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CHEF'S CORNER

 
British Beer and Brussels Style Pork Chops
By Angelo DeCecco

 

Right!!! One of the many marvels of living in Europe is all the different types of beer you can drink, and of course, the food you can eat while drinking those great beers. While many automatically think of Germany when reflecting on European beer, one of my favorites is Real Ale found in England. Real Ale, also known as cask conditioned ale, is brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of carbon dioxide using a hand pump. (See www.camra.org.uk for more info about this beer delight) There is nothing like the sight of a freshly poured Real Ale, except, of course, the experience of drinking one!!
 
Real Ale is usually served just a bit warmer than we normally drink beer and is dispensed without adding carbonation. As a result, the beer is full of flavor, unlike some mass-produced American beers whose flavor is masked by too much water and carbonation. The classic food match with Real Ale is Fish and Chips. You can find a great recipe for Fish and Chips here.
 
As you can probably tell, I love a good cask conditioned ale. But when it comes to really good European beer, Belgium offers the quintessential beer experience. With over 300 hundred breweries offering an amazing assortment of beers, this small country is a brewing powerhouse. Beyond the beer, Belgium has a very sophisticated beer cuisine, or cuisine a la biere. Instead of trying to decide what wine to have with dinner, many Belgian restaurants offer you the choice of which beer to serve with each course. Many restaurants, in fact, offer entire menus made and served with the traditional beers of Belgium. The Spinnekopke, or "Spider's Head" in Brussels is one restaurant offering fine examples of traditional Belgian beer cuisine. (visit web site) This month's recipe, Brussels Style Pork Chops, is a hearty winter recipe and an excellent example of cuisine a la biere.
 
Europe certainly remains a beer heaven, but today the United States is experiencing a beer renaissance, and many local breweries offer interesting and tasty beers that exceed their European inspirations. Some are even making fine cask condition ales. In the Philadelphia area there are several small breweries that easily match the quality of European beer, and are definitely worth the trip to experience the beers on tap. Victory, Yard's, and Iron Hill offer brilliant ales in the Philadelphia area, and in Harrisburg, Troegs makes exceptional beer. On my next excursion to Philly, I'd be happy to join you for a pint!
 
From the front lines of good food, your correspondent,
 
Angelo
 


Brussels Style Pork Chops - Serves 4
 
Brussels Style Pork Chops

Ingredients:
 

  • 4 Pork Chops (about 1 inch thick, about 2 lbs.)

  • 2 tablespoons flour

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (canola)

  • 3 large onions - sliced thick (about 2 1/2 lbs)

  • 1 large sprig of thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 3/4 cup beer (Duvel Belgian blond (which means devil) or any pilsner style beer)

  • 1-2 teaspoons corn starch

  • Water (about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons)

  • 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

  • Instructions:
     
    1) Season pork chops with pepper and salt and dredge in flour.
     
    2) Heat oil and butter in a pan (large, heavy pan) over high heat, but not yet smoking.
     
    3) Add the pork chops and saute on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side. Move to a plate.
     
    4) Add onions to the pan and cook, stirring over medium heat until soft and slightly brown. (5-6 minutes). Season with salt, pepper and thyme.
     
    5) Add beer to the pan and deglaze, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Place the pork chops on top of the onions, cover partially and cook until the pork chops are done (10-15 minutes until pork chops are springy to the touch).
     
    6) Move the pork chops to a platter.
     
    7) Dissolve the cornstarch in the water and add it to the sauce, stirring constantly. Bring the pan to a quick boil to thicken. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar. Adjust the seasoning.
     
    8) Spoon the onions over the pork chops, sprinkle with parsley and serve (preferably with a nice beer!!)
     

    Angelo a Penn State Grad, has had the great fortune of seeing the world with the US Army over the past 25 years. He currently lives in Rome, Italy where he spends the day contemplating making and eating food.
     
     
     
     

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