Recipes from the Toronado Belgian Beer Dinner

Cooking with Beer by | May 2011 | Issue #52

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

The Toronado Beer Bar in San Francisco is one of my favorite bars in the country. If it weren’t for publican Dave Keene, I might not be doing what I do today. His taps over the years have enlightened my palate through diverse flavors and rare styles of beers. Back in the day, I had my first Westmalle Tripel at Toronado, and later, many other beers from Belgium that were very hard to find in the California beer market. His dedication to bringing these imports and craft beers to customers like myself have forever changed my thirst for beer. Four years ago, I was asked to create a menu for this bar, to showcase the cuisine of Belgium. This dinner is one of my highlights of the year. Below are recipes from this year’s Belgian Beer Dinner. I hope you enjoy.

French Lentil Salad in a Yogurt Bergamot Orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René Dressing
Each bite of this salad brings new textures, flavors and combinations of each to the palate. One of my favorite salads for the spring season.

Serves: 4 as an entrée or 6–8 as a course salad

Lentils simmered in Fantôme Saison Ingredients:
2 cups French green lentils, washed and picked over for any rocks
1 each shallot, peeled and minced
750 mL Fantôme Saison or other Saison-style brew
1 tsp kosher salt

Curry-scented Green Cauliflower Ingredients:
1 each cauliflower head, large (or two smaller ones), leaves and heart removed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp kosher salt

“Wit” Candied Cashews Ingredients:
1 each egg white, large
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp orange peel powder (try Savory Spice Company)
1 tsp coriander, ground
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp white peppercorns, ground
2 cups cashews, raw

Yogurt Bergamot Orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René Dressing Ingredients:
2 cups yogurt, plain, whole milk
1/4 cup Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René or other Gueuze-style beer
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp orange peel, grated fresh, preferably Bergamot or blood orange
1/2 tsp kosher salt

Salad Ingredients:
1 recipe Lentils simmered in Fantôme Saison
1 recipe Curry-scented Green Cauliflower
1 recipe “Wit” Candied Cashews
1 recipe Yogurt Bergamot Orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René Dressing
8 oz Mâche Greens or mixed greens
2–3 tbsp hemp seeds,
hulled and lightly toasted

Lentils simmered in Fantôme Saison Directions:
In a medium-size pot, add the washed lentils and shallots, and cover with the Saison. If the liquid level is below the lentils, add enough water to cover by an inch. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once the lentils are boiling, reduce the heat to low, keeping the liquid at a simmer. Cook the lentils until they are tender, but still hold their shape, about 35 minutes. Strain the lentils through a colander and place onto a sheet tray to cool. Season lightly with the salt. The lentils can be cooked up to three days ahead of time and stored in a refrigerator.

Curry-scented Green Cauliflower Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400˚F. In a large metal bowl, add the flowerets from the cauliflower and toss with the oil, curry powder and salt to coat evenly. Transfer to a sheet tray and place into the oven to roast for about 20 minutes, turning the cauliflower every 5 minutes to cook more evenly. When the tops of the cauliflower start to turn a dark brown, remove from the oven and let cool completely. This may be done up to a day in advance.

“Wit” Candied Cashews Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. In a large metal bowl, add the egg whites and whisk until frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar, orange peel powder, coriander, salt and pepper, and whisk for another minute. Toss in the cashews to coat evenly. Transfer the cashews to a Silpat or parchment paper-covered sheet tray, and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss/mix with a spatula. Place back into the oven for another 15 minutes. The cashews are done when the outside coating is bubbling and the seeds are a medium caramel color, about 30–45 minutes. Let the candied cashews cool to room temperature, then break them apart into individual nuts. Transfer them to an airtight container; they will last several weeks.

Yogurt Bergamot Orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René Dressing Directions:
In a medium-size bowl, add the yogurt, Gueuze, orange zest, olive oil and salt, whisking to combine. Transfer the dressing to a sealable container or mason jar, and refrigerate until ready to use. This dressing will keep for two weeks.

Salad Directions:
In a large metal bowl, add the cooked and cooled lentils, cauliflower, some of the candied cashews, a half-cup of the Yogurt Bergamot Orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René Dressing and mâche greens, tossing to combine. On each plate, create a small pool of the dressing (about a tablespoon or so), then top with the salad mixture, drizzling each lightly with some of the remaining dressing. Garnish each salad with more of the cashews and toasted hemp seeds. Pair this salad with a Gueuze that has hints of lemon, and enjoy.


Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Chocolate Pot de Crème
Who doesn’t like chocolate pudding? Yet a pot de crème is more rich, intense and incredibly divine than the version we grew up on. Add the dark fruit undertones of a Quadruple style of beer to the mix of chocolate, eggs and cream, and it becomes nirvana in a cup or pot.

