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Do Martians Dream of Green Beer?

December 22, 2009

Experience has taught me that a holiday season spent without at least one gathering of friends is a holiday season wasted.  They offer a buffer against the emotional strain that inevitably accompanies family events.  Plus, they’re just so much fun; your Aunt Phyllis may not see the humor in dressing up in the most horrendous Christmas sweater you can find and parading around in public (she does it because it’s stylish), but your best buds do.

This year’s holiday extravaganza was themed around the classic 1964 film “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” and was hosted by yours truly.  Guests were invited to dress in their Christmas finest and, as it was a potluck (there’s that beautiful word again), to bring Martian related eats.  Since we started this blogging endeavor, Vanessa and I have both used every opportunity for food making and sharing to try our hand at beer cooking and this party was no exception.  The offerings included Vanessa’s Beer-Battered Martian Spears (beer-battered asparagus), and my soon-to-be-famous IPA UFOs (orange-scented sugar cookies with IPA buttercream).  Even our friends got into the mix; our lovely ladyfriend, Sarah, made vegan ice cream flavored with Delirium Noel.

The spread was impressive and was accompanied by another of Vanessa’s contributions, a variety twelve pack of Sam Adams’ holiday brews.  These range from the good (Old Fezziwig Ale, a nice strong brown), to the mediocre (Coastal Wheat, a fairly generic wheat beer), to the outright bad (Cranberry Lambic, a weird, pseudo-lambic with a medicinal flavor).  Still, even the most unpalatable of beers are tolerated a bit more leniently when you’re tasting among good friends (and you have the chronically funny soundtrack of Mystery Science Theater’s Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow riffing in the background).

All in all, this was an amazingly fun evening.  And I think my IPA buttercream marks our first successful use of an IPA in cooking!  YAY!  I’ll reveal my secret in the recipe below…

Beer-Battered Asparagus
1-2 lbs. asparagus
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 bottle of beer (more if you prefer a thinner batter.  Pretty much anything will do here; Vanessa went with Sam Adams’ Boston Lager from the aforementioned holiday pack.)
Canola or peanut oil for frying
Rinse asparagus and snap of the woody ends. In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika; seal and shake to combine.  Add asparagus spears to bag, seal, and shake to ensure they all get a light dusting.  Remove the asparagus and pour the dry ingredients into a wide mixing bowl or shallow baking pan.  Add beer to flour mixture and whisk until you have a thin batter.  In a deep pot, heat 3″ of oil over medium-high heat.  After a few minutes, spoon a drop of batter into the oil; it is hot enough when it rises bubbling to the top.  A few at a time, drop the asparagus spears into the batter, coat quickly, remove and transfer (very carefully!) into the hot oil.  Have a plate lined with paper towels handy.  The asparagus only need about a minute or so to brown.  Remove with tongs as soon as they have taken on  golden color and floated to the top.  Transfer to paper towel lined plate and allow excess oil to drain.  Sprinkle with sea salt and enjoy warm.  Vanessa served these with a meyer lemon and basil aioli (or, as I dubbed it, pureed Martian guts).

Meyer Lemon and Basil Aioli
1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, minced
Small handful of basil leaves
Zest and  juice from one meyer lemon
Salt and pepper
In the bowl of a food processor, combine mayo, garlic, basil, zest, and juice.  Process until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Orange-Scented Sugar Cookies
We all have a favorite sugar cookie recipe; I won’t force mine upon you.  But all I do to make ’em orange scented is add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of orange extract.  You can do this substitution in your own recipe.  Or just leave ’em plain and sugary if you want!  I’m not your momma; I ain’t gonna tell you what to do.  Except for that you absolutely should frost your cookies with this:

IPA Buttercream
1/4 c. butter
Pinch of salt
2 c. sifted powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. cream
1/4 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. IPA of choice (I used Stone, you know, because it’s awesome)
Honey
Whip butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, salt, cream, and vanilla while mixing.  Add the rest of the sugar and beat until well combined and airy.  Ok, now for the IPA secret: reduce it!  Pour IPA into a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to medium-low and simmer until reduced significantly.  Add a  squeeze of honey and mix.  The mixture should be an amber colored syrup.  Allow syrup to cool to room temperature.  Add the syrup by the tablespoon to the frosting, mixing and tasting after each addition.  Stop when the frosting has a nice, light beer flavor and hasn’t yet taken on the bitterness of the hops.  Add food coloring if you’d like to fancy it up a bit.  Oh, and sprinkles.  Sprinkles make everything better.


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