With thanks to Cynthia Wenslow who helped choose this topic, this month we're going to do some spirited cooking. You know, booze. Hooch. The hard stuff. Distilled alcohols which would include but are not limited to the likes of brandy, gin, whiskey, vodka, rum and tequila. Pernod and the like, with alcohols at around 40%, qualify too, but we don't mean to get into the sweet, candy-flavor alcohols and schanpps.
Don't know about you, but outside of brandy for the occasional Steak Diane or to light some lobster shells on fire, I just don't cook with the hard stuff.
Apparently the rest of the world hasn't had the same problem. Cooks Illustrated recently devoted an entire article to what they deemed a new American classic: penne with vodka sauce. This recipe was the winner of some vodka brand's recipe contest in the early 70's and became a huge hit. So huge that you can even buy the sauce pre-made off the supermarket shelf, a la Paul Newman or Ragu. The sauce workds because vodka, says Cooks, has a real affinity for tomatoes.
Kentuckians have been pouring bourbon into their BBQ sauce for years. Crab-Whisky soup is a popular recipe among fish houses, whisky sauces are poured over bread puddings, and rums and brandies find their way into baked goods. There are lots of ways to use these gentlemanly drinks, but some of us just haven't gotten around to finding out.
As I said, guilty. A recent article about vacationing in Nantucket in Saveur magazine had a recipe that caught my eye. It involved a whole roasted fish filet topped with finely diced onion, lime juice, butter, and half a cup of gin. That's not a conservative amount and it's not going to fade into the background--which is good. I can't quite imagine what that tastes like but for the sake of both an expanded horizon and an improved repertoire, this month I'm going to find out. That is, if I can find a good piece of fresh fish, which is not easy this time of year where I live.
Although it's not likely to be an issue for the readers of this forum, even modest alcohol content can be an issue for religious or health reasons of the people we cook for, so something that's important to address is the extent to which alcohol "burns off". It's widely accepted that exposure to heat dissipates alcohol quickly. In fact, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Data Laboratory is does not--yes, where the harsh taste alcohol can have does does blow off somewhat quickly, the inebriatory effects remain in greater quantity than most of us probably realize. Here's their table, by method, with the alcohol remaining afterward in percentage:
alcohol added to boiling liquid & removed from heat: 85%
alcohol flamed: 75%
no heat, stored overnight 70%
baked/alcohol not stirred in, 25 minutes: 45%
baked/simmered/stirred 15 minutes: 40%
baked/simmered/stirred 60 minutes: 25%
baked/simmered/stirred 90 minutes: 20%
baked/simmered/stirred 2 hours: 10%
How long until it's gone entirely? Over three hours.
Some might ask, are sherry and port (which, after all, is fortified with distilled alcohol) included in this topic? No. They're deserving of a topic all by themselves and most of us don't need the nudge to use either.
So, that recipe for Pork Chops in Bourbon Mustard Sauce you pulled out of that magazine last time you were at the dentists (when you feigned a cough so no one would hear you tear it)? Here's the excuse you needed to get around to it.
As always, if you have any favorite recipes that feature spirits, we'd love to hear about them. Otherwise, cook at least one recipe this month that involves this topic and report your successes (or failures--we learn from each other's mistakes and disappointments) in new posts.
Cooks, to your kitchens!
Last edited by Jenise
on Thu Jan 04, 2007 2:31 pm, edited 4 times in total.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov