Inspiration bubbles from beer opened by mistake

May 13, 2001|By Rob Kasper

The recipe was born, as many questionable ideas are, with a beer. In this instance, it was a leftover beer, a rarity.

Last Saturday I had poured myself a beer without realizing that the Kentucky Derby and therefore mint-julep sipping time was right around the corner. Rather than chugging the beer, I vowed to find it a happy home.

That was when I spotted some frozen chicken breasts thawing on the kitchen counter. Inspiration, or something like it, struck.

"Pour the beer on the chicken," a voice inside my head told me. "Not only will the beer thaw the frozen bird, it will also give it flavor." The voice was brilliant but also practical. "Be sure to put the chicken in a glass nonreactive dish," it added.

I listened to my inner-beer voice, grabbed a glass baking dish, then covered the beer-soaked chicken with a sheet of aluminum foil and stuck it in the fridge to marinate.

I planned to cook the chicken that night. But, as often happens in a post-julep state, time slipped away.

Before you could say "black coffee and toast," the chicken had been lounging in the beer for several days and people were beginning to ask me tough questions about its future. Questions like "What is that?" and "What are you going to do with it?" And "Are you going to cook that tonight?"

"Hey, " I countered " I'm an artist. You can't rush the creative process."

That comment was greeted with an unsympathetic response -- something along the lines of "Cook it or toss it." Genius is rarely appreciated on the home front.

I went to work, poring through cookbooks, looking for recipes that began with "dump a beer on raw chicken breasts."

At first I didn't find any. I figured this could mean I was breaking new culinary ground, which could be a plus.

Or it could mean people had tried this chicken and beer routine before, and had never been able to come up with a printable recipe. That would be a minus.

Pretty soon it became evident that I was going to engage in artistic license. Put another way, I was going to have to make things up.

Eventually, I found a recipe for a marinade that had beer in it. It came from "Real Beer & Good Eats," a 1992 book written by Bruce Aidells and Dennis Kelly that I frequently refer to.

While this particular recipe suggested bathing chicken in beer, it also said that several other ingredients should be in the bath water.

Again a voice spoke to me. It said, "Better late than never." So I drained the beer from the chicken and added hoisin sauce, green onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar. Then I whisked the ingredients together, put them back on the chicken breasts, and put the whole concoction back in the refrigerator.

That night, I cooked the beer-and-friends marinated chicken breasts for dinner. They were a hit with the family. I was asked where I got the recipe.

"It just came to me," I replied, adding, "that's how beer drinkers and all existential artists work."

Beer and Friends Marinade

Yield: 1 cup

1 / 4 cup hoisin sauce

1/3 cup beer, (dark lager, Marzen or Maibock if you have it)

2 tablespoons minced green onions

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

Mix ingredients. Marinate chicken, lamb, or pork overnight in a covered container.

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