You've probably considered a good wine to pair with your favorite Italian dishes, but what if you're not much of a wine drinker? According to "Top Chef: Texas" cheftestant and Spiaggia Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg, Italian dishes can be paired with a good beer - and, you can even make some beer-infused desserts to round out your meal. Chef Grueneberg will be hosting a wine dinner at Portobello Restaurant in Downtown Disney in Orlando, Florida this February to share her tips and top beer recommendations. Every dish on the menu is made with or paired with beer; the pasta dish is made with Orlando Brewing Organic Red Ale, the braised short rib entrée is slow-cooked in Orlando Brewing Eagle Stout, and the tiramisu is made with Orlando Brewing Black Water Porter.
I caught up with Chef Grueneberg before the big event to learn her beer-pairing philosophy, and also snagged her recipe for the beer-infused tiramisu ("Biramisu") that will be served at the dinner. Here's what Chef Grueneberg has to stay about her experience on "Top Chef: Texas" and tips for pairing beer with your favorite dishes:
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a "Top Chef: Texas" cheftestant?
Sarah: "The biggest challenge has been to trust myself so I don't second-guess any dish I was creating. Being confident in your dishes goes a long way."
What's your "rule of thumb" for pairing red and white-based sauces with beer? Is it similar to wine pairings?
Sarah: "I like to pair contrasting flavors. For example, with a creamy sauce, I would go with sour ale or cider."
How do you incorporate beer into your savory dishes?
Sarah: "I like using beer in a pasta sauce instead of wine. One fun dish I've created is a pasta with guanciale, onions, and tomato all deglazed with beer!" (Chef Grueneberg created the "Drunken Gnocchi" dish that will be served at the upcoming beer dinner - it's made with Orlando Brewing Organic Red Ale.)
In addition to the beer-infused tiramisu at the Downtown Disney dinner event, what are some other unique dessert ideas that use beer as a main ingredient?
Sarah: "I enjoy beer gelato using a dark stout as it has a chocolaty quality."
Chef Grueneberg also shared her official "Biramisu" recipe, a dessert you can layer in a beer glass to create the illusion of a dark ale. The following recipe makes six individual - but definitely shareable -- desserts:
For the beer reduction:
24 ounces Orlando Brewing Blackwater Porter (or any dark ale with coffee and dark chocolate notes)
16 ounces granulated sugar
Combine the beer and sugar in a heavy saucepan and reduce on low heat by approximately one half. The initial volume will be approximately 40 ounces, which will yield 20 ounces. The consistency will be slightly syrupy.
For the cream:
28 ounces mascarpone cheese
6 ounces confectioner's sugar
7 ounces beer reduction (above)
5 ounces pasteurized egg yolk
Combine the egg and sugar in a mixing bowl and whisk continuously over a boiling water bath to make a zabaglione. The egg and sugar mixture will gradually increase in volume by approximately 100 percent and the mixture will thicken and become opaque. This process will take about five minutes. It is very important to whisk the mixture or the yolks will solidify. The zabaglione should be chilled over ice.
Place the mascarpone in the work bowl of a stand mixer while the zabaglione is chilling. Whip the cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and soft. This process will take approximately 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the beer reduction to the cheese while the mixer is running. Once incorporated, add the chilled zabaglione and continue to work the mixture on low speed until smooth (about 1 to 2 minutes). Stop and scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure the ingredients are combining properly. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip the mixture for one more minute. Chill and hold the finished cream.
For the lady finger biscuit:
4 extra large eggs
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
¾ tablespoons baking powder
Zest of one orange
Separate the eggs and reserve the whites for use in the next step. Combine egg yolks, orange zest, vanilla, baking powder, and ¾ cup of sugar in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Use the whip attachment on high speed and whip the mixture until it turns pale and fluffy (approximately five minutes).
In a clean bowl, beat the remaining sugar and egg whites to form stiff peaks. This can be done by hand or with the whip attachment of the stand mixer. Fold the egg white mixture into the egg yolk mixture and then add the flour folding just enough to combine. Use a rubber spatula and be careful not to deflate the mixture.
Place the finished batter into a pastry bag and pipe cookies that are approximately 2 ½ inches in diameter onto a sheet pan lined with parchment and sprayed with pan release. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool. When the cookies are cool, cut into neat rounds that are smaller than the interior diameter of the pint glass. A 2-inch round cutter will do the job.
Assemble the dessert:
To assemble, you will need six pint glasses and 24 lady finger biscuits cut into neat rounds which are smaller than the interior diameter of the pint glasses. You will also need the mascarpone cream and the remaining beer reduction from the recipes above.
Soak the biscuits in the remaining beer reduction for at least two minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. The biscuits should be saturated. Build the dessert in each glass starting by piping a small amount of the cream into the bottom of the glass. Press a saturated biscuit into the cream. Repeat the process alternating layers of biscuit and cream, finishing with a layer of cream about one inch from the top of the glass. Use four biscuits in each glass. Refrigerate and hold for service. The desserts can be assembled ahead of time and held overnight.
Fill glasses the rest of the way with whipped cream at the time of service. Level off the whipped cream on the top of the glass with a spatula. The result will be reminiscent of a glass ale with a head on it.
Interview with "Top Chef: Texas" Cheftestant and Spiaggia Executive Chef Sarah Grueneberg
Portobello Restaurant, Downtown Disney Orlando