Book about beer brings up memories of old-time food

January 03, 1993|By Peter D. Franklin | Peter D. Franklin,Contributing Writer

While reading passages from "Real Beer and Good Eats: The Rebirth of America's Beer and Food Traditions," by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly (Knopf, 254 pages, $23), I could not help but recall a few of the beer and food traditions I experienced in my youth.

Forty some-odd years ago I was working in New York for the munificent sum of $25 a week. Consequently, I always was looking for a way to save a dime, which meant a lot in those days. I frequented a number of saloons where, as the authors describe it, "all you had to do was to sidle up to the bar, order a schooner of beer, grab a plate, and fall to" at the free lunch.

The 10-cent beer, to which I really was indifferent, entitled me to partake of a wide variety of vittles, from potato salad (not unlike the one reproduced here), kosher pickles and knackwurst to sardines, pickled beets and, on occasion, cold roast beef. The food was really not very good, but it got me through the lean times. God bless those barkeepers, if not their cooks.

"Real Beer and Good Eats" serves up some 175 better recipes that either use beer or go well with a brew or two, but what I enjoyed most were the tales of ales -- and lager, too. Even beer aficionados would be amazed at the variety in styles of beer produced just in this country.

For example, ales include cream, India pale, amber, fruit and winter. Lagers include American light, American Bock, pilsner, Dopplebock and Rauchbier.

The authors, who previously collaborated on "Hot Links and Country Flavors," also are quite critical when it comes to some American brews. They have become overly carbonated and watered-down, "becoming so light as to be almost tasteless." There is hope, however, in a rebirth of the small brewery and great new beers that have prompted some chefs to talk about "beer cuisine."

I'm not entirely sure this cookbook reflects the chef talk, but there certainly are many recipes in it that are worth trying.

Not that they are all a snap; they're not, but they appear as though they would be fun. In many instances, the authors will recommend the brand of beer that would go well with a dish.

Warm potato salad with beer dressing

Makes 6 servings.

POTATO SALAD:

2 1/2 pounds red potatoes

1/2 cup finely chopped mild red or yellow onions

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons chopped chives

BEER DRESSING:

6 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

3/4 cup lager

3 tablespoons malt or cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

To make the salad: Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until a knife point can be easily inserted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove, and as soon as you can handle them, slice them, unpeeled, into 1/4 -inch rounds. While the potatoes are still warm, gently mix them with the onions, parsley and beer dressing. Do not overmix or the potatoes may break into pieces. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To make the dressing: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a

small frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the lager, vinegar and sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Put into a food processor with the mustard. With the motor running, slowly pour in the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil. Taste for salt and pepper.

Universal Press Syndicate

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