Giving Thanks for Beer

Cooking with Beer by | Nov 2011 | Issue #58

Photo by Sean Z. Paxton

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the gifts we’ve been given in life. In that spirit, I wanted to create a Belgian-inspired Thanksgiving. I’ll never forget the first Belgian ale that touched my palate. The beer was Westmalle Tripel. I was overwhelmed with a sense of comfort and nostalgia with each sip. As the flavors danced on my tongue, I started to wonder, “What could I cook with this beer?” The following recipes bring me back to my first Belgian beer experience, a trip I reflect upon fondly; I continue to be thankful for the inspiration it has provided. These dishes play with traditional flavors, with the injection of the Flemish countryside to accentuate other flavor attributes. I hope you enjoy.

Allagash Tripel Tangerine Brine for Turkey
The delicate flavors of a Belgian-style Tripel shine with a hint of seasonal tangerine and fennel. These flavors combined create a juicy, moist and succulent turkey that will make the chances you’ll be wrapping up leftovers very slim.

Makes: Enough brine for a 16- to 24-pound turkey

Brine Ingredients:
1/2 gallon water, filtered, cold
5 each tangerines, halved
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup dark candi sugar, blond, rock candy sugar or organic sugar
1/2 cup honey, wildflower or orange blossom
10 each bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 bunch thyme, fresh
1 each fennel bulb, white part only, sliced
1/2 gallon ice, about 4 pounds
4 bottles Allagash Tripel (750 mL), cold
16–24 lb. turkey, preferably free range or heirloom variety

Brine Directions:
At least two days in advance of Thanksgiving (or the event / holiday), start the brine. In a large pot, over high heat, add the water, tangerines, salt, sugar, honey, bay leaves, thyme and fennel. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes to combine the flavors. Turn off the heat, let the brine cool for 20 minutes, then add in the ice and Tripel. Stir to combine.

Remove the turkey from its bag and rinse under cool water, removing the sack of innards and reserving it for stock or gravy. Once rinsed inside and out, pat the turkey dry with paper towels. In a large container, such as a stock-pot or 2-gallon Ziploc bag, add the turkey, then cover with the cooled brine and place in either the refrigerator or a clean ice chest filled with ice. Rotate the turkey every 12 hours to brine evenly.

Cooking directions:
The morning of the day you plan to eat it, remove the turkey from the brine, and pat the outside and inside dry with paper towels. Place the turkey in a roasting pan onto a rack, raising it above the pan. If a rack is not available, use stalks of celery or peeled carrots as a “rack” for the turkey to sit on. Place the turkey into a preheated 325°F oven and cook until the internal temperature in the breast and thigh meat reads 160°F. Remove the pan from the oven and tent the turkey with aluminum foil, letting the meat rest for at least 30–45 minutes. This will bring the temperature to above 165°F and allow the juices to redistribute. Carve the turkey and serve on a platter.

Deschutes Dissident Cranberry Dried Cherry Sauce
The tartness of the cranberry complements the full-flavored Oud Bruin (a Flanders-style sour brown ale) from Deschutes. Adding in cherries and orange peel amplifies the flavor spectrum of the beer, producing a cranberry sauce that is addictive and serves as a wonderful compliment to a turkey. This sauce can also be used with a roasted goose, duck or even a pork roast.

Makes: 2 1/2 cups

12 oz cranberries, fresh
1 cup cherries, dried
1/2 cup soft candi sugar, blond, rock candy sugar or organic sugar
1/2 cup honey, local
2 tsp orange peels, candied
2 each vanilla beans, Tahitian, split
1 each cinnamon stick
1 pinch salt
22 oz Deschutes’ The Dissident

In a medium-size saucepan, add the washed cranberries, dried cherries, sugar, honey, candied orange peel, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, salt and ale. Bring the mixture to a slow simmer over medium-low heat, stirring somewhat frequently. Once the sauce comes to a boil, cook until all the cranberries pop, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cranberry sauce to a serving bowl and let cool. This sauce can be made up to two days in advance, and refrigerated until ready to serve.

Belgian Winter Warmer Candied Yams
Often, yams are overlooked as a side dish at a large feast. Taking the winter spice flavors from a Belgian Winter Warmer or Noël Belgian-style ale and adding them to a yam make these candied yams into something that stands out on a holiday buffet table.

Serves: 6–8 people

750 mL Petrus Winter Warmer or Allagash Dubbel
2 cups soft candi sugar, blond, rock candy sugar or organic sugar
1 cup honey, local
6 each cloves, whole
2 each vanilla beans, Tahitian, split
1 each cinnamon stick
1 tbsp orange or tangerine zest
1 tsp salt, kosher
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
2 1/2 lb. yams, garnet, peeled and sliced into 1-inch rings (about 3 each)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the ale, sugar, honey, cloves, vanilla beans, cinnamon, citrus zest, salt and nutmeg, and place over medium heat. Bring the syrup to a boil and cook for 8 minutes. Add the prepared yams, cover the pot with a lid and turn the heat to low. Let the yams cook slowly, stirring a few times to prevent the bottom of the pan from burning. After 30–40 minutes, the syrup should be thick and the yams fully cooked. Transfer the candied yams to a serving dish and serve immediately, or keep warm until ready to serve.

Roasted Butternut Squash Purée with Belgian Noël and Ginger
I love mashed potatoes, but this purée is an excellent alternative and goes great alongside the classic gravy topper.

Serves: 6–8 guests

2 each butternut squash, about 3–4 pounds each
olive oil
375 mL Belgian Noël or other spiced ale
2 tbsp ginger, crystalized, minced
1 tbsp salt, kosher
1/2 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
2 tbsp butter, unsalted

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. With a spoon or ice cream scoop, remove the seeds (which can be washed and toasted for a tasty snack) from the squash. Lightly coat both pieces with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Place the squash onto a sheet tray, cut-side up, lined with a Silpat or aluminum foil, and place into the oven. Roast the squash for 1 hour, or until the flesh is soft all the way through. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.

Pour the Noël or winter brew into a medium-size saucepan, leaving behind any yeast sediment. Place over medium heat, and add the ginger and salt. Bring the beer almost to a boil, then remove from heat and let it rest to infuse the ginger. Using a large spoon, scrape out the squash flesh, leaving behind the skin, and pulse in a food processor until the mixture is smooth, adding in the warmed brew a little at a time. Add in the salt, nutmeg and butter, and purée until smooth and creamy. Transfer the purée to a serving bowl and place on the table.