Wintertime Pairing: Stout Beer

By Gabriella Baldwin / Photography by Mike Ferdinande

When the weather goes from warm to cool, to frigid, I’m reaching for a stiff bourbon or a silky stout. Thankfully we are in the magical land of fantastic craft  distilleries and breweries, so we don’t have to look far. My focus this winter is taking my stout pairing game to the next level and while most people like to pair stout beer with dessert or barbecue, I am bringing it the same refinement in pairing as I do with wines.

Stout beer is much different than its hoppy counterparts; it captures your palate in rich layers of coffee, full body licorice and toast. I will unapologetically put a luxe-fatty steak against this beer that is so deep in its feels that the fat rule will apply. Similar to wine where we say ‘fat loves tannins,’ beer does not have tannins, just the illusion of. So I am taking my fatty steak pairing a step further and draping is so dramatically in a decadent mole negro sauce. My grandmother was one of the amazing ‘home-chefs’ that rooted my passion for the culinary industry and one of her specialties was mole, which is a sauce native to Mexico consisting of an array of chilis, plantains, nuts, and cocoa. These components are the peanut butter to the stout jelly that create the perfect pairing every time.

A very important step in making mole is frying the chilis. This is where you take dehydrated chilis and rehydrate them by frying them. But for the love of God…save your oil! Infused oil of any kind is amazing in my book. When you rehydrate your chilis you are awakening the essence, flavor, and all the good stuff that chili once had to offer. Taking out the seeds is also an important step because seeds will carry bitterness. Stout beer can read a bit bitter to the palate that is not used to sharp flavors, so omitting any extra bite will help the pairing feel seamless. Before devoting your dinner vision to include making mole, just remember that this is a long process from sourcing the copious amounts of ingredients to completing each time-consuming step. This sauce is a labor of love and recipes like these are largely a generational concept as opposed to the adventures of a curious foodie. To those adventurous foodies who dare take on the willing beast of making mole negro, my hat goes off to you. My dish would not be complete without a thoughtful side, so I feel that bringing in some natural sweetness would do the dish some good to keep it in balance. My accompaniments would be roasted root vegetables since most root vegetables have a great natural sugar content and roasting accentuates sugar by caramelization. Last, but certainly not least, I would add a garnish that provides texture and represents a correlating ingredient from within, like some sesame seeds atop for a classic mole, or toasted almonds to add texture and illuminate the nuttiness of the sauce and stout alike.

Just have fun, cook for people you like and don’t forget the love, baby.

Peace, Love, and Parmesan.

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