Forget wine: cook with artisanal beer

I am in Verona, Italy for the month. My husband teaches Italian Lit here each January for Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Out of the eight years he’s done this program, I’ve only been here twice. I’m usually like all of you back in Vacationland, watching and naming each snowflake, as they pile up on the deck.

What do I do when he’s teaching?

Outside of trying to work off the pasta, risotto, tortellini en brodo, platters of salume (prosciutto, coppa, cooked ham (pronounced “kook-ed ham” by our server), and salami, I am cooking (or “kook-ing“) up ideas for my new book about New England craft beer.

Turns out Italy is in the throes of a craft beer revolution just like the U.S. was when I wrote my first book, What’s Brewing in New England, in 1997. The land of vino is becoming the land of birre. In fact, our server of the cooked ham, Davide, told us that not only young people are turning to beer as their drink of choice, but “older people too. All ages.”

So I got the idea to make Osso Buco, a dish native to our region here in northern Italy, switching out the wine for beer. I happened to score some nice samples of premium artisanal beer at a restaurant (osteria) in Venice on our day trip there last week. It was a red ale and I am enjoying the aromas of the veal shanks and gravy right now.

To make it easy, I used a tried and true source of recipes from the now defunct Gourmet Magazine. Epicurious (www.epicurious.com) has their entire archive, and this particular recipe is from 1991. All I did was sub out wine and put in an equal amount of the ale, followed directions and the result was amazing.

Over the coming months, I’ll talk more about the science of cooking with beer. But frankly, I’ve been doing it for years, and it’s easy. We’ll get there.

If you already cook with beer, I’d love to hear from you.

Since almost no one says “Ciao” here, I’ll say, “Arrivederci!”

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Kate Cone

About Kate Cone

Kate Cone has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, is a freelance writer and the author of "What's Brewing in New England: A Guide to Brewpubs and Microbreweries," published by Downeast Publications in 1997. She is currently updating What's Brewing with a second book about New England craft beer to be published in 2015.