Thursday, September 5, 2013

John Holl's Tailgating Recipes: Grilled Lamb Burgers with Chèvre and Mint-Cilantro Aioli and Loose Cannon Wings

The football enthusiasts among you  — or those who live with one — will surely know that tonight marks the kickoff of the 2013 NFL season. With the return of football comes the return of the tailgate party, and there's no one better poised to dish up recipes prime for parking lot consumption than John Holl, author of The American Craft Beer Cookbook.

Of course, as John points out in today’s guest blog post, the joys of tailgating aren’t limited to sports fans. Fall is a season full of outdoor gatherings, and no matter where you are or what you’re celebrating, everyone’s got to eat.

Next to the actual event, perhaps the best part of catching a game or a concert is that gathering of kindred spirits known as tailgating: the sound of laughter mixing with tunes blaring from speakers, the smell of meats on the grill, and the many shapes and sizes of coolers filled with ice and beverages.

Tailgating is an all-American tradition, and for the true brew enthusiast, it’s a chance to bring new flavors to the pre-party.

While many at the tailgate will go for the lighter, or so-called “lawnmower” beers, it’s okay to branch out and have a variety of styles on hand. Consider choosing beers whose flavors will complement or contrast with the food you’re bringing. Grilling? Why not try a maltier beer, like a porter or doppelbock? Steaming some clams? Why not a wheat beer? An India Pale Ale is a perfect fit for a dish with some spice. As long as you pick a quality beer, it’s hard to go wrong.

Here are a few recipes from The American Craft Beer Cookbook: 155 Recipes from Your Favorite Breweries and Brewpubs that are sure to enhance any tailgate and might even bring a few unexpected visitors to your particular spot in the parking lot.

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Local Chèvre and Mint-Cilantro Aioli

Using ground lamb rather than the more traditional beef in a burger adds a
juicier flavor, especially if you’re using naturally raised young spring lamb.
Many farms offer lamb of this quality, and butcher shops will probably offer
a better selection than the meat aisle of your local grocery store. Eggs
help the burger mixture bind together and cook more evenly. The addition
of cilantro to the burger mixture and cilantro and mint to the aioli gives
the dish a pop of vibrant flavor. Pair with a fortifying amber ale that allows
malts and hops to mingle harmoniously.

Makes 6 burgers


Mint-Cilantro Aioli
1 cup aioli or mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt

3 pounds ground lamb
2 eggs
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1½ teaspoons chopped garlic
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces fresh chèvre
6 brioche or burger buns
1 head green or red leaf lettuce
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, sliced


1. Make the aioli: Whisk the aioli, cilantro, mint, garlic, lemon juice, black pepper, and salt together in a small bowl to fully incorporate the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
2. Make the burgers: Mix the lamb, eggs, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire in a large bowl until combined. Form the burger mixture into six 7-ounce patties, transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and store them in the refrigerator until ready to use, or up to 1 day.
3. Prepare a medium-high fire in a gas or charcoal grill.
4. Transfer the patties to the grill and cook until medium-well, 5 to
6 minutes per side. Remove the patties from the grill. Top the burgers with the chèvre, dividing the cheese equally. Let the patties rest for 1 minute.
5. Spread the aioli on the bottom halves of the buns, and then top with the lettuce, tomato, and onion. Add the burger patties and top halves and serve immediately.

Loose Cannon Wings

This is a great take on a traditional pub favorite. The citrus hop presence from the Loose Cannon (or similar India pale ale) blends nicely with the fruit juice in the marinade, giving great flavor to the wings without the mess associated with a sticky sauce. Grilling the wings is also healthier than deep-frying, meaning you can have a few more than usual without any guilt.

Makes 6–8 servings


¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon Southwest seasoning or cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup water
1/3 cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ cup chopped yellow onion
1 lime, thinly sliced
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (12-ounce) bottle Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA, or similar beer
2½ pounds chicken wings
Olive oil
Ranch dressing, for serving (optional)


1. Combine the salt, brown sugar, Southwest seasoning, pepper flakes, water, orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice in a large ziplock bag; close the bag and shake until the salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add the onion, lime slices, cilantro, garlic, and beer and shake to combine and degas the beer.
2. Add the chicken wings to the bag and shake the bag so that the wings are submerged. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours.
3. Remove the wings from the refrigerator and discard the brining solution. Pat the wings dry with paper towels and set aside to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
4. Prepare a low fire in a gas or charcoal grill. Brush the wings with olive oil to prevent sticking. Grill until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Serve the wings hot with a side of ranch dressing, if using.

Recipes excerpted from The American Craft Beer Cookbook © 2013 by John Holl. All rights reserved.

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Chosen as one of SAVEUR’s favorite new releases for the month of August and a must-read by The ManualThe American Craft Beer Cookbook profiles craft beer breweries, and shares recipes that enhance, and are enhanced by, the unique qualities of some of our favorite craft beers.

John Holl is on tour! Check out John's website and Twitter feed, and follow The American Craft Beer Cookbook on Facebook for more information and to find him at a stop near you.

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