Pour It In

Beverages such as juice, soda, beer and wine offer intense flavor benefits in cooking and baking. Today, chefs are also eyeing how beverage blending can add a healthful profile.

You couldn’t say there’s a movement underway where everyone is busily cooking and baking with beverages, but a growing number of chefs do have a recipe or two up their sleeve or under their toque—some that are tried-and-true and just awaiting that special occasion.

And, as the influence of current training seminars and conferences adds up and ripples out, the likelihood grows that more culinarians will incorporate soft drinks, juice, beer, wine, coffee, tea and other beverages into recipes.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in St. Helena, Calf., sponsors and hosts a growing number of annual training sessions and often puts the spotlight on citrus. For example, it partners with various groups including Sunkist Growers, Inc., in creating the annual Sunkist Citrus Célèbre. The three-day event provides culinary innovators ample opportunity to explore creative cooking with citrus—and such exposure and education is a prime way to fuel a trend.

Then, there is the ever-growing number of widely acclaimed restaurateurs who are now frequently showcased at industry association annual conferences. Case in point: The Society for Foodservice Management’s (SFM) annual conference, recently held in Bal Harbour, Fla., featured Chef Allen Susser—owner of Chef Allen’s restaurant in Aventura, Fla.—who is regarded as one of the innovators of New World cuisine.

In Bal Harbour, following a lively cooking demonstration that showcased the use of fruit in various courses, Susser’s colorful volume of recipes—“The Great Citrus Book,” 10 Speed Press, Berkeley, Calf.—generated a long line of would-be purchasers. Judging by such interest, many business-and-industry customers may soon be enjoying Chef Allen’s recipes for Ginger Grilled Grapefruit with Orange Blossom Honey, or perhaps Skirt Steak with Zinfandel Mojo and Salsa Turned Orange.

The citrus thread: Given his expertise in cooking with citrus, it’s no surprise that Chef Allen was also a source of inspiration and guidance to chefs attending the CIA Citrus Célèbre event. “Citrus Célèbre is about using citrus as the common thread for creating a cultural bonding of flavors and ideas,” he says. “Citrus is authentic and can draw inspiration by how it’s used culturally.” Chefs from Sodexho and various restaurant chains attended the Citrus Célèbre conference, so the odds are good that more recipes incorporating citrus as an ingredient will be coming into vogue.

The Coca-Cola Company, founded in 1886, has offered recipe suggestions for utilizing its cola (and non-cola) beverages sporadically since then. In 1994, it published its definitive 195-page cookbook, a collection of recipes that include its flagship brand as well as the orange juice, lemonade and non-cola soft drink products produced by companies it has acquired.

It stands to reason that customers of the company’s Atlanta headquarters cafeteria have dined on quite a broad sampling over the years. But Franz Halaschek-Wiener, long-time foodservice director of the operation serving approximately 2,400 lunchtime customers, tries not to overdo it and avoids highlighting the beverage component of the recipes on the menu boards.

On Coke turf: “We’ve done quite a few recipes from the cookbook including meatloaf with Coke in it as well as orange cookies and pound cake with Minute Maid orange juice, but we don’t advertise it,” he says. “Some have a distinctive taste and you have to tweak these ‘home’ recipes to make adjustments to flavors when they’re scaled up. We’ve done flank steak, making a marinade in which Coke Classic was one of the main ingredients, but we do more (using orange juice) in baking.”

Halaschek-Wiener finds that several Old World recipes incorporating beer as an ingredient—such as Hungarian Goulash and Cwiebel (“onion” in German) Roast Braten (meaning “brown off”)—are particularly well-received by his customers. “We also prepare a cubed steak dish,” he notes. “We buy beer that has flavor—most are dark or amber but no watery beer and no flat beer. You open the bottle, let the foam subside, then pour it in.”

To prepare the cubed steak dish, brown the meat on both sides; then add diced onion, beer, brown mustard plus a bit of soy sauce or Tabasco chipotle sauce (or perhaps a pinch of honey barbecue sauce). Add diced dill pickle spears toward the end of cooking. “The malt gives this sauce a sugar sweetness as it cooks down,” he notes.

