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Food: Cold brew and a cheesy slice a perfect pair

Doug Schenkelberg with his Hoppy Wheat Beer, one of the beer offerings at the Feb. 1 Rock the House fundraiser in Oak Park. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

Doug Schenkelberg with his Hoppy Wheat Beer, one of the beer offerings at the Feb. 1 Rock the House fundraiser in Oak Park. | Photo by Melissa Elsmo

Peanut butter and jelly.

Spaghetti and meatballs.

Bacon and eggs.

Countless classic food combinations are worth clamoring for, but good old pizza and beer are the very best of yeasty companions. Kicking back with a cold brew and a cheesy slice is the stuff that the best lazy Sunday afternoons are made of.

While classics never fall out of fashion, the surge in popularity of the craft beer movement has inspired brewers and chefs alike to rethink the relationship between beer and food. A proper craft beer can stand up to high-end fare and partner with dishes featuring witheringly bold spices or subtle complexity. Given the adaptability of quality beers, passionate local home-brewer, Doug Schenkelberg, is eager to take beer pairings beyond pizza and pub fare.

“I’ve always been a fan of craft beer,” muses Schenkelberg, “but I shied away from making my own because I felt it was something best left to the professionals.” In time, however, curiosity got the better of him and he was inspired to learn more about home brewing. Under the guidance of friend and fellow brewer, Dave Kahlow, Schenkelberg began churning out batches of high quality craft beer on a regular basis.

While Schenkelberg recommends a fruity saison as a good universal beer to enjoy with a vast array of foods, he has a hoppy wheat beer coming of age and is ready to share it with lucky guests at an upcoming beer and food pairing event sponsored by the Oak Park Regional Housing Center and School of Rock. The event, called Rock the House, matches talented home brewers with local chefs in hopes of creating unexpected and flavorful pairings.

Schenkelberg’s session beer (meaning it has lower alcohol content making it suitable to consume more than one in a single session) possesses noticeable grapefruit flavors and a creamy quality similar to a Belgian Wit beer. The citrus essences carve through fatty flavors while the beverage’s flavor of bitter hops should bring out the natural spice in a variety of dishes.

We’ll have to wait and see what pairing Oak Park Barbecue Chef Rich Klevgard will offer with Schenkelberg’s latest creation, but in the meantime why not whip up a pizza to go with a hoppy beer and enjoy a timeless and tasty treat.

Happy Pizza for a Hoppy Beer

If you’re a hot-head try pairing this spicy pie with a Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and take a classic pairing to the next level.

For the crust:

  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 envelope of active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1, 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the toppings:

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 8 ounces of sautéed spinach, seasoned well and drained of excess liquid
  • 1/2 cup chopped salami
  • 1/4-1/2 cup hot giardiniera, rinsed and well drained

For the crust:

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, Italian seasoning and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the machine running on low, gradually add the water until a soft dough forms (add scant amounts of water or flour as needed). Knead the dough on the hook or by hand for 8-10 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover, and allow to sit in a warm place until doubled in volume.

For the sauce:

While the dough rises make the sauce. Sauté the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor. Add the red peppers, sugar, salt and pepper flakes. Process the mixture until well combined and relatively smooth.

To assemble the pizza:

Preheat the oven (and a pizza stone if using) to 450 degrees. Divide the dough into thirds. Roll a portion of the dough to a 1/8th-inch thickness and brush with olive oil. Transfer rolled dough to a pizza pan, cornmeal dusted sheet pan, or to the hot pizza stone and precook the crust for 10 minutes, tamping down any bubbles that form. Top the par-cooked crust with some of the roasted red pepper sauce and the remaining toppings. Return the pizza to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until cheeses have melted and the crust is golden brown and crispy.

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