The success of tempura results in the difference in temperature from the batter to the oil, creating a crisp crust vs. an oily, spongy crust. Use one hand to hold the bowl of batter, and the other to dip each item into the ice-cold batter, making sure that the entire item is coated. Then, slowly dip the battered item into the oil; not splashing the oil, nor dropping the item in, but slowly sliding the item into the oil, holding it mostly in the oil, with enough of a hold not to burn your fingers. After about 5 seconds, release the item into the oil. This will prevent the food from sticking to the bottom of the pot or fry basket. Fry each food item between 2–4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the food being fried. Repeat with the next food, trying to keep like items in the fryer together, while not overcrowding the oil, which will cause the temperature to drop. Remove with a wire basket onto a rack over some grocery bags to drain. Season lightly with salt while hot and serve immediately.