Mission : Leap Beer, 366 Beers in 366 Days

Leapbeer Report – Cooking With Beer

I am a fan of cooking with beer. Sure you may say “But of course, you’re a beer blogger.” However I’ve been cooking with beer for quite some time. One of my favorite applications of cooking with beer is using the sugars and starches in it to cut back on the acidity with dishes that include cooked tomatoes. I used to suffer from chronic heartburn, making things like tomato based pasta sauces and most non cream based soups a recipe for an instant flare up. I don’t remember where I saw it, perhaps it was from an episode of Good Eats (my favorite cooking show), but the host was explaining that when you cook with tomatoes that adding a sugar source, whether it be actual sugar or wine or beer, will cut back on the acidity. Ever since then, which was over 10  years ago now, I’ve been adding beer into all sorts of cooking. I find in pasta sauce it is an absolute must. I even won my wife over to the cause.

I chose to cook and share with you one of my home made recipes. This dish started as a real mash up of ingredients we had lying around in our apartment. I’ve cooked it many many times, and each time it’s been a little bit different. I wholeheartedly encourage tinkering with this recipe. It’s one that lends itself well to experimentation. Without further adieu, I present to you, my Mexicali Stew.

I realize that the colour of this isn’t the most appealing. The area I took the picture in wasn’t the greatest either. Trust me when I say this, if you like spicy mexican inspired hearty stew type dishes you will like this. On to the meat and potatoes of it all.

Ingredients & Cookware: 1 Jalepeno – whole, 1 whole large Onion – diced, 3 Celery Stalks- diced, 3 Carrots- diced, 3 Tomatoes- diced, About 2 cups of bite sized cut potatoes, 1 Can of Corn Niblets, 1 to 2 Cups of Chicken Stock, 1 Beer (dealers choice), One medium (aprx 1.5lbs) of Ground Meat of your choosing, Taco Seasoning, Oil, Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Sour Cream (optional) One large soup pot, One Frying Pan, One Immersion Blender

After you’ve diced all your veg in the prep of this dish, start cooking your meat in your frying pan with the taco seasoning on it. Most taco seasonings call for you to put water on the meat at some point, don’t do that. Just cook the meat through with the seasoning on it. Also if you’re cooking with ground Turkey or Chicken, you’ll need to add some oil to the pan before cooking it. I’ve made this with every range of meats (and meat substitutes) and I’ve found that ground Turkey is my favorite. Now that that is cooking, put about a 1/4 of a cup of oil into your soup pot and heat it up to medium. When the oil is hot, pull the stem off your Jalepeno and put it into the oil. DO NOT stick your head in the pot, you’re making home made pepper spray oil. By frying the pepper it releases some of the oil of the pepper into the oil of the pot, infusing the rest of the veg with a nice little kick. Turn the pepper once or twice to get all sides cooked, it shouldn’t take longer than a minute or two. Remove the pepper back to your cutting board and put in all the other veg and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir and cook these until they start to break down. While you wait for the veg to finish, cut up your fried pepper. If you don’t like a whole lot of spice removing the seeds will really cut back on the spiceyness of this dish. If you are a spice nut, you can add all the seeds, more and or hotter peppers. I’ve cooked this once with Habaneros, but the frying the pepper stage rendered my basement suite a hazard zone.

Veg in the soup pot and Meat in the frying pan, Awaiting their marriage

Put your chopped up pepper in with the veg and add half of your beer and your stock. You don’t want to add too much because you’re not making a soup. I eyeball it when I cook this and choose to use just enough that the immersion blender can work. For this current batch the beer I chose was Nelson Brewing Companys PaddyWhack IPA, an organic IPA from Nelson, BC. They take the #256 spot on the Leapbeer Master List.

Feed the veg some beer

Feed the Veg some broth

Bring it all to a boil and let that roll on a medium boil for about 10 minutes, or until everything will blend easily. Remove from heat and carefully blend with the immersion blender. I highly suggest not doing this on the cook top because you don’t want to accidentally slop hot liquid on your stove top with hot elements.

Say hello to my little friend

You want this portion of the dish to end up like a nice thick soup. Almost like a thin baby food like substance. I don’t think I’d ever serve that to a baby, that’d just be mean.

Now that I’ve got it all blended up, its time to put it back on the element and bring everything back to the party. Add the potatoes, taco meat,  can of corn, salt, pepper and cumin (your discretion on the amounts, maybe 1/2 a teaspoon of each). It should be thick and hearty, like a nice thick soup or stew. Turn the element back on and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it’s boiling turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes.

Cut the heat and slap a lid on that bad boy, its time to dine . I portion out a nice sized bowl of the stuff, and grab myself a beer. Tonight I chose to enjoy it with Fuller’s India Pale Ale. I’ve covered a few Fuller’s products so far, and this UK brewer shows us some heritage with this beer. It is as close to an original recipe IPA that I could find. Beer drinkers on the west coast really get inundated with a large amount of uber hopped IPA’s, but it’s good from time to time to return to the roots of beer and see where everything came from. The bitterness of this beer really stood up well to the spiciness of the stew.

Leapbeer #257 is Fuller’s India Pale Ale

As I said this recipe is really good to tinker with. If you don’t want to use store bought prepackaged taco seasoning, I suggest you try something like this one from Alton Brown & Good Eats. The peppers I’ve used have been Anaheim, Serrano, Jalepeno and Habanero. I still go back to the Jalepeno because it is a spice level I am accustomed to. If you have individuals eating with you that really need help with the spice, toss in a dollop of the sour cream and let them stir it in.

For more information on the Nelson Brewing Company and their beers, check out their website here http://nelsonbrewing.com/products/paddywhack/ And left4beer reviewed it here http://www.left4beer.com/2009/06/paddywack-ipa.html

Information on the Fuller’s brand of beers is available at this website http://www.fullers.co.uk/rte.asp?id=46 and it was reviewed by another beer blogger, beer for a year, here http://beerforayear.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/fullers-india-pale-ale/

Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll give this recipe a spin, it is a real win at my house.

As an added note, the name of this dish was originally Tex Mex stew. I changed it to Mexicali stew as an homage to the Greatful Dead song Mexicali Blues.

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