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I’m personally not much of a beer drinker.

Okay, maybe once in a while, like when it’s REALLY HOT and I’m like dying of thirst or I’ve bought beer for my friends when I host a party. Other than that, I’m not really a beer kind of guy.

That means throughout much of the year, I’m stuck with a small inventory of beer in my fridge that I know I’ll never drink.

So what do you do? Which recipes are best for those orphaned bottles (or cans) of beer?

Probably the most obvious is beer battered anything. From fish to shrimp and chicken to onion rings, all-purpose flour plus beer (yep, that’s it) is all you need to create a pretty darn tasty meal. (More on this subject right here.)

You can also use beer in stews, the most popular being Irish Beef & Guinness Stew. Find a straightforward recipe at this link. Beer can also be used to create a lamb stew.

And if you’ve never tried it before, no doubt someone has told you about Beer Can Chicken, which is basically a whole frying/roasting chicken with a can of beer (please open it first) positioned upright inside the cavity of the bird while it roasts. The basics are below.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, with rack in lowest position. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub skin with butter and season with salt. Pour out 1/2 cup stout from can; reserve. Poke holes in top of can using a church key. Place thyme in can, and set in a large ovenproof skillet. Place chicken over can, balancing legs to keep it standing like a tripod.

Carefully transfer chicken to oven, breast side first. Roast for 20 minutes. Baste with pan juices. Roast, basting twice, until juices run clear and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 155 degrees (about 25 minutes more).

Carefully remove skillet from oven. Steady chicken with one hand, using paper towels or mitts to protect your hands. Let chicken rest (it will continue to cook) until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh reaches 165 degrees F (about 10 minutes), and then remove from can. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

On the snack side, not only is beer great to DRINK with pretzels (just ask the Germans), but my Soft Bavarian Pretzels recipe takes on an exceptionally good flavor when you substitute beer for the water you poach the pretzel dough in before baking. Once you try this, soft pretzels bought at the fair and sports venues will never compete!

Speaking of casual beer fare, another one of my favorite uses for those orphan cans is braising whole sausages with caramelized onions. To do that, you simply choose a large skillet and slowly sauté sliced onions in a little butter until they soften and caramelize to a golden brown. Remove the onions and reserve them nearby. Next, choose your sausages (Italian, Polish Kielbasa, Brats), add them to the skillet, turn up the heat a bit, and brown them all over. Add back the onions and a can or so of beer, and braise over medium heat until the onions and sausages are almost like a stew. Done. It’s also nice to add some small, cooked potatoes to the mix.

Want to take your beer gourmet?

Beer is fabulous with pork.

Beer Braised Pork Shoulder Rillette With Soft Polenta: Serves 8

8 Strips                       Bacon, Cut in 1” Pieces

3 Cups                        Onions, Chopped

1                                  Pork Shoulder, Bone-in (about 3 lbs)

As Needed                Coarse Salt

To Taste                     Freshly Ground pepper

2 TBSP                      Olive Oil

¼ Cup                         Garlic Cloves, Peeled

2 tsp                            Fennel Seeds

1 tsp                            Whole Coriander Seeds, Crushed

2 Cups                        Beer (Belgian-Style Ale is a good choice)

1 Cup                          Pork or Chicken Broth (Kitchen Basics)

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large soup pot with a cover, brown bacon until crisp and remove.
  3. Add onions to the rendered bacon grease and cook over medium heat until golden brown. Remove the cooked onions and reserve with the cooked bacon.
  4. Season pork with salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium high and sear pork roast on all sides until well browned.
  5. Add garlic and spices to pot. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add ale, broth, bacon, and onions, and then bring to a simmer.
  7. Cover the pot and place in the pre-heated oven.
  8. Baste every hour with the beer and resulting juices until meat is falling off the bone (usually about 4 hours).
  9. Remove the roast and allow to cool slightly, and then shred meat using 2 forks. Drizzle with warm (fat skimmed) juices so that the shredded meat (rillette) is moist and succulent.
  10. Prepare approximately 3 to 4 cups of soft polenta (your choice of white or yellow) by following package directions. Soft polenta is basically like making grits.
  11. Serve by placing a cup of cooked soft polenta in a rimmed soup bowl with a 4- to 6-ounce portion of the shredded pork in the center.
  12. Drizzle with some of the remaining pork juices not used to moisten the pork.
The next time you find yourself staring at that last can of beer and no one can agree on who gets it, consider turning it into part of a great meal with these tasty suggestions.

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