I am fairly adventurous in the kitchen. But I typically know how to avert the ultimate disaster which happens to be inedible food. Most of my mistakes in the kitchen revolve around things like garlic: too much garlic is a good example. I must say, however much garlic goes in to a dish, it is almost never too much for me to actually push the plate away in disgust. I finally created a dish that I could not eat.
A new trend began one cold winter evening when I had charged myself with the task of dinner. Mushrooms, onions, garlic and shallots would provide the meat of the white sauce. When butter and vegetables had reached the perfect texture, it was time to add– what I like to call– the saucer. In a white sauce, white wine is the saucer.
Open the refrigerator door. Peer inside. No luck. Look deeper. No. Head fully in refrigerator. Still no white wine. I did see something white. A witbier. The award winning Belgian Blanche de Namur. I hesitated. In my head I went through the components of the sauce. A white beer should make a nice white sauce. This was an experiment. And like in high school Chemistry, even if you had a solid idea with well thought out logic of why something ought to work, there was never a guarantee of your success. I moved ahead, sans dissertation, but with a solid idea.
As the tasting ensued, compliments abounded and there was no evidence I had used beer as my secret ingredient. It was a success! White sauce made with white beer!
I took that success to the next level when once again making my boilerplate white sauce. One needs cast iron, butter, onions, shallots and garlic to begin.
I knew I once again was in the situation of not having white wine. It’s just not something kept in this household, although if I had learned anything from the past, it should have been to keep cooking wine on hand for my spontaneous bouts in the kitchen.
I found myself once again at the refrigerator door. Open and peer in. I did not have to look long and hard this time for I knew there was not a drop of white wine within.
It was without hesitation that I grabbed and dumped an entire bottle of Stone Brewing Co Stone IPA into the butter saturated mushrooms, onions and shallot.
After allowing the beer to cook down, I fumbled around for a small spoon and took the first taste.
Horrible. Terrible. Kitchen nightmare! I had, in one giant pour of the bottle, ruined what was to be a incredible meal. If you have never tasted a Stone IPA you may not understand. An IPA, or Imperial Pale Ale, is brewed to taste the Hops. Hops are bitter. Almost astringent. I am a huge fan of bitter, hoppy beers. And as such, I thought sure I would enjoy the taste in a sauce over pasta. What I would come to find out is that through cooking, everything is stripped from the beer but the hop taste, and the hops become more astringent, aye, intolerable.
I thought of a few rescues. First was to mix in a little something sweet. I found a ramekin and spooned in some sauce. First attempt: orange muscat vinegar. The overall flavor was amazing, but the bitterness stabbed me in the tongue, still. Second attempt: add more capers and caper juice. No better result. Third attempt: heavy cream. I spooned more unadulterated sauce into the ramekin and a small amount of cream. Same results. The initial flavor delicious. The lingering, painful bitter bite prevalent. I added half again as much water to the pan and boiled it down hoping to dilute the hoppy bitterness. No.
Last resort: internet. No luck.
In the end, I added the cream, more butter but to no avail. I simply couldn’t eat this devilish sauce on my pasta. This event will go down as my biggest kitchen fail (next to failing to remove the bag of giblets and neck from my first turkey).
The lesson from the inadvertent science experiment: beer is a great substitute for wine in the kitchen. IPA is not to be cooked with in quantity.