By Aaron Ramson
The versatile Saison is one of many styles of beer brought back from the brink of extinction by the craft beer movement of the 2000s. Once referred to as a dying style, the beer saw an incredible popularity boom in 2006, when the Great American Beer Festival saw a massive increase in Saison recipes entered into medal competition, capping off a 76% popularity growth over two years. This was a brewer’s beer, a style that was as novel as it was approachable, was more complex than a Kolsch while being easier to quantify than the numerical types of beer referred to as “Belgians”. While the Saison is every bit as Belgian as the Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel and Quad, its lineage is far humbler. While the Enkel, or Patersbier as its alternately called, is a low-alcohol, blonde ale brewed in Trappist Breweries by monks, the Saison is a low-alcohol, blonde ale brewed in farm houses by farmers. The Saison was traditionally brewed in cooler months to be stored until the end of spring or beginning of summer, when the farmer would bring bottles to his field workers to quench their thirsts and revive them (for what I can only imagine was even more hours of hard work under the sun. Have you ever tried to do yard work after a couple of beers? I’ve been drinking Saison beer while writing this and all I want to do now is nap).
The Saison may have been lower in alcohol than some of the Abbey-made ales, but it more than made up for a lack in strength with an abundance of character. A light color and lighter body belie the fact that this is a robust, rustic ale that can be paired with a wide variety of foods, especially the bold flavors of beef and lamb. It’s with this in mind that I chose Sierra Nevada’s Saison de Rose as the base for a floral, fruity and citrusy meat marinade. IPAs have become very popular for cooking with for the complex flavors they add to meat and vegetables, despite the lingering bitterness it can add to dishes. A Saison can add even greater complexity without the bitter bite of an IPA, allowing the more delicate flavors of your dish to shine through.
Beer is an excellent marinating agent, tenderizing meat as well as guarding against the formation of carcinogenic compounds in food cooked over a grill. I used a top sirloin cut of beef while making this recipe, but a tri-tip would work equally well. It’s a very simple marinade, every ingredient is easy to find, except one. Dried jasmine flowers have a sweet, delicate flavor that compliment the floral characteristics of Saison. While they aren’t hard to find, they’re not exactly something you can find at your neighborhood Walmart. They can be omitted from this recipe and the marinade will still be full of fantastic flavor! The addition of dried jasmine blossoms is like the whipped cream and cherry on an ice cream sundae, it’s a small difference, but just better with it.
JASMINE BLOSSOM AND SAISON De ROSE MARINATED TOP SIRLOIN
2 lbs. Top Sirloin, tri-tip, flank steaks, or other lean cut of beef.
12 oz can of Sierra Nevada Saison de Rose or substitute with your favorite Saison.
1 Tbsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar
2 limes, juiced and zested
3 cloves garlic
1 serrano chili
2 dried figs, chopped
2 Tbsp dried jasmine
Combine all ingredients and marinate steaks for 3 to 8 hours in the refrigerator.
Remove from fridge and allow to come to room temperature for 20 minutes prior to cooking.
Grilling over open flame is the recommended method of cooking, if a grill isn’t available, pan frying in cast iron also works nicely.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a combination of olive oil and butter in a cast iron pan, heat the oil until it just starts to smoke, then add your steaks to the pan, cooking for 1-2 minutes per side on high heat to create a nice sear. Place the pan with your seared steaks in the oven for 6 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your cut, this will cook your steaks from medium-rare to medium. Add or reduce cooking time in the oven to cook to a desired thoroughness; I know people who think anything cooked past blue is over-cooking. It is so important to allow your steaks to rest and the juices to reabsorb back into the muscle fibers! Cut the meat against the grain, and serve with sides of your choice. We paired our jasmine and Saison steaks with coconut fig rice, and sautéed green beans. Bon Appetit!