After a hard week, a favorite leisure time activity that a lot of people see as a great form of relaxation is firing up the grill in their backyard with an ice cold beer or a glass of wine in hand. Whether you partake in drinking alcohol or not, all of us do however, like a bit of spirit tossed into some of our favourite meals. It’s not surprising at all that alcohol is a very commonly used ingredient in a lot of kitchens. It has various uses which make it a versatile ingredient.
In order to get started, one must have a basic understanding of pairing food and alcohol as part of the finished meal. The rule to cooking with alcohol is based on keeping it simple. Cooking with alcohol is also very similar to food pairings with alcohol. Which goes to say darker spirits work with darker meats, sauces and dishes that are heavy on proteins. On the other hand, light coloured spirits belong with lighter and white meats, sauces and low-protein food.
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Another imperative rule of cooking with alcohol is also a safety tip of sorts – avoid the flambé technique if you’re not an expert. Flambé is a style of cooking where a generous amount of any spirit is poured on food and is set ablaze as alcohol has highly flammable properties. This is a big no-no to avoid any kind of home accidents.
Here are some of our favourite recipes, made using different kinds of spirits that you can easily experiment with at home.
Penne A ‘la Vodka
This dish is hearty and quite filling — not to mention the fact that it makes for great leftovers.
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 30 min
Total: 40 min
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- 500 gms dried penne pasta
- 500 gms Italian sausage
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 500 gms button mushrooms, sliced
- 30 gms chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp. vodka
- 4 cups loosely packed spinach leaves
- Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated to taste
- Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and keep warm.
- Meanwhile, brown sausage in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until cooked through; remove and drain on paper towels.
- Melt butter in the same skillet; add onions and salt, and sauté until tender, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add garlic, red pepper, and mushrooms; cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, cream, vodka, and return the sausage to the pot. Allow the mixture to come to a slow simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes uncovered.
- Prior to serving, fold in the pasta, followed by the spinach, and toss until spinach is wilted and incorporated. Serve with grated cheese.
Beer Can Chicken
Often tried, but rarely perfected, this is one of those techniques which marks the real marriage of cooking and alcohol. The beer lends extra flavour and moisture to the chicken throughout the cooking process. To get the best results, use a gas grill over indirect heat. You can go old school and just invert the chicken up on the can.
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 60 – 75 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 min – 25 min
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- 2-3 kgs young chicken, washed and rinsed clean
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp. Creole seasoning
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 can beer, open and with a couple sips taken
- Beer can chicken stainless stand
- Butcher’s twine
- Prepare a charcoal smoker or gas grill for indirect heating/smoking over medium heat, about 130-150 degree celsius.
- Meanwhile, coat chicken in oil, and evenly rub the Creole seasoning into the chicken, including the cavity. Stuff cavity with garlic and lemon, and place the chicken on top of the beer on the stand. Secure by tying the legs together with butcher’s twine.
- Smoke the chicken, rotating on occasion, until the internal temperature reaches 75 degrees celsius.
- Tent with foil and allow the bird to rest for 20 minutes prior to cutting and serving.
Blueberry and Peach Bourbon Granola Crisp
This is a simplified version of a classic cobbler, full of fresh peaches and blueberries. You can use this same fruit mixture for traditional cobblers or pies, the crispy granola crunch on top is what it’s all about though (apart from the Bourbon of course) – and is also much easier to prepare.
Prep: 15 min
Cook: 40 min
Total: 55 min
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- 3 ripe peaches — pitted, peeled, and sliced
- 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 2 tbsp. Bourbon
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
- 1 cup granola
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 4 tbsp. cold butter, cubed
- Preheat oven to 190 degree celcius.
- Toss the fruit mixture together into a greased cooking pan until evenly combined.
- Next, add the topping ingredients in a mixing bowl, cutting the butter into the dry ingredients until you get a coarse crumble.
- Spread the topping over the top of the fruit mixture and bake for 30-40 minutes or until browned and crispy.
- Cool slightly before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired.
Any kind of alcohol can be used for cooking as long as you have a recipe in place. Browse through our vast collection of different spirits that can be used as an ingredient in any of your meals: http://bit.ly/1y5bcyo