Serves: 8 guests

3 1/2 oz chocolate, milk, finely chopped
3 1/2 oz chocolate, bittersweet, finely chopped
3 1/2 oz chocolate, dark, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup Belgian-style Quadruple or Dark Strong style
1/4 cup milk, whole
1/4 cup sugar, Belgian Dark
5 each egg yolks, large
1/4 tsp salt

Chocolate Pot de Crème Directions:
In a medium-size bowl, place the chopped chocolate. Then, in a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, beer, milk and sugar. Using a whisk, blend to dissolve the sugar and heat just to a boil. As the mixture is warming, add the egg yolks to another bowl (medium size) and whisk until frothy. Once the cream/beer mixture is hot, temper the egg yolks with a few ounces of the hot mixture whisked into the yolks, and repeat several times to slowly warm the yolks (preventing them from curdling) until half of the cream/beer mixture has been added. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream/beer mixture, whisking to combine. Heat the mixture over medium-low heat until it reaches 167˚F and the mixture starts to thicken.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into the bowl filled with the chocolate and let sit for 3–4 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk with a clean whisk until the chocolate is fully incorporated into the cream/egg/beer mixture. To make an ultra-smooth version of a pot de crème, one may put this mixture through a blender and purée for a minute, until very smooth, and then pour equal amounts into eight ramekins, half-pint glasses or tea cups. Tap each cup lightly to even out the surface, then refrigerate for at least four hours (preferably overnight) to cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap after the cups are cooled completely, to avoid picking up any flavors from the refrigerator.

To serve, remove the Chocolate Pot de Crèmes from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to presenting them to your guests to warm slightly closer to room temperature.

Chocolate Pot de Crème Deconstructed Pie Directions:
The idea of this twist was to get all the flavors and textures of a chocolate cream pie, but invert them. Take a Chocolate Pot de Crème, letting it warm as described above, and right before service, top with a tablespoon of Speculoos Cookies, taking 8–10 cookies and pulsing them in a food processor to a fine “crumble” size) to cover all the chocolate, and then add a dollop of whipping cream (lightly sweetened and flavored with vanilla extract). This way, the chocolate is still covered and hidden from view to the guest, yet the resulting dessert packs a punch of flavor in a tiny portion, with hints of nostalgia tucked in each bit.

Speculoos Cookies
On a trip to Belgium, I discovered this unique yet classic cookie, which has flavors of gingerbread, although it’s oh so much better. Traditionally, these “biscuits” were handed out to the children around Christmas time, as the cookie-cutter used to shape them was of St. Nicholas.

Makes: around 40 cookies

Speculoos Spice Blend Ingredients:
1 tsp cloves, whole
1 tsp grains of paradise*, whole
1 tsp ginger, ground
2 tsp cinnamon, Ceylon, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground

Speculoos Cookie Ingredients:
2/3 cup butter, preferably European style, with a high butter fat content
1 1/2 cups dark brown soft candi sugar* or light brown sugar
3 tsp Speculoos Spice Blend
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 each egg, large, room temperature
3 cups flour, all purpose

Speculoos Spice Blend Directions:
Measure out the cloves, grains of paradise, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg, and place into a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder; blend together until a fine powder is created. Not all of this spice blend is used in one batch of cookies, but it is a great substitute for a pumpkin pie spice blend.

Speculoos Cookie Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375˚F convection bake. Place the room-temperature butter, sugar, Speculoos Spice Blend and baking powder into an electric stand mixer or a bowl with an electric mixer. Turn the speed to low until all the ingredients blend together, then increase the speed to high, letting the butter cream fluff up with air, about 3 minutes. Turn the speed down to low again and slowly add the flour, one cup at a time, until it has all been added. Turn off the mixer. The resulting dough will be firm, similar to gingerbread. If the dough is still soft, you can add 1/4 cup more flour.

Divide the cookie dough in two equal portions, placing each onto large sheets of parchment paper. Cover each sheet with another piece of parchment paper and, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rectangle shape, about 1/4-inch thick. If you can find a St. Nicholas Speculoos cookie mold, use it. If not, cut the dough into small rectangular cookies, approximately 2 inches by 4 inches. Transfer the cookies to a Silpat or parchment paper-covered sheet tray, spacing them about an inch apart, until the tray is full. Bake the cookies for 13–14 minutes, until the edges are slightly crispy and the center is still a tad soft. Remove from the oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack, and repeat with the remaining dough. If the oven you’re using does not have a convection setting, rotate the cookies halfway through the baking process.

Once all the cookies are baked and cooled, transfer them to an airtight container. Try these cookies with a coffee-infused Stout, Belgian Dark Strong or Bruin-style beer.

* Available at most homebrew supply shops or online