Thursday, March 1, 2012


I have a new favorite ingredient: spent grain.

You know, the stuff left over after making beer? Yep, that's the stuff.

I'd first heard of using spent grain for cooking about 3 weeks ago when I was helping my buddy Bobby start a 5-gallon batch of whiskey porter at his apartment. While the wort simmered, we did a little looking around online and I discovered my new favorite webpage: The Mash: Spent Grain Recipes from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. We made some pseudo granola (a dense, energy-laden snack that I enjoyed but would not feed to others), a stack of veggie burgers (which I only tried a bite of as I was on my way to dinner), and dough for 2 loaves of bread (the loaf I baked the next morning was delicious, kind of like a dense, almost earthy pumpernickel). Recycling brewing grains into tasty and unusual dishes? I'm so there.

This past Saturday night, Ryan and I made our way up to Silver Spring to help my pal Joey make a little beer. I'd never made a 1-gallon batch before, and to be honest I wasn't all that involved in the brewing process this time around -- I will admit that I spent most of the time sipping wine and nibbling on appetizers and chatting with Joey's wife Katie while the menfolk sterilized equipment and set timers and took temperatures -- but I was right there waiting when the spent grains had cooled enough to be tossed into a gallon-sized ziploc bag and then into my purse. Katie also handed me the beer-simmered pecans we'd used for our gallon of pecan nut brown ale. "Oh, goody," I cackled to myself as Joey gave us a ride home, "A whole big bag of goodies to continue experimenting with...."

Sure enough, date night rolled around last night and since I was in charge of dinner I started pulling together ingredients for spent grain veggie burgers, version 2. Only I realized that I didn't have all of the ingredients for the burgers. I was not about to tramp back out into the pouring rain to go to the store to buy barbecue sauce, which appeared to be the only missing ingredient. So I made my own (and, objectively speaking, it's damn good). Well, so now I had all of the required ingredients to start making burgers. Then I started thinking that the burgers needed a little more protein. So I cooked up some french lentils to mix in. And I had some flax seed in the fridge that I thought might add some vitamins, so I pulsed up a couple of spoonfuls in my coffee grinder. A couple of pastured eggs, some panko breadcrumbs.... Ryan showed up just in time to form the mix into little mini patties, so as he took over burger patrol I checked on the sweet potato fries and whipped up a few dipping sauces. (After my first trip to the stellar Good Stuff Eatery downtown a couple of weeks ago, I've decided that fries need at least 3 dipping sauces for any meal: in this case barbecue sauce, a creamy lemon and edamame concoction, and a greek yoghurt and habanero sauce. Don't give me that look. I didn't have any mayonnaise around, either, but I wasn't about to make a batch of that, too. Besides, by this point I'd gotten distracted making oatmeal cookie batter using some applesauce and coconut flakes and some of the beer-infused pecans....)

As we devoured our mini grain burgers on little slabs of sourdough I'd made a few days earlier and sipped on our beers, I couldn't help but smile. Wooh, what a night of cooking (and eating)! I think that I, like my grains, am spent. Time to catch up on a little more sleep tonight.

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