Dos Equis and Coronoa bottles in ice.Beer is perfect for a summer cookout, says chef Paolo Vasapolli: not just as an accompaniment, but as an ingredient.

Chef offers dishes for summer barbecue

Summer cooking pairs well with a summer beverage, says Paolo Vasapolli, executive chef in Food and Catering Services—and what could be a more seasonal drink than beer?

“Grill masters all know that the best recipes need a few secret ingredients. Sometimes it’s a custom chili blend, sometimes it’s sugar to complement heat and spice, and sometimes, it’s a cold brew,” Vasapolli says.

“Before your next cookout, grab your favorite beer: not to drink, but to amp up your food’s flavours. From lagers to pale ales, you’ll be surprised at what depth and richness can be added to your recipes.”

He provides a couple of recipe suggestions below and reminds readers that while the alcohol does cook off, to always enjoy beverages responsibly.

Braised Pork Tacos


  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (4 to 5 pounds)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, cut into wedges, root ends attached
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons oregano leaves (half a palmful), chopped
  • 2 red chili peppers, thinly sliced, divided
  • 4 bay leaves, divided
  • 1 bottle Mexican beer (12 ounces)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 oranges, juiced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 chipotle in adobo, seeded and finely chopped, plus 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 small red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup sliced store-bought pickled jalapeño peppers or banana pepper rings, drained
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup queso fresco, crumbled or 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 16 corn or flour tortillas, charred over open flame and kept warm in tortilla warmer or towel


Pre-heat the oven to 325°F.

Season the pork generously with salt and pepper, to taste, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pat the pork dry with a paper towel. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat with two tablespoons of vegetable oil, two turns of the pan. Put the pork in the pot and evenly brown the meat all over (it will take about 10-12 minutes); remove the pork to a plate and reserve.

Turn the heat down to medium-high and add the olive oil to the pot, a couple of turns of the pan. Add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, oregano, one of the sliced chili peppers and two of the bay leaves and cook for 7-8 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the beer, scraping up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Stir in the chicken stock and orange juice. Add the reserved pork back to the pot (the liquid should come about two-thirds the way up the meat) and bring to a simmer. Cover and put the pork in the oven, turning the meat halfway through cooking, until the meat is very tender, about 2 1/2-3 hours. Remove the pork from the pot to a cutting board and tent with foil to keep warm. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat apart with two forks.

Simmer the braising liquid over medium heat until reduced by half. Add the chipotle and adobo sauce and the lime juice. Add about two-thirds of the shredded meat and stir. Cool the remaining shredded pork and chill for another use.

While the pork is cooking, prepare the pickled red onions: In a small saucepot, bring the white wine vinegar, sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, the remaining chili pepper and the remaining bay leaves to a simmer over low heat. Put the sliced red onions in a small sealable container. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the onions, cover and give the container a shake. You may need to lift the lid to release some of the pressure. Every now and then, give it a good shake.

Refrigerate to cool.

To serve, put the chipotle pulled pork on a platter and garnish with pickled onions and pickled jalapeno slices. Serve with shredded cabbage, crumbled cheese and tortillas for wrapping.

Smoky Tex Mex Sloppy Josés


  • Extra virgin olive oil or vegetable oil, for drizzling
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 serrano or jalapeño chili peppers, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (about a palmful)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (about 1/2 palmful)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander (about 1/2 palmful)
  • 1 cup lager beer, at room temperature
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Franks RedHot®
  • 4 burger rolls, toasted
  • Toppings: crushed Fritos corn chips, pickled jalapeño rings and sweet red pepper relish

Serves 4


In a large skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel to drain. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook until browned, stirring with a spoon to crumble it; season with a little salt and black pepper. Return the cooked bacon to the pan and add the onion, chili peppers, garlic, chili powder, cumin and coriander. Cook, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.

In a medium size bowl, stir together the beer, tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar and hot sauce. Pour the mixture over the meat; lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until ready to serve.

Using a large ice cream scoop, spoon the Sloppy José mixture onto the roll bottoms. Layer with the crushed corn chips, pickled jalapeños, red pepper relish and roll tops.