It’s nearly spring, and here in the Eastern U.S., that means switching up your...
Cooks have used coffee as a flavoring for nearly as long as they’ve known how to make coffee, but most people think of coffee as a flavor for sweet treats. Coffee ice cream, coffee-flavored toffee, tiramisu — if it’s coffee-flavored, we generally associate it with sweet and milky treats. But coffee has a whole other side that home cooks frequently neglect – a darker, heartier side that brings out the best in savory dishes and meats. If you’ve never considered using coffee in entrees and side dishes, consider these facts and tips about coffee as a culinary ingredient.
Coffee contains a whole raft of acids, including citric acid and malic acid, which are often used in meat tenderizers. When you use coffee in a marinade or meat rub, those acids start breaking down the tissues, making the meat more tender.
Coffee contains more than 800 chemical compounds. Many of them have flavor enhancing properties that seem to bring out the richer, meatier flavors when in roasted beef, pork and poultry.
We’re so used to thinking of coffee as bitter that it’s hard to believe, but the acids in coffee help offset the bitterness of greens like spinach, dandelion and collards. Try dressing greens with savory coffee-wine vinaigrette for a flavor treat you’ll never forget.
The rich, roasted nut and wood flavors in many coffees enrich stocks for gravies and sauces. Coffee adds an underlying smoky note to simmered dishes like chili and beef stew without leaving an obvious “coffee” signature.
Coffee rubs, glazes and sauces work especially well with fattier meats, such as pork, duck and goose. The acids in coffee break down the fats, making them feel velvety rather than greasy.
Not sure where to start using coffee as an ingredient in savory dishes? Try these easy experiments to get an idea of the possibilities when cooking with coffee.
Substitute a cup of strong black coffee for part of the stock or water used to simmer meats for chili or stew. You’ll be rewarded with meat that melts in your mouth and deeper, richer flavor.
Rub the surface of steaks or chops with a mixture of very finely ground coffee, salt, pepper and savory spices before grilling or broiling. Your meat will be more flavorful, and the drippings will make incredibly rich, dark gravy.
Take the easy way out. Mix a cup of strong black coffee with cornstarch and use it to thicken drippings for gravy that’s out of this world.
Many recipes you’ll find online call for instant coffee or espresso powder. Like anything else, the results you get when cooking with coffee are dependent on the quality of your ingredients. Leave the instant coffee on the grocer’s shelf. Instead, make up a batch of this coffee concentrate and keep it on hand in your refrigerator. When a recipe calls for instant coffee, you can nearly always substitute a tablespoon of coffee concentrate for a teaspoon of instant coffee.
1 cup medium ground coffee
2 cups water
Mix the coffee and water together in a covered container or pitcher and let it stand in your refrigerator or a cool spot overnight. In the morning, strain the coffee through a cloth filter or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. The coffee concentrate will keep in your refrigerator for several weeks.