Cooking With Beer: IPA & Chili Marinade

I've been reluctant to try out recipes using beer. I just didn't want to bury the taste of a good beer in something that I might not be able to taste it in. But a lot of the brewers who have sent me beer for comment insist that I check out their recipes. And if I have enough of their samples to spare, I will make a stab at a recipe.

So I had some chicken breasts in my chest freezer that were calling my name, and this past weekend was finally cool enough to sit by the outdoor grill.

Beer seems to be a natural to try in a marinade. Its malt adds a bit of sugar, and its slight acidity helps work the rest of the ingredients into the meat. My usual approach is to toss in chilis and paprika and call it a day. But what if I work in a hoppy pale ale and let it contrast to my usual spices. And a lot of my cooking is based on the question "What's in the pantry today," or "What do I need to use up?" But I quite liked the result.

One ingredient I used that you might not have around the house is hop cones, unless you;re a homebrewer. I don't know how much this really adds to the flavor since I already used a hoppy beer. But if you make this and like it, it might be worth a visit to your home-brew shop. Some health food stores also sell hop cones, or hop oils, as aromatics.

IPA & Chili Chicken Marinade
Most recipes call for 4 pounds of chicken, but we have 2 pounds to work with, so I tried to size it down.

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground celery (for the Chicago angle)
  • 2 small chili peppers, sliced thin or chopped
  • Generous shakes of parsley and cilantro flakes. Fresh leaves would be better, but we go with what we got.
  • 1 tablespoon crushed onion
  • 2 lobes crushed garlic (in my case, the equivalent in garlic powder).
  • A shot of Worcestershire sauce. The vinegar in it adds just little bit of acid to help penetrate the meat.
  • One 12 ounce bottle of Pale Ale. This time around I'm going with Alpine Beer Windows Up IPA, with its load of Mosaic and Citra hops. But be sure to save a sip or two for the chef.
  • A sprinkling of home grown hop leaves from my garden that I've been saving in my freezer for way too long, against the eventuality that I'll be allowed to brew again in our tiny little kitchen.
  • 2 lb. chicken. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts with rib meat.

Mix your ingredients in a bowl or large freezer bag. Add your chicken to the marinade, seal tightly, and let it soak. I gave this a good 5 hours.

Put on the gas grill for about half an hour, while brushing the leftover marinade on as you turn. Enjoy another beer.

The end result was tender as marshmallow fluff. Cooked clear through, and spicy with some noticeable hop bitterness balanced by sugars from the beer. My hop flowers were found at the bottom of the deep freeze, and were pretty old, so I don’t know how necessary they were to the hop bitterness in the chicken. And I had hop leaves to pick off the surface. If you’re not a home brewer, you could pick up pellet hops or hop oil at a home-brew shop, or use a Double IPA. That’ll give you a bit more sugar to work into the meat as well.

One of my Twitter acquaintances said he had problems with chicken meat. I would suggest this recipe should work just as well with pork loin. For beef, or in the winter months ahead, I’d suggest switching to a maltier Black IPA or a stout.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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