Fresh & Honest

Food from the farms of New England in the kitchen of Henrietta’s Table.

By Peter Davis

This last March I had a chance to chat by phone with Chef Davis about beer and how he uses it at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

As a published author I can appreciate a chance to promote my book and know the short shelf-life of new-book publicity.

And so it is with great pleasure that I found the following interview stashed in my “C” drive.

The pleasure came not only from finding work I had forgotten but also in being able to present a book that presents a level headed look at how a chef is using local produce and provisions as well as local brews. My first question was perhaps obvious…

How do you use beer in the kitchen there at Henrietta’s Kitchen?

Chef Davis: We use it a lot of different ways because we have a lot of smaller breweries in our area. So we try to figure ways to incorporate beer into our recipes. We can also encourage the staff to suggest beer at the table to go with the dishes in the same way that they suggest the wine.

I knew that, particularly in the braised ribs, there is a reduction by two thirds… that can certainly bring in a bitter note to that dish.

Chef Davis: The other ingredients, the mirepoix and baked vegetables, limit some of the bitterness and smooths it out. Some bitterness is not a bad idea. We go for different flavors across-the-board. Sometimes people enjoy little bitterness.

Is cooking with beer is this something you’ve done all along?

Chef Davis: Yes I’ve been doing it for quite a while. I probably started like to finish chili with beer. Right at the end of the cooking process when it comes off the stove I liked too add a little bit of beer into the bowl chili at that point without reducing it or without cooking at all. It adds some flavor to it … It’s hard to describe.

Have you always been a beer aficionado?

Chef Davis: I like beer… I like to try different beers. I like what’s been happening over the last 15 years or so, with the new beers. People have more of an awareness of what they like they don’t have to take just the same type of beer. People are willing to try new flavors and that’s a good thing.

Are you lager man or an ale man?

Chef Davis: I’m an ale-man I guess I’m not into berries or blueberries of that sort of thing.

What are your favorite recipes that you use beer in?

Chef Davis: In the book there is a Pale Ale Braised Short Ribs recipe but there is also the Maple stout brisket I particularly like…

Maple-Stout Marinade

Makes 8 cups

Ingredients:

12 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 cup maple syrup

4 cups stout

1 cup red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

8 bay leaves

4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

2 cups onion, finely diced

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, mix the mustard and maple syrup together.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce heat and let simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool before using.


Maple Stout-Marinated Beef Brisket

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 4-pound beef brisket

4 cups Maple Stout

Maple-Stout Marinade (see above)

Directions:

Soak the brisket in the marinade for 24 hours.

Remove the brisket from the marinade and grill over low heat to brown on all sides, being careful not to burn.

Remove from the grill and put in a pan on a rack and cover tightly.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place the brisket in the oven and cook for 6 hours, removing the top and basting with the marinade every hour.

When the brisket is tender, remove from the oven and let rest lightly covered for 30 minutes. Slice the brisket thinly across the grain and drizzle with the pan drippings.