The combination of when, where and how to enjoy a beer can be used to create an infinite number of scenarios, from sipping bourbon barrel ale out of a snifter at a fancy beer-pairing dinner party to gulping down cheap lager out of slightly warmed cans in the midst of an afternoon fishing trip. Last week, A&E editor Krista Driscoll and I decided to try our own combination. Armed with our newly acquired six-pack of Samuel Adams seasonal Summer Ale — we made a salad.
More specifically, we used several bottles of the summer ale to poach some pears, make a vinaigrette and marinate some chicken, as well. Since beer is more often paired with steaks, fish and soups, we wanted to give this healthy option a try.
For some background, Samuel Adams — often referred to as “Sam Adams” — is a brand of beer brewed by the Boston Beer Co. The roots of the company stretch back through six generations of brewers, though we’re pretty sure most of them hadn’t thought of using their beer on a salad. According to company history, Jim Koch, of the latest generation, brewed the first batch of what is now Samuel Adams Boston Lager in his kitchen. Appropriately, we also took to the kitchen to try out this recipe, passed on by those at the Boston Brewing Co. themselves.
While the chicken marinated, we prepped the ingredients for the vinaigrette. (Note: When I say “we” did this recipe, I mean that Krista did the actual preparation and cooking of the food while I stood nearby to document the process. Let’s just say that mine is a skill set more of the buying-ingredients and washing-the-dishes variety.)
Making the vinaigrette was simple, particularly once the pears were ready. We kept them in large quarter slices, though the slices could certainly be cut smaller and thinner, depending on how many people are coming to dinner or how you wish to arrange the pears on top of the salad, especially if you’re like some chefs we know and are thinking about presentation as well as palatability.
The hardest part, probably, was pouring the summer ale into the pot with the pears, knowing that it wasn’t going into our beer steins. Our fears were soon allayed, however, as the smell of the ale soon filled the kitchen. We poured in a bit more than the recipe recommended and figure that a dedicated cook could soon figure out just the right balance between the beer and pear flavors.
Lots of chopping and vegetable preparing happened next, and we feel that it’s really up to the chef to decide the smaller factors, such as whether to simply chop the cucumbers or julienne them, how finely to dice the shallots, etc.
Once the vinaigrette and the chicken were finished, it was time for the moment of truth. Silence descended upon the room — even the cat and dog seemed to understand the gravity of the occasion — as the two cooks and a willing taste tester crunched away.
The verdict: Thumbs up! After salting and peppering to taste, the vinaigrette blended neatly with the bite of the arugula and the crunchiness of the watercress. The pears added an interesting texture and flavor, without overwhelming the other ingredients. The chicken gave extra substance to the salad, although we feel that vegetarians would be just as happy without it. All in all, plates were thoroughly cleaned in satisfaction and there were even a few beers left over to enjoy afterward.
We’ve left you with our recipe here, although we encourage you to experiment and certainly season to taste as you try out this healthy, summery way to enjoy a Sam Adams ale. Up here in the High Country, summer is fleeting and we suggest that everyone do what they can to enjoy it while it lasts.