Every day, all over the world, millions of people start their day by drinking coffee. Aaah! So good! Nothing like that first cup, right?
There are many variations of this popular beverage that have been tried and perfected over the years, undoubtedly by you and people you know. In fact, the simple act of coffee consumption has truly become an art form. Think about it: coffee drinkers routinely consume iced coffees, mochas, cappuccinos and literally hundreds of other varieties and recipes of this caffeine-driven energizer. Even for those people who prefer decaffeinated coffee, the act of drinking coffee is also an art that delivers the pleasing taste without the caffeine jolt.
So then, is it surprising that the result of this love affair with the many flavors of coffee has led to coffee becoming another ingredient in a wide variety of cooking recipes? No surprise at all. The result is that these recipes are anything but ordinary! Perhaps you are not the type of person who will pour your morning cappuccino into a meat loaf or baked bean recipe. Or freeze leftover brewed coffee in ice cube trays to use later as seasoning. Will it surprise you to learn that many top top chefs do this and much more with coffee? Why? Because of coffee’s hint of bittersweet chocolate, touch of berry, whiff of roasted nuts and red wine. These flavors and scents make coffee a fantastic cooking ingredient.
How do chefs use coffee in cooking? For example, they substitute brewed coffee (partially for the most part) for stock or water in stews, sauces and even baked beans. Coffee grounds make a terrific dry rub. Coffee grounds seal in the meat’s juices and help to caramelize it. The result is a juicier and tastier piece of meat with a beautiful color on the outside that makes the dish very appealing to the eye.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at some cooking with coffee 101 tips:
1. Pair coffee with flavors that are strong and flavorful such as beef, pork or chicken. This is important. Coffee should not overpower the meat aroma and taste; but enhance it. A coating of coffee and other spices tenderizes a cut of meat. Result: a more succulent and tasty main course.
2. Coffee is, quite simply, a spice in the kitchen. Cooks use rubs, marinades and sauces in cooking because they add a delectable complexity to grilled meats and keep them moist. Coffee punctuates its distinctive taste into soups, stews, and tomato sauce. Through experimentation, you will learn to use just the right amount of coffee to add that special flavor that makes an ordinary dish truly unforgettable!
3. Use coffee in both ground and brewed forms for cooking. Ground coffee is great for rubs and marinades. Brewed coffee is the perfect addition to stews or sauces. It makes sense, doesn’t it? It is easier to add brewed coffee to a sauce and prevent problems with “grainy” sauces or marinades.
4. Have fun cooking with coffee and don’t be afraid about getting creative with coffee! Use your favorite flavor of coffee in your recipes. When you experiment with a new type of flavor taste it brewed first to understand its flavor components and choose the right amount of coffee for the recipe. There is no magic rule of thumb for what works or does not work in “coffee cuisine.” Most regular black coffees pair well with citrus, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, salt, garlic, ginger and pepper. Flavored coffees pair well with similar flavors added to the marinade or sauce. For example, pumpkin spice coffee will go well with a pumpkin soup or pie. Remember, the idea is for coffee to enhance the flavor of the dish you are preparing, not to dominate it.
Cooking with coffee has become mainstream. It used to be that coffee cuisine was reserved only to chefs employed by exclusive restaurants, resorts, or those attending specialty cooking schools. However, this has changed completely over the past decade. Celebrity chefs use coffee in their cooking regularly and feature coffee in their recipes regularly. With more than 900 unique flavors present in coffee, according to coffee experts, chefs like the idea of using coffee in their cuisine to add variety to their dishes and come up with endless delectable menus. Of course, to get the best results use freshly roasted top quality specialty coffee preferably delivered to order from a gourmet coffee source.
Examples of coffee in recipes include,
Butter-smoked, espresso coffee-rubbed venison whose rub includes finely ground espresso mixed with salt, ancho chile powder and ground black pepper. Or pork tenderloin encrusted in a rub of ground coffee and black peppercorns for a beautiful crust with brown edges. Rolling filet mignons in freshly ground espresso beans before grilling will make heads turn from the delicious taste and beautiful finish on the meat.
Another regular practice quite common in the South is to add brewed coffee to chili, or use coffee in braising liquid for brisket. Or coffee as a savory ingredient in red-eye gravy. Many chefs add about 2 quarts of brewed coffee to 4 gallons of stock to start reducing it to demi-glace to add depth and richness to the stock.