Summer Picnicking with Pale Ale

Cooking with Beer by | Jul 2010 | Issue #42

Photos by Sean Z. Paxton

When the summer rolls around, grills become our means for cooking. The hearty stews and soups of winter are replaced with fresh vegetables and bright tastes that stand out on the palate, and what better brew for the warm outdoors than a hoppy Pale Ale. A simple yet versatile combination of honey, mustard, and Pale Ale showcases the possibilities of melding these flavors.

Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce
When mustard, honey, and beer are combined in the right proportions, magic happens. This base sauce is flexible; it will become a standard jar in the refrigerator from here on out.

Makes: 3/4 cup (recipe can easily be doubled)

Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup Sierra Nevada Pale Mustard
1/4 cup Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Torpedo Extra IPA
2 tbsp. honey, local variety from the farmers market
1 tbsp. olive oil, extra virgin, something very grassy
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper

In a medium-size bowl, add the mustard, Pale Ale, honey, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk the ingredients together until combined. Pour the mixture into a Mason jar and seal with a lid. The sauce will keep up to three to four weeks refrigerated.

• Use as a salad dressing over mixed greens and vegetables from the farmers market
• Fill a hollowed-out bell pepper and use as a dip for a crudités
• Try using this sauce as a dip for chicken fingers or fried chicken
• A drizzle on your favorite hot dog/Polish dog or hamburger
• Use as a glaze for grilled chicken or Cornish game hen that has been beer brined
• Brush on a spiral-cut ham as it re-warms in the oven, creating a wonderful crust
• Try as a dipping sauce for the perfect pommes frites

Honey Pale Ale Yukon Gold Potato Salad
Nothing beats a perfect summer day and a picnic. And what’s a picnic without potato salad? This twist of beery deliciousness works great with anything from a simple burger to fried chicken or grilled salmon.

Serves: 8 as a side dish

Potato Salad Ingredients:
4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, medium size, washed, eyes removed
12 oz. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Torpedo Extra IPA
1 each Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce recipe
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. Italian leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 tbsp. thyme leaves
1 tbsp. chives, chopped fine
1 tbsp. Cascade hops, whole cones, minced (optional)
1/4 cup green onions, sliced thin (about 1 large)
3 stalk celery, washed and chopped
1/2 each red onion, medium size, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, julienned (optional)
kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Prepare the potatoes by cutting them into quarters or sixths, depending on the size. Add the potatoes to a large pot and add 12 ounces beer, then top with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by an inch. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then transfer them to a sheet tray, arranging them in a single layer. Let cool to room temperature.

As the potatoes are cooking and cooling, prepare the dressing. In a medium-size bowl, add the Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce, mayo, herbs and hops (if using). Using a whisk, blend to combine evenly. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the green onions, celery, red onions and sun-dried tomatoes. Add the cooled potatoes and toss with 1/2 to 3/4 of the dressing. Taste the potatoes and adjust the seasoning along with more dressing if needed (to achieve the desired consistency).

Transfer the salad to a decorative bowl, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve. The potato salad can be made up to two days in advance. Before serving, lightly toss the salad again, adding more dressing to refresh it. Additional dressing before serving is necessary to prevent the salad from drying out if made in advance. Garnish with more chopped herbs before serving.

Copper River Salmon Over Summer Vegetables
There is salmon, and then there is salmon! When wild salmon comes into season, nothing can compare to these amazing fish. The Alaskan treasures are full flavored and elegant looking, with their white lines of rich omega-3-infused fat, contrasted by an intense orange-red flesh color.

Serves: 4 as an entrée

2 lb. asparagus, bottom inch removed
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and cracked pepper
2 ear fresh corn, yellow or white, shucked and kernels removed
1 each red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
2 each green onion, sliced thin on the bias
1/2 each red onion, peeled and sliced thin
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 each Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce recipe
4 each wild caught Alaskan salmon filets or steaks, about 6 oz. each

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Place the prepared asparagus onto a sheet tray and toss to coat with the olive oil, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Lay the asparagus in a single layer and place into the oven for 6–8 minutes, turning the spears once. The asparagus should be al dente, dark green with a touch of crispy edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, add the corn kernels, bell pepper, green and red onions. Lightly toss in olive oil and a few tablespoons of the Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce, and season with salt and pepper. Add the roasted asparagus to the bottom of a platter, topping with this mixture. Set aside until the salmon is ready.

The salmon can be prepared many ways for this dish. Start by lightly coating the filets or steaks with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To roast: Place the filets/steaks onto a lightly oiled sheet tray, evenly spaced as to not have the pieces touching. Put the tray into the top third of a preheated 400˚F oven. Roast for about 8–10 minutes, or until the salmon is medium rare (light pink on the inside of the flesh), which will depend on the thickness of the fish pieces. Remove from the oven.

