Beer and food. Too often, one of these is an afterthought, or the opposite — an $80 beer dinner in a fancy restaurant. While these events tend to be worth every penny (a chef with a palate for beer and food pairings is a fine, fine thing), I don't see enough people bringing the practice into their own humble kitchens. Pairing great, simple foods with beer at home is a rewarding experience, whether a quick sandwich for yourself over lunch, or a generous spread for friends that will bring the beers you're sharing to life.
My good friend, Emily Berman of "52 Meals," is a trained chef, mother, and companion of picky men who love great beer. Many weekends are spent dining at her table and sharing drinks (she makes some amazing cocktails) — and she makes it all seem so enjoyable. While she may be a trained chef, her real talent is breaking down a recipe to its most simple, no-nonsense components, sharing it with friends, and passing along some tid-bits of knowledge that make it seem completely shameful that we all don't follow her lead. In short, she's motivating, and most of my own kitchen successes come from her inspiration.
I wanted to share the genius of Emily's cooking with the rest of the beer world, and so we hatched the GBH Provisions series together. I picked a beer that was perfect for the season, in this case the new offering from Brewery Ommegang called Goudenhop — a bright, hoppy Belgian-American blonde with a citrusy nose, along with notes of coriander and clove, and a dry Belgian finish using the house Ommegang yeast. We discussed the aromas, the flavors, and the mouthfeel of the beer, and Emily went to work considering a wide variety of ingredients and preparations that would pair well.
We spent some time over the July 4th weekend on a farm in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, using a tiny cottage kitchen and some simple local ingredients — stuff you'll find in any grocery store — and got to drinking and preparing. The results were a mouthwatering pimento cheese spread. The salt and fat of the pimento cheese was perfect for the bitterness of the beer. The shallot and side of bitter greens, even a small amount, really drew out the aromatics of the pale Belgian-style Goudenhop. She nailed it. And she passed along a tip or two in the process — for example, did you know you could "butter" a grilled cheese with mayo for a better, more even cook? Crazy good. Here's Emily's recipe
Emily's pimento cheese spread
- 1lb sharp cheddar cheese (or combination of sharp and extra sharp), shredded
- 3/4 cup real mayo (no Miracle Whip, no low fat shit. Homemade is nice, but unnecessary.)
- a few dashes of worcestershire sauce (roughly a tsp)
- about 1/4 of a small to medium shallot, finely minced with a knife or a microplane (roughly 2 tsp)
- 4 oz diced pimientos (usually jarred in the store, can also use roasted red bell pepper in a pinch)
- a few cracks of fresh black pepper
- a pinch of salt (garlic salt is great here)
- optional few dashes of hot sauce (something clean and vinegary like Franks or Tobasco)
Stir to combine in a large bowl, and spread on everything from crackers, to bread, or make a grilled cheese! Keeps for about a week, if it lasts that long.
Learn more about Emily, and nab some more great recipes on her blog 52 Meals.