What can coffee add to a recipe?
People mostly think a cup of coffee is for waking up in the morning and getting your life started, not for a recipe. But you can use coffee with all kinds of meats – beef, lamb, pork or chicken – all the way through to desserts, to make crème brûlée or ice cream. When you use it in marinades, coffee adds a level of flavour. For example, just a hint of coffee in a jerk chicken marinade will help with balance. In a recipe that calls for a touch of beer, some garlic and fresh herbs such as rosemary or oregano, coffee helps bring everything together.
Has coffee been a go-to ingredient for you for a long time?
I’ve been cooking with coffee forever. It has appeared in a variety of my cookbooks, including Gastro Grilling
, Sticky Fingers and Tenderloins
. I’ve been using it in steak rubs for more than 20 years. I used to have a branded barbecue sauce called Smokin’ Beer, and coffee was the secret ingredient to bringing it together. Because of its smokiness, coffee blends well with grilled foods. I also use whole coffee beans to age meat. For instance, I take a whole brisket and bury it in coffee beans for about a week so it picks up the flavour and some of the oils. Then, I smoke the brisket with a little bit of coffee rub on it to get a deep, intense flavour. I also throw whole coffee beans on my hot coals to add a boost of coffee smoke.
What are some no-brainer pairings for coffee?
Steak is amazing with coffee. For my first coffee recipe – a hay-wrapped steak in my Sticks & Stones
cookbook – I used fresh garlic and whole coffee beans that I crushed with a heavy frying pan. The texture was crunchy, almost like when you bite into a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Then I added olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a big pinch of salt and some black pepper to make it into a wet paste used for steaks.
What’s your favourite dish to cook using coffee?
Beef short ribs with a coffee-chocolate barbecue sauce. I mix chocolate syrup and coffee with some garlic, soy sauce and sesame seeds. I grill them super hot and fast, 90 seconds a side, and baste with the chocolate-coffee barbecue sauce.
What’s the best savoury thing you ever made with coffee in it?
A three-pound tomahawk rib chop, reverse seared with low oak wood smoke in an oak barrel stave. I dry-aged the beef in coffee beans for a week and prepared it with fresh rosemary, lots of garlic and whole coffee beans. It was awesome.
What about desserts?
Crème brûlée with coffee – rich, creamy and eggy – is amazing. Caramelized coffee-infused candied bacon too.
What’s your favourite Van Houtte® coffee to drink at home?
I’m a ritual coffee drinker. I’m forever making coffee. I think I make four litres of concentrated coffee a week. Right now, I love the Anniversary Blend. It’s still sitting on the counter brewing because I do a 48-hour steep for my cold brew, but tomorrow morning, I’ll be having my cup, and I’m looking forward to it.