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Many home cooks and professional chefs regularly experiment with various ingredients to come up with specialty recipes.

These days, beer is an ingredient that is flavoring an assortment of dishes from appetizers to meat entrees and even desserts.

Chef Larry Donahue, executive chef of Blue Chip Casino, often experiments with recipes that include beer.

"I like cooking with beer," said Donahue, who has recently come up with  dishes for a special luncheon with Laura Bell of Bell's Brewery that will be part of the Blue Chip Brewfest on Saturday, April 8.

"Beer is actually a food," Donahue said, which makes it perfect for pairing with certain dishes and adding to recipes.

Donahue's philosophy is if he likes drinking a beer then he's prone to want to experiment with it in recipes.

"I've also been doing beer dinners for a long time," the chef said. Among dishes Donahue will create for the Bell lunch are a salad with goat cheese, candied walnuts, herbs and other ingredients topped wiith a citrus vinaigrette.

"I'll be pairing that with the Oberon Ale (from Bell's Brewery)," Donahue said. The chef explained the Oberon's lighter notes complement the citrus dressing and the ingredients in the salad.

The chef is also preparing a pork tenderloin to go with an Amber beer. With all of the dishes, Donahue said he's putting some beer into the recipe and not just pairing specific dishes with beer.

"I'm making a short rib recipe and using a hard ale," he said, adding he'll also braise the meat with the robust ale.

"For me, it's kind of fun (to experiment with beer)," he said. The chef said he's also looking to bourbon for experimentation in recipes.

Matt Zakrzewski, co-owner of Burn 'Em Brewing in Michigan City, said the whole reason he got into craft brewing is because he was interested in cooking.

For Blake Murray, chef and co-owner of Burn 'Em Brewing, cooking with beer is always interesting. Murray has come up with a Pimiento beer spread and has used beer in the deglazing process.

"You can use beer to replace (other ingredients)," he said, adding if something calls for wine to deglaze, a cook can definitely use beer successfully.

Murray has also included beer in different chili recipes and in soups. He's flavored chicken, corned beef and other meat recipes with brews as well.

According to foodandwine.com, among tips to be aware of when cooking with beer are:

1. Get familiar with beer's ingredients

2. Appreciate bitterness

3. Cook with beer's components

4. Use beer to balance out fat

The following recipes include the use of beer. Give them a try.

Beer-Grilled Chops

4 bone-in ribeye (rib) pork chops, 3/4-inch thick

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated

1 cup beer

DIRECTIONS: Place chops in a self-sealing plastic bag; add remaining ingredients and seal bag. Gently massage bag to evenly distribute marinade ingredients. Refrigerate 4-24 hours.

Prepare medium-hot coals in kettle-style grill. Remove chops from marinade and discard marinade; place on grill directly over coals, cover grill and grill for 8-9 minutes, turning once, or until thermometer inserted reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a 3-minute rest time..

Serves 4

Serving Suggestions:

This simple chop recipe is perfect for the grill. It calls for boneless pork chops, but substitute any type of pork chops you have on hand. Serve with Blue Cheese Macaroni Salad and grilled vegetable kabobs.

Beer Braised Onion Dip with Brick

1/2 cup beer braised onions (recipe below)

4 ounces Wisconsin cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 cups (8 ounces) Wisconsin brick cheese, shredded

1/4 cup green onions (both green and white parts), sliced

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon beer ( not IPA) or hard cider, optional

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste

2 or 3 slices crisp cooked bacon, finely diced, for garnish

DIRECTIONS: Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, combine all ingredients, except bacon. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Scrape mixture into 1–quart ovenproof dish and bake 15 minutes or until bubbling. Garnish with bacon and serve warm.

Serve with lightly toasted Rubschlager, Pumpernickel or Rye bread.

For Beer Braised Onions:

(Makes 1/2 cup)

1 tablespoon butter

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon sugar

1 (16-ounce) bottle beer

In medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add onion and cook until translucent but not browned. Sprinkle with sugar and add beer. Stir and reduce heat to low, allowing onions to braise until the beer has evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes. Check onions frequently, adding additional water or beer if they dry out too quickly.

From Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board

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