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Inspirations

Coffee Talk with Chef Michael Allemeier

One of only five certified Master Chefs in Canada – the country’s highest culinary designation – Michael Allemeier spends the majority of his time sharing his vast culinary knowledge as an instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. He’s also put his mastery to work whipping up recipes made for coffee lovers in celebration of our 100th anniversary. We caught up with Chef Allemeier at his home in Alberta to get his expert take on how to start cooking with coffee and why it’s the best-kept-secret ingredient hiding in your pantry.
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What can coffee add to a marinade?

Coffee is naturally very rich, and it can be very bold, depending on how it’s roasted. Because of that boldness, it has incredible structure, a lot of depth, and as a result, it’s able to stand up to big, strong flavours in many recipes.


What’s your go-to Van Houtte® coffee blend to use for grilling?

Overall, I really enjoy the Colombian Medium Roast. I find it well balanced and versatile. You can use it for either savoury or sweet recipes.


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Which flavours and ingredients go well with coffee in a recipe?

Whenever you pair ingredients together, you always want to match the intensity of the other flavours. Coffee has a strong, rich, bold flavour, so you want to pair it with ingredients that are equally bold and rich, like red meats, braised food and legumes such as beans and chickpeas. It works really great with spices such as ground cumin, ground coriander, cilantro, cloves, cinnamon, chipotle and, of course, vanilla and chocolate. 

What’s your favourite dish to cook using coffee?

I’m always a sucker for desserts, and coffee pairs well with chocolate. I love making a coffee syrup and brushing it on a classic buttercream or sponge cake. It makes an amazing sabayon as well. Desserts that have vanilla, chocolate, citrus – especially orange – are really good pairings too.

I’m also a barbecue enthusiast. I’ve done a lot of competitive barbecue in the United States, and I’ve had great results because I put a little bit of coffee in my barbecue sauce. It’s one of those things where people try the sauce and think, “what is that? I can’t quite place it, but it’s delicious.”


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So coffee doesn’t necessarily have to be an ingredient at the forefront. It can be a subtle component in the background as well.

I think coffee can play both roles. If you’re doing a coffee cake or a mousse, you definitely want to taste the coffee. But sometimes, it can take a step back as well to convey that little je ne sais quoi hiding in the background.

How can you incorporate used coffee grounds into home cooking?

I like using them in braised dishes. If you’re doing some lamb shanks or short ribs, or a beef bourguignon, you can put a little bit of ground coffee in there. I prefer to cook it out a little bit more, so it can break down and add a richness to the sauce. You can also add used coffee grounds to soil, since it’s acidic. In Alberta, for instance, it’s very hard to grow blueberries because our soil is alkaline, so you can actually enhance your soil by putting coffee in it.


What’s the best savoury dish you have ever made with coffee in it?

I’m going to say it’s my baked bean dish with molasses, chipotle and coffee. There’s something magical about molasses and coffee that go hand in hand. And when you braise them in the oven, the beans soften up and they’re absolutely fantastic.


What about desserts?

I would have to say, and I know it sounds kind of funny, but I love doing a sabayon. Traditionally, you would use egg yolks, sugar and Grand Marnier cooked over a bain-marie. Replacing the alcohol with coffee gives an absolutely outstanding result, especially if you fold a touch of whipped cream in at the end.



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What’s your favourite Van Houtte® coffee to drink at home?

Personally, I’m a fan of medium roast coffee. I find it a little bit richer and not as bitter, so I love the Colombian Medium Roast. I also enjoy the Anniversary Blend, which is super bold and rich. It’s got a really strong character to it, which I enjoy, especially in the morning.

 

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