As the saying goes, “I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food.” It’s funny, but it’s so true when it comes to fish and shellfish, which are natural pairings for the subtle, earthy flavors of both wine and beer.
While a frosty pilsner or crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc can be a refreshing complement to seafood dishes at the table, these beverages can also be used as ingredients to enhance whatever seafood you’re cooking.
Here are some simple suggestions for using wine and beer in your favorite seafood dishes—no complicated recipes necessary!
Cooking with Wine
If you’re pouring yourself a glass of wine while you cook, save a few splashes for the final touch in your fish dish: an easy wine pan sauce.
After pan searing your fish, use a splash of red or white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits left on the bottom (those browned bits? Flavor bombs!). Add minced fresh herbs for bright flavor and a pat of butter to thicken the sauce. Keep in mind that red wine will affect the color of the seafood as it cooks.
Or use white wine as a simple way to add even more flavor to poaching liquid for fillets and portions like halibut, salmon, or bass. Replace up to half the broth or water with white wine, and simmer just until the fish is flaky.
Cooking with Beer
Beer has been a traditional ingredient in shellfish recipes across the globe, from Belgium to Portugal to the American South.
Mussels and clams can be steamed in a beer-infused broth with other aromatic ingredients for a quick and easy meal. This endlessly versatile method lets you experiment with different styles of beer, from wheaty Belgian ales to rich brown ales to refreshing lagers.
Bring beer to a simmer with garlic and herbs, then add cleaned shellfish and other ingredients. Try chorizo sausage or kielbasa for a hearty dish, or cilantro and chilies for a Thai-inspired meal. Serve with crusty bread to sop up all that delicious broth.
For a classic summer seafood celebration, a beer boil with Old Bay or Creole seasoning is traditional for shrimp and crabs. Bring a 1:1 mixture of beer and water to a boil with your choice of seasonings, then add shellfish and simmer until cooked through - it's ready in minutes.
Or instead of boiling your seafood in beer, fry it with our easy beer tempura batter recipe. The carbonation in beer adds lightness to the batter, along with extra flavor. It’s as easy as whisking equal parts flour, egg, and beer together to dip everything from shrimp to scallops to fish portions and fillets like cod or haddock for a twist on the traditional fish and chips recipe.
Bonus: Cooking with Other Liquors
European dry ciders, like those from Normandy or the Basque region of Spain, are tart and funky instead of the sweet ciders that are so popular in summer. These bottled ciders also make excellent pairings for steamed mussels.
Using sake in all the methods described above is another way to bring lightness and body to your seafood recipes. Poach delicate fillets like whiting, or use as a marinade ingredient along with miso and mirin on halibut or salmon.