To grill: Lightly coat the fish in olive oil and season each piece with salt and pepper. Place over mesquite coals that have been burning for 30 minutes (the heat should be hot—gauge the heat by placing your hand 6 inches from the grill grate, over the coals. If you can count to about four before it becomes too hot, the coals are at the right temperature). Place fish onto a clean and just-oiled grill, lightly pressing the fish into the grate to create nice grill marks. Cook for 2 minutes, then, using a spatula, spin each piece of fish 90 degrees and cook for a minute more. Then flip and cook for another 2 minutes until medium rare or to your liking. Remove the fish from the fire.

To poach: In a shallow pot, add 4 cups of water and 12 ounces of Pale Ale, place over medium-low heat, then bring to a gentle simmer. Carefully add the fish and turn the heat back to medium low. Cover with a lid and let the fish slowly poach for 8 minutes. The key is to not boil the fish, but let it rest in an almost-simmering liquid, gently cooking the fish and making a very tender, juicy protein. Remove the fish with a slotted spatula or spoon.

To serve: Arrange the cooked fish atop the vegetable salad. Drizzle the fish and vegetables with the Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce and serve. This dish can be served warm or at room temperature.

Pale Ale Beer-Brined Cornish Game Hens
Love the smell of honey mustard grilled chicken? Then this dish is for you!

Serves: 4 as an entrée

Pale Ale Beer Brine Ingredients:
1 qt. water
1 bunch Italian leaf parsley, rinsed
1 bunch thyme, rinsed
12 each bay leaves, preferably fresh
6 each garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 each onion, yellow, peeled and chopped
1 each lemon, quartered
1 each grapefruit, quartered
2 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup honey
6 cup ice (about 2 1/2 pounds)
48 oz. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, cold
4 each Cornish game hens (or 2 each free-range chickens)

Pale Ale Beer Brine Directions:
In a large pot, add water, parsley, thyme, bay, garlic, onion, lemon, grapefruit, peppercorns, salt and honey. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Add the ice and beer; this will help cool the brine solution. The temperature should be around 36˚– 38˚F. Refrigerate the brine until it is well chilled (the brine can be made two days in advance). Use either a large 2-gallon container or 2-gallon Ziploc bag and add the Cornish game hen to the brine, then top off with the brine. Place in the refrigerator or in a clean cooler (with Ziploc bags of ice) for 12 hours. Remove the hens, rinse well under cold water and dry well with paper towels. Let the hens sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes before using to help them cook evenly.

Grilled Cornish Game Hen Ingredients:
4 tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 recipe Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce

Grilled Cornish Game Hen Directions:
Prepare the coals or gas heat of a grill to a medium fire. As the coals cook down, take the hen and turn it with the spin facing toward you. Using a sharp knife, cut down both sides of the spine and remove it. Split the chest bone to lay the hen flat. Lightly coat in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the hen onto a clean grill, lightly coated with oil, breast-side up. Cover the grill and let cook for 8–10 minutes. Watch for smoke or flare-ups—use a clean spray bottle with beer to put the fire out and spritz the hen. Flip the hen over and cook for another 8–10 minutes, until the pink color almost disappears in the thickest part of the meat. The thermometer temperature should be about 150˚F. Flip the hen on its back again.

Divide the Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce into two bowls. With the first bowl, use a brush to coat the skin with the sauce. Cover the grill with a lid for 2–3 minutes, then re-baste again; repeat one more time. Once the temperature comes to 160˚F, pull the hen to a serving platter. Serve with the second bowl of sauce (to prevent cross contamination).

Buttermilk-Fried Cornish Game Hen Ingredients:
peanut oil for frying
3-4 cup buttermilk
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. thyme, dried
1 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 recipe Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce

Buttermilk-Fried Cornish Game Hen Directions:
Remove the spines from the hens as directed in the grilling instructions. Next, remove the legs from the breasts and cut off the wings. Set aside.

In a shallow bowl, add the buttermilk, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In another shallow bowl, add the flour and mix with the salt, thyme, paprika, garlic and pepper. In a Dutch oven or cast-iron pan, heat the oil or shortening to 315˚F. Set up a cooling rack over some paper towels or paper bags.

First, take the dried breasts and add to the seasoned flour, flipping to coat evenly and tapping off any excess flour. Set on a plate and repeat with all of the remaining pieces. Now, take the breast and coat in the buttermilk on both sides, shaking to remove any drips. Then, dip back into the seasoned flour, removing any extra flour, and then carefully dip into the hot oil. Repeat with as many pieces as will fit into the pan. The oil should come up to about 1/3 the side of the meat.

Fry for 6–8 minutes, then using tongs, flip the pieces and cook another 6–8 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Check to keep the heat of the oil around 315˚F. Remove the pieces to the cooling rack and repeat with any remaining pieces. To serve, use the Honey Mustard Pale Ale Sauce as a dip for the fried Cornish game hens.