Patrick Langlois finds the right ingredient: quinoa paired with Left Hand beer

After five years working for Great Divide Brewing, Patrick Langlois has embarked on a new mission, one that explores local food, cooking and, at almost all times, beer. Each week, he'll be sharing a new adventure in his kitchen -- pairing his experiment with a good brew.

This is the first of his reports:

I'm still a bit of a novice in the kitchen, but I've been cooking for a few years now, and I'm getting better. I've found that the best way to improve is through experimentation: doing first and learning after.

I'll spend hours in the kitchen concocting various dishes from my imagination, listening to tunes and sipping good beer. While this method often leads to disastrous results, it can lead to some pretty tasty meals -- and is extremely entertaining in the meantime.

I am particularly interested in cooking with local ingredients (including beer) and I love going to In Season Local Market, picking up whatever stands out and trying to think of something to do with it. On a recent trip, the organic quinoa from White Mountain Farms in Mosca piqued my interest. I knew quinoa was a versatile and tasty ingredient, but to be honest, I didn't know that much about it otherwise. In fact, I'm a little ashamed to say that I didn't even know what it was, really; uncooked, it looked like bird feed to me.

So I bought the quinoa and a few other items, determined to make a meal of them. And since I was in Highland, I went to Mondo Vino to pick up a beer to pair with my mystery meal: a bomber of Left Hand Brewing's TNT, a tea-infused Weizen Doppelbock. I had yet to try that one, but felt it matched the earthy color of the quinoa.

Once home, I looked up White Mountain Farms, which is located in the San Luis Valley, and learned that it's been specializing in quinoa since 1984. I also learned that quinoa is a cereal grain rich in vitamins and complete with proteins; the Incas cultivated it centuries ago. The White Mountain site recommends using it as a substitute for pretty much any grain called for in a recipe.

After a little more research, some brainstorming and a few beers, I came up with a plan that turned the quinoa into a wonderful and hearty meal, a rice pilaf-style dish with a breakfast twist. And it passed the ultimate test; my girlfriend loved it. She actually requested it for dinner the next night, something she rarely does. A success, indeed!

I paired it with the remainder of the TNT and it was a good pairing. The maltiness of the Doppelbock complemented the toastiness of the quinoa, and cooking with the beer created a nice depth of flavor when I drank it with the dish. The beer was subtle enough to not overpower the simplicity of the rest of the ingredients, and the herbal hint of tea in the beer was nicely accentuated by the touch of thyme in the dish.

Here's the recipe:

Sunday Night Brunch

1 cup of quinoa 2 tablespoons of butter 1/2 onion, chopped 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped 1 pint of strong dark wheat beer (in this case, TNT Weizen Doppelbock) 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock 1 teaspoon of dry thyme 1 large potato chopped into 1" cubes 1 bag of spinach 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms chopped olive oil kosher salt and pepper 2 eggs sriracha sauce

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper till each piece is thoroughly coated and bake for about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, shaking occasionally so they don't stick.

While the potatoes roast, in a large nonstick skillet, toss and toast the quinoa over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. This is the fun part: I love tossing things in a skillet, I find it very therapeutic, and the smell of toasted quinoa is absolutely amazing! In fact, I might toast it once a week just for the smell of it.

Sauté the onions and garlic in butter for about 10 minutes over medium heat or until the onions are soft. Add beer and reduce until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add toasted quinoa and stir to combine. Add the stock and thyme and bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and cover for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the liquid.

Sauté mushrooms and spinach in some olive oil with a good pinch of salt and fry two eggs sunny side up (or any other way you like) in some olive oil.

Pile quinoa on a plate and top with mushrooms, spinach and roasted potatoes and a fried egg (the runny yolk will create a bit of a sauce). Garnish with sriracha. Serves two.

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