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 V.17 No.50 | December 11 - 17, 2008 

Ask Chef Boy Ari

Trading Good Beer for Bad Wine

Q: While being especially thankful the other week during "Genocide Appreciation Day," I realized I should also thank you. So thanks, especially for convincing me to grow shallots this year and eat more local food. We feasted on deer tenderloins with our own shallots, garlic, baby arugula and not-our-own mushroom sauce. Pretty much everything else was from our garden, backyard or neighborhood.

Now I'm off to deal with the deer neck as per your preferred method, but I don't know if I can bear to use that much good beer--I'm thinking about using the leftover half-full bottles of not-so-good wine instead.

--Beer Conservationist

A: Feel free to do whatever you want, BC, but I can't be held responsible for the results of an un-followed recipe. I use wine a lot when cooking meat, and I don't have any reason to doubt that subbing wine for beer will turn out a fine dish. My rule of thumb for cooking with either wine or beer is simple: Don't cook with a wine or beer you wouldn't drink. This should be obvious, but I'm constantly amazed at how many people will taste a bottle of wine, wrinkle up their face, and decide they'll use it for cooking instead of drinking. Is food less worthy than drink? Can a dish be better than the ingredients from which it's made?

I'd recommend saving those half-used bottles of wine for drinking after you've had a taste of the good stuff and numbed your taste buds to the point where they don't know any better.

Everyone: Here's the recipe that Beer Conservationist referred to. In addition to necks, it's great for any animal part whose meat is difficult to remove--cooking the meat until it falls off the bone solves that problem!

Deer Neck Burritos

Put the neck (cleaned and nervous tissue removed) in a big pan and brown it in oil on medium heat. Don't short the browning, it adds flavor. Just don't burn it. Keep turning it until it's perfect all the way around. Add and sauté more chopped garlic cloves than you think necessary, along with chopped onion. Add a cup of ground cumin. (Seriously. Sounds like too much, but it works.) Add dried chile peppers, salt and pepper to taste. Then pour beer over the whole business, enough to almost submerge the neck, and simmer very slowly, making sure to add water, or more beer, whenever it threatens to go dry. I like a dark, sweet porter. Mmmmm. If you have enough, you can drink some, too.

When the meat has simmered for hours and is almost off the bones, use a fork to strip the last strings of meat and remove the bones. Continue cooking until enough liquid has cooked off to work the meat into burritos with avocado, cheese, cilantro, salsa and whatever else you like.

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