Flat root beer: Paul Carr, Aramark’s senior director of culinary who heads the contractor’s Innovative Dining Solutions division, is primed to incorporate a wide range of beverages into current recipes. “We recently did a root beer barbecue sauce with a lot of great response from the field,” Carr points out. “It’s a red-style sauce with quite a bit of root beer in it. Once you cook it, there’s no benefit from carbonation—so it’s a great way to utilize flat root beer.”

Carr reports using orange juice “quite a bit” for any kind of salsa, adding just enough to coat ingredients such as apples, bananas and pears to prevent browning. “We’re also using more juice concentrates in our sandwich spreads, primarily for full flavor—but without calling attention to the fact that it’s also healthy,” he says. “And we do a cranberry juice reduction (reduced until syrupy) mixed with a grainy Dijon mustard as a spread on ciabatta for a turkey sandwich.”

Native American fare: At the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian Mitsitam Cafe in Washington, numerous menu items include concentrated lemon and lime juice as well as orange and cranberry, primarily at the Meso American station. In addition to carne asada—a marinated skirt steak prepared with orange juice—there’s also orange and chipotle marinated pork.

Both recipes are menued daily and are consistently well-received but Richard Hetzler, executive chef for Restaurant Associates, believes his apple bread pudding is itself worth the price of admission.

That’s the spirit: Bourbon-marinated flank steak continues to be a popular draw among the 1,500 or so daily lunchtime customers at AARP headquarters in Washington, according to Alan Curry, sous chef at this Guest Services account.

Chef Claude Broome developed the recipe when he was based at the location. Broome recently moved on to become corporate executive chef, but his recipe continues to please, Curry reports. “I’ve tried it with variations including Southern Comfort and Grand Marnier and the (bourbon) flavor profile is a fit with soy sauce.”

Juiced up: John Pinney is now area support manager of healthcare accounts for Sodexho, yet he retains some involvement in creating recipes and claims to be a staunch advocate of using juice in cooking several dishes.

One of his favorite recipes is for a mole citrus finishing sauce in which you sauté raisins, almonds and chili powder in a bit of olive oil; then sauté onions and garlic, deglazing the pan with orange juice and orange segments; then combine all ingredients in a blender. During the pureeing process, add a bit of Mexican chocolate, salt and pepper, and some tortilla pieces to thicken. Reduce by almost half, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, add a bit of sugar if needed, then garnish with pumpkin seeds.

“This one’s a great finishing sauce with a bright, fresh flavor ideal on roasted pork or chicken,” Pinney says.

Sunny citrus vinaigrette: Michael Rosen, executive chef/general manager at Stanford (Calf.) University’s Linx Café, serves approximately 600 to 700 daily lunchtime customers who are primarily graduate students, faculty and doctors from nearby Stanford Medical Center. To appeal to a more mature palate, he’ll prepare a citrus vinaigrette to serve with a variety of greens perhaps to accompany duck confit. Or he’ll incorporate pomegranate syrup in a Persian-inspired dish.

“I often use Coca-Cola for a marinade on rib-eye steak, adding a bit of real Vermont maple syrup plus salt and pepper,” Rosen explains. “After two days of marinating, I’ll throw the whole rib-eye on a wood grill, char on all sides, then pull it off so it’s still raw inside. I put it in a cooler for about two hours to firm up, pull it out, cut the steaks to the desired thickness, then grill and serve.”

Decaf delight: Black Bottom Pie, a Belgian chocolate dessert, is a hit among adults at St. Thomas More School, a Flik Independent Schools by Chartwells account in Oakdale, Conn. It’s the creation of foodservice director—and trained pastry chef—Julie Hanrahan.

To prepare the mocha whipped cream topping, whip one quart of heavy cream and three tablespoons of granulated sugar to a chantilly consistency. Dissolve one ounce of instant decaf coffee in one ounce of Kahlua. Add the resultant two ounces of syrup to the whipped cream and further whip it to a stiff peak for piping onto the chilled pie.

“I usually make 16 pies at a time,” Hanrahan says. “Everybody is crazy about it and it’s so easy to make. You can add chocolate curls or chocolate shavings—it’s simple but elegant.”