Now You're Cooking -- Bringing Honey Ale To The Table

Cooking with wine is nothing new, but  many home cooks are just beginning their culinary journey with craft beer. A good choice to begin that journey is with honey ale -- a medium-bodied ale with a bright, honey-tinged tang, honey ale is particularly well-adapted for use in the kitchen. Here's how to give otherwise average meals that elusive "wow factor" just by adding a splash or two of honey ale:

Honey Ale French Toast

This is a great way to enjoy beer for breakfast without feeling guilty. You'll need:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup honey ale
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • Butter
  • Loaf of freshly baked bread

Simply mix the eggs with the milk, beer, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Coat the bread on each side with the mixture and cook in a medium skillet until golden brown on either side. Butter to taste and enjoy. Many prefer to enjoy this French toast without syrup so that the honey taste shines through.

Special tip -- using bread that's been baked with honey will add a complementary honey tang.

Honey Ale Glaze For Chicken Breasts

This makes an excellent summer dinner when paired with a spinach salad and a glass of cold honey ale. Here's how to make it:

  • 12 ounce bottle of honey ale
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 T brown mustard

Bring everything to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring and mixing well the entire time. After it cools, brush it onto chicken breasts with a pastry brush. Place in a preheated 400 degree oven and cook for 25 minutes.

This glaze can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to two weeks. It can also be used on baked salmon filets.

Honey Ale and Wild Berry Vinaigrette

You can use whatever wild berries are currently ripe in your neighbor or buy some from the farmers market or grocery store. If you're going to use cultivated berries, raspberries work the best. Here's what you'll need:

  • 3 ounces honey ale
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • 1/4 cup wild berries
  • 5 T virgin oil oil
  • Cracked black pepper to taste and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Mix it all up in a food processor and either use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week. This is great on all types of salads but is especially good on anything with dark, leafy greens such as baby kale and spinach.

Honey Ale Poached Pears

  • 12 ounce bottle of honey ale
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 peeled and cored pears

After bringing the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the pears. Simmer for 15 to 30 minutes -- test the pears for doneness by poking them with a paring knife. If the knife goes in easily, the pears are perfectly poached.

Remove the pears from the sauce and place on a plate. Add a handful of dried cranberries or blueberries to the poaching liquid and continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced by half and has significantly thickened. Pour over pears and serve with a frosty glass of honey ale. This is extra good if paired with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream.

If you are used to cooking with wine but are unsure of how to incorporate craft beer into your favorite recipes, it helps to think of honey ale as the pinot noir of beers. It generally pairs well with anything you'd pair with pinot noir, such as:

  • Seafood, especially salmon, steelhead, and trout.
  • Desserts containing fruits and berries.
  • Pork and poultry.
  • hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans.

Many pubs that produce and serve craft beers are beginning to offer classes and demonstrations on cooking with beer, so be sure to check out local options for further inspiration.