If you’re like most Americans, you enjoy a cup of joe at the start of your day. To suggest that you might also enjoy a beautifully crusted brisket, tender rack of ribs or a finely grilled filet seems like another high-percentage wager. But have you ever considered combining the two? The intense and layered flavor of coffee makes it an underused, but highly potent addition to your grilling tool belt. Similar to the use of chocolate in traditional Mexican Mole, the coffee bean is used as a spice in many applications to add flavor and a little zing to your grilled creations.So where should you start?
1. Make a Coffee Crust
The crust on your favorite slice of pumpkin bread or pastry dough is likely what comes to mind when you think of coffee and food pairings. Try integrating coffee grounds into a rub for your next barbecue, and you could be in for an eye-opener — and not just from the caffeine. You can mix espresso and dark roast varieties right in with more commonly-used ingredients such as salt, pepper and allium, or onion salts. They combine well with even sweeter or tangier spices like cinnamon and cumin to produce a rub that’ll surprise and delight your guests. Expect to use roughly the quantity of grounds you would for a single cup of coffee — about two tablespoons. The result is a beautiful black char that seals in flavor and juice while adding texture to the outside of your meats.
2. Take Your Sauce Up a Notch
Food Network used to run a program called “Semi-Homemade Cooking.” This show was a love letter to the reality that, while making things from scratch is amazing, there’s no shame in hot-rodding your Top Ramen to create a restaurant-quality dish.This next idea applies the “Semi-Homemade Cooking” approach to your favorite sweet or smoky barbecue sauce. Adding fresh-brewed coffee to the chemistry infuses it with roast-y flavor, acidity and, of course, caffeine!Unlike the rub we mentioned earlier, this application calls for triple-strength coffee. Perhaps it’s intended to keep you awake after devouring an entire side of beef? Enjoy the meditative process of brewing your fresh coffee and mixing it into your favorite sauce with tabasco, black pepper and bourbon. Doing that will complete this delightfully devilish topping, which you should paint on during the final 15 minutes of your barbecue for best results.
3. Grill Up Some Dessert
Nothing tops off a delicious barbecue meal like a sweet treat. You’re probably used to serving desserts that come out of the oven or from the grocery store. But you can take advantage of your morning pick-me-up by integrating coffee into a grilled dessert. It’s not even difficult to do! A classic take on grilled sweet treats that pair well with coffee combines hot and cold using a chilled cheese or ice cream. You can also use fruit to add sweetness. For example, grilled figs topped with vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with fresh-roasted coffee beans create a decadent flavor combination that presents as fancy but takes just a few minutes to bring together.
4. Take Advantage of Coffee Filters
Do you have meat that’s too juicy? Not a problem you’ll lose much sleep over, but perhaps something you’re not considering when crafting dishes like tacos and sandwiches. After all, who hasn’t suffered the messy disappointment of “the terrible crumble?” You know the drill — a meat-soaked burrito, sandwich or taco suddenly dematerializes into a pile of grease and toppings in your hands. Coffee filters can come to your aid here. After cooking and breaking down your meats, scoop individual portions into conical coffee filters and let them sit for six to eight minutes. The result is meat that is no less flavorful and still juicy when you bite into it but won’t break down your flavor-container the way it does hot off the grill. These filters also make cheap serving dishes for various barbequed bits.
5. Use Coffee as a Garnish
Have you ever looked at freshly-roasted coffee beans for longer than it takes to grind them? They’re actually quite eye-catching with their oily sheen and pleasing semi-elliptical shape. That’s the reason many restaurants use coffee beans as a garnish, and you can too.Try spooning some coffee beans onto one corner of your finished plate or serving alongside a coffee-crusted steak in a small bowl or ramekin. They’re completely edible, but your guests don’t have to bite into them to achieve the aesthetic effect.
Upgrade Your Grilling Skills
Did you expect to learn you can combine your favorite hot drink with savory meats? It makes more sense after you try it, and so many folks love coffee that you shouldn’t be afraid to serve this pairing at your next get-together.
Author Bio: Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about food and similar topics on his site. Check out Just a Regular Guide for more, or follow Dylan on Twitter @theregularguide for frequent updates.