Chef Bryan’s Bistro: Cooking with Alcohol

Ok, so I may have used the term “Chef” relatively loosely.  By “Chef” I really mean amateur guy who does the majority of cooking for the household, refuses to follow any recipe exactly, and probably over-seasons every dish he cooks.  

So basically I’m a slightly more refined version of the single guy who makes spaghetti and meatballs for every dinner date he hosts and generally thinks cooking from scratch means adding pre-cooked chicken to boxes of mac n cheese.  Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there.

However, while my own cooking skills can, at best, be described as creative, I do pride myself on trying new recipes and flavor combinations as well as being creative in the way that I “interpret” recipes.

So in the spirit of creativity and applying my own personality to the foods we eat, I will be spending some time every so often explaining the finer ideologies that exist within my cooking repertoire.  Each week I will include a recipe that coincides with the theme or topic being presented that week.  

In the spirit of being a true Wisconsinite, the theme for week one will be incorporating alcohol into your food in unique and flavorful ways.

Cooking with alcohol can be fun and exciting.  If the booze is not respected, or if it is indulged in too much during the actual cooking of your meal, the results can be disastrous.  My first experience cooking with alcohol came a few years back when I was an unemployed recent college grad with way too much time on my hands.  For weeks the half empty bottle of Jose Cuervo leftover from a music festival the month before taunted me.  After contemplating how to cook with it, I finally came up with a plan I was sure would turn out triumphantly.  I would make a tequila cream sauce with chicken that would go perfectly over pasta.  

With a limited outline for a recipe and no experience or remote idea what I was doing making sauce out of tequila, I proceeded.  The outcome was a disaster.  The sauce was incredibly strong and it tasted like each bite contained a shot of hot tequila.  Certainly not the palate pleaser I was hoping for.

Over time my experience cooking with alcohol has become more refined.  From vodka cream sauce to beer cheese soup, I now consider myself perfectly adequate at incorporating alcohol into our meals, which is to say you will not get a good buzz from eating my somewhat world famous bacon and beer mac n´ cheese.  

So for this week’s recipe inclusion, here is a recipe we actually made earlier this week; Chocolate Chicken Chili with Stout beer.  Obviously the allure of this recipe is the combination of chili, beer and chocolate, a dream recipe that probably throws health and wellness to the wind.  Nutrition facts be damned with this recipe!

Chocolate Chicken Chili


2 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 cups chopped onion

2 cloves minced garlic

½ teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into cubes

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup of beer (I used a chocolate porter, but any beer should do)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese (I used swiss cheese)

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder


  1. Heat olive oil in deep, large skillet and cook onion with garlic, Italian seasoning, and cayenne until onion is just browning.  Set onion aside, add chicken to skillet and cook until no longer pink
  2. Return onion to skillet, add broth, beer and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil.  Season with cinnamon and salt.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of cheese and cocoa powder.  Serve immediately and sprinkle with cheese.

Note: The recipe does not call for some traditional chili elements such as beans, diced tomatoes, or elbow noodles.  To add more depth to the dish, think about experimenting with some of these options (as I will be next time I make it)!  If adding beans or diced tomatoes, consider adding slightly more broth or beer to keep consistency.  Also simmer for an extra 5-10 minutes to cook beans.  If adding pasta, cook pasta separately and add once rest of chili is complete.

Source: This recipe is from “Cooking with Beer” cookbook by PILcookbooks.

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