Saturday, January 11, 2014

Yes, please, do cook with beer (or: pork meatball soup)

You may use your leftover, flat beer to deglaze the one pan after browning meat for stock, and you may use it again to deglaze the other, in which you browned some meatballs for the soup. Plan to pour no more than a quarter cup in each case, please; otherwise you run the risk of adding a beer's (even slight) bitterness to your cooking. For that matter, surely we don't dare to braise with an IPA or any such "monster" craft brew. We will confine ourselves to something fairly mild and malty. In fact I used a leftover Chimay Trappist red.

The soup:

Sear a pound of beef, some sort of cheap cut like round, in olive oil in a heavy soup pot. When it is nicely browned, remove it from the pan. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary. Add and briefly saute 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped leek, 2 chopped carrots, and 2 chopped stalks of celery. Stir and cook until the vegetables soften a little. (Your stock of choice could also have come from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass, why not? And has it really been a week already?)

Return the beef to the vegetables in the soup pot. Pour on a scant 1/4 cup good dark beer. Let it bubble a bit, to burn off the alcohol. Add water to cover the meat and vegetables, remembering Madeleine Kamman's rule of thumb for flavorful soup making, namely to allow 1 quart water to every 1 pound of meat. Salt and pepper to taste, and drop in any fresh or dried herbs you like -- thyme, certainly, for a start.

Simmer the soup for 2 to 3 hours on the back of the stove.

About an hour before serving, make the meatballs. (The recipe that follows is a sort of amalgamation of internet "soup meatball" dishes. The thing to focus on is the garlic and the minced fresh herbs.) Combine:
1 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large leaves fresh basil, minced
1 egg
2 slices fresh bread, torn into crumbs and softened with a combination of soup broth and milk (don't make the crumbs too soggy)
salt and pepper
Shape the mixture into small balls, and fry them in batches in a heavy skillet in a little olive oil. When they are all nicely browned but not yet cooked through, crowd them back into the frying pan and pour over them another scant 1/4 cup of beer. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cover and simmer 15 minutes, shaking and stirring from time to time, until the meatballs are cooked through; then add them with their own broth and juices to the soup pot, having first removed from there the old, cooked piece of beef, which has been giving its flavor to the stock all this while.

Finally "dish up," as my father used to say, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese if desired.

We are reading Elizabeth David at the moment. South Wind Through the Kitchen. Mrs. David is at once so firm, so lyrical, she opens her articles and closes her recipes with such simple command, that it makes one feel one's own writing has been a hash of sentimentality. One feels one must give a good recipe, and then stop.  

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