While doing their part to maintain social distance, home cooks everywhere are honing their skills in the kitchen. Feast consulted with some of St. Louis' finest chefs and business owners for their best advice on how to make easy, wholesome meals using simple pantry staples. Find out how to make the most of your groceries in this Q&A series, which outlines some pro tips for creating comforting from-scratch food, drinks and more.
Brewer Stuart Keating co-owns Earthbound Beer, which focuses on small-batch beers brewed with experimental ingredients and techniques. The brewery’s tasting room is currently closed temporarily. In the meantime, the business is currently offering beer, merch and frozen tamales from The Tamale Man through a to-go window Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 8pm and Saturday through Sunday from noon to 8pm.
To order items available for pickup at the window, visit the Earthbound Beer website. Earthbound products including its core line in cans are also available via local retailers. Check out the Earthbound Facebook page for updates on special releases, including upcoming fundraisers for Circus Flora and Metro Trans Umbrella Group, as well potential food items on offer from Fattened Caf.
What are some essential ingredients in your kitchen that you can't go without? Some essential ingredients in my kitchen are butter, whole milk, sushi rice, shallots, piment d'esplette (a southern French/Basque dried pepper I discovered last year) and sumac. We use sumac in a lot of meat rubs and the occasional red fruit dish, where it adds a slight edge that pops the fruit to the next level. We go through a lot of culinary phases and are way down on our meat consumption. We've been working with buttermilk in all sorts of things and it's great.
What are some of your favorite quick meals to prepare whenever you're having a busy day? We had our first and only kid on March 2 so we are both at home pretty much all the time and I do most of our cooking. I cook to de-stress so we have lots of stupid elaborate meals that involve insane amounts of prep time. For quick meals, we make a lot of paellas and fried rice dishes and I started keeping a mix of chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeños, green curry paste and lime juice to toss leftover rice with. We call it "green rice" and it's good with all sorts of vegetables and proteins.
What advice can you offer beginners hoping to make their own home brews? Everyone should try making beer at home – it's a lot of fun! I would recommend starting from a kit, preferably one of those one-gallon kits you can get from your friendly local homebrew store. St. Louis Wine and Beermaking has been my go-to for over a decade. We still order stuff from them.
Learn the basics of sanitation and process that way and then explore from there – lots of people like to make five-gallon batches (I made hundreds as a homebrewer), but I eventually found myself working in smaller amounts so I could experiment more. It also cuts the time and space involved down by a lot. Get some 750mL swing-top bottles. It makes bottling easier and homebrew is all about sharing.
The most important thing is to not stress – beer wants to become beer and there are few things you can do to really prevent that from happening. It might not be your favorite beer, but it also probably won't be truly undrinkable. And every mistake is a lesson!
Can you share an easy beginner’s recipe, including tips for how to get creative with it? Absolutely! I recommend buying a kit for your first time brewing, but if you're just determined to go for the gold, here's an easy recipe.
- 1 gallon water
- 1 lb Pilsner dried malt extract
- 1 lb wildflower honey
- zest of 1 lemon
- Nottingham ale yeast (or other neutral ale yeast)
Bring one gallon of water to a boil, add Pilsner malt extract, stir to incorporate and let boil for about an hour. Since you're not using hops you don't really need to boil for an hour but it lets everyone in the house know that you're serious about the process. You can also crush several beers in that time. Anyway, once the boil is over, add honey and lemon zest and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain into your fermentation vessel (a six-quart Cambro or a gallon glass jug would work, but don't fill it all the way up), add yeast once it's cooled to room temperature and keep loosely covered in a cool, dark place while it ferments. Once fermentation is mostly done (the foam on the top will subside), move to stoppered glass bottles, seal and let rest in a cool dark place for another week. This is a pretty crash-course recipe but you can at least understand what's going on.
What are some other fun at-home kitchen projects you've done that you'd recommend for others to try? I've been making shallot jam by the gallon. You cook down as many shallots as you can stand slicing with a few dabs of brown butter, some vinegar, some sherry (or a lighter amaro like Pasubio) and a bunch of brown sugar. It's excellent with bread and cheese and all sorts of other stuff. Kristina and I bought Gabrielle Hamilton's cookbook at the Friends of the Library book fair last year and it's brilliant – I've been working on mastering some of the techniques in it. Mostly we've been learning how to chill out and not be at work all the time!