American Craft Beer Week

In honor of American Craft Beer Week I would like to make the following announcement: I like Beer.  I also like food.  And I really like beer with food.  And I find that sometimes food with beer is necessary, and if well thought out, preemptive.  I’ll let you fill in the blanks.

Beer in food is a concept that used to mean dumping some beer into a batch of chili or simmering over-grilled brats and onions in a vat of beer.  I also remember my Dad dousing some rambunctious charcoals that had gotten a bit hot with a splash of the handy brew that was usually accompanying any dinner grilling.  Not only did it cool the coals, but it “steamed” the meat with the beer and added a fine coating of charcoal ash.

I began to use beer in dishes in a more thoughtful and deliberate way quite a few years ago.  I started incorporating beer in my classes by teaching Cooking with Beer, which has since morphed into seasonal Beer Dinners.  I have done Holiday Beer Dinners, Fall Beer Dinners and I have one of my favorite classes coming up in a month or so, the Summer Beer Dinner.  I’ve taught most of these classes in the Washington, DC area, but I’m always willing to do a pop-up event anywhere (and it doesn’t just have to be a beer dinner!).

I used to bring some of the beautifully-crafted Wisconsin beers with me to enjoy at these Beer Dinners. I could offer beer that wasn’t available on the East Coast. Unfortunately I can no longer bring beer in.  (I guess it has something to do with the revenuers and state lines or something.)  But that’s probably better anyway.  I disappointed a lot of folks in my classes by telling them that they couldn’t get that beer they just discovered and loved anywhere but Wisconsin.

No matter where the beer comes from, though, this has always been one of my favorite recipes.  One of the main reasons I like it is because the citrus and hoppiness of the IPA goes really well with the Moroccan seasonings; it adds a nice bitterness that blends well with the spices.  Plus, once the meat is braising, there is nearly limitless time to enjoy more beer.  “Is it ready yet?”

Moroccan-Style Grilled Lamb Shanks with IPA

This is equally good with beef short ribs or even turkey drumsticks.  Follow the same techniques but you may need to adjust the cooking time.
1 tablespoon oil
4 lamb shanks, about 4 lbs.
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pasted
1 cup chicken, beef or vegetable stock, or water
1 bottle IPA
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cardamom
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Place the shanks in a pan.  Add the onion, garlic, stock, IPA, and spices.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 1-1 ½ hours until tender, not quite falling off the bone.  Preheat the grill.
Remove the meat from the sauce.  Put the sauce in a pot and reduce.  Grill the meat, browning thoroughly, until falling-off-the-bone tender.  Serve with reduced sauce.
This would be great served with couscous, a nice crisp green salad, and IPA, of course!

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