Tricks, tips, and recipes for cooking with alcohol?
February 18, 2008 11:01 PM   Subscribe

Tricks, tips, and recipes for cooking with alcohol?

I'm talking about things like Beer-Glazed Black Beans or Penne with Vodka Sauce. I've recently turned 21 and now have a proper array of liqueurs, wines, beers, etc, and would love to work on incorporating those into my cooking.

Other things -- I eat mostly vegetarian: lots of fish, some (very little, really) chicken and red meat, although there's no reason not to give suggestions for those kinds of things. I cook a lot, and tend to prefer simpler recipes that I can expand on (like the Bittman one for the black beans) as opposed to some ridiculous, drawn out America's Test Kitchen style recipe.

But really, it's all good. What are your favorite ways of cooking with booze?
posted by rossination to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I can just tell you a bit of knowlege I just read the other day. It actually takes a lot of time to cook off the alcohol you add to a dish, so if you, for example, put in some red wine in pasta sauce, it can take upwards of 30 minutes or more for the alcohol to boil away. Obviously it all depends on the strength of the alcohol and heat of the fire. So don't assume that if you've cooked it "a bit", that all the booze will be gone.
posted by zardoz at 11:21 PM on February 18, 2008

Make pancakes and substitute Duvel or a nice Hefeweizen in place of water.
posted by jclovebrew at 11:43 PM on February 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Deglaze mushrooms or steak au poivre with cognac. Make crepe batter with beer or cider. Steam mussels in white wine. Stew beef with red wine (Boeuf Bourguignon) or beer (Carbonnade). Coq au vin. Vodka tomato pasta sauce.

A lot of traditional European dishes call for alcohol. Wine is used all the time in Italian and French cooking, beer in Belgian and British dishes. I would just look into some "traditional" cookbooks like The Silver Spoon which contain good basic recipes for dishes like the ones I listed.
posted by kepano at 1:03 AM on February 19, 2008

Beer brats! My mom used to make them with my dad's cheap budweiser, so you probably don't need great stuff, though probably better beer will make it taste better.
posted by Jhoosier at 3:39 AM on February 19, 2008

The undisputed king of cooking alcohols is, of course, the wine category.
That said, my two go-to guys from the spirits category are bourbon and Meyer's Rum. Either of those two can work wonders.

In all cases, be sure to follow the simple rule..."Never cook with anything you wouldn't drink straight-up".
posted by Thorzdad at 4:03 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: I love cooking with liquor. Generally I light brandy and other spirits to burn off the alcohol. I don't use cognac a lot with vegetables, though.

I like to cook with white vermouth, mostly to wilt greens like chard and kale. Try frying some chopped garlic and olive oil on medium until the garlic begins to soften and turn golden. Add chopped kale and a few table spoons white vermouth, stir and cover and cook until the greens are soft. Sprinkle with lemon and pepper flakes.

White wine is a must for me when adding cheese to sauces. But you will want it to cook off the alcohol for at least 5 minutes.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:12 AM on February 19, 2008

A good sized glass of white wine at the start of a risotto helps it be extra-yummy - it's the first liquid you work into the grains (once it soaks in and evaporates you carry on with stock). Plus, then the bottle's open and you can be sipping while you stir.
posted by tiny crocodile at 4:18 AM on February 19, 2008

Second the mushroom idea. Mushrooms are amazingly useful- once they've lost their water they act like little culinary sponges. Try sauteing some in olive oil until they lose most of their liquid (reduce by about 50%) and then deglaze with dry Marsala wine. The mushrooms soak up the wine, and can then serve as the base of an amazing chicken/tofu marsala, to which I usually add marscapone cheese and a bit of mustard. mefi mail me if you'd like a recipe.
posted by farishta at 4:47 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: Frankly, the rule about "not cooking with stuff you wouldn't drink" is missing the point. If you won't drink X because it's bitter or foul-tasting, then yeah, don't cook with it or your food will come out bitter and foul-tasting.

But if you won't drink X because it's too weak (e.g. cheap beer) or too sweet (e.g. box wine) or even too sour (e.g. wine gone to vinegar) then cooking is the perfect use for it. A beloved recipe from a friend of mine, for oxtail stew, begins with a bottle of "the cheapest, fruitiest rose wine you can possible find." It is a necessary ingredient; I've tried using the good stuff, and it's just not the same. Likewise, the right thing to cook potatoes in is Pabst or the local equivalent. You don't want them tasting bitter, fruity and ale-ish or chocolate and Guinness-y — just a little malty and rich.

(I've found that when you're cooking with beer, the thing to be wary of is hops. Most of the interesting hops taste — the flowery and spicy scents, the fruity flavors, all the stuff that makes a good IPA good — will boil off quickly. On the other hand, the bitterness of hops can survive as much cooking as you put it through. As a result, many excellent beers are just about worthless for cooking, except as a spoonful or two added towards the end and off the heat so the good flavor can't cook off. On the other hand, stouts generally don't have much hops at all, and cooking with them can be awesome.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:35 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, Julia Child took a run at that don't-cook-with-what-you-wouldn't-drink thing, and found that if you're applying a lot of heat to any alcohol, there isn't really a big difference between top-shelf and bottom-shelf. YMMV
posted by craven_morhead at 7:06 AM on February 19, 2008

Any desert recipe involving raisins can be made into a rum-raisin version by soaking the raisins in rum overnight beforehand. Rum raisin oatmeal cookies, rum raisin brownies, etc. (Note: per zardoz, most of the alcohol will not cook off. Just because you're baking at an oven temperature of 350°F or whatever doesn't mean that the desert itself reaches that temperature; if it did, it would be a inedible charred lump.)

Seconding nebulawindphone's and craven_morhead's comments about the "don't cook with what you wouldn't drink" rule. The truth is that there are very very few wines out there that are downright bad. There's different levels of good, to be sure, but nearly any wine on the market meets a minimum level of drinkability. There's plenty of perfectly acceptable wines on the market in the $5-7/bottle range which are fine for cooking. Heck, if you're near a Trader Joe's (your profile says you're in Seattle, and they have several stores there), go and pick up some of the "Two Buck Chuck" (a.k.a. Charles Shaw, actually three or four dollars per bottle in some areas). It may not be great wine, but it's drinkable, and certainly good enough for cooking with.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:16 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: Inhale the alcohol from the pan just after adding the wine or spirit. Get's you drunk very fast, as well as quite light-headed ; >

Most of the risotto recipes I know of would add the wine or sherry at the end of the cooking phase, fyi.

I will always add red wine to a vegetarian pasta sauce, if it is tomato based and I have some old or cheap wine to get rid of. I add the wine after the onions have sauted and before the tomato goes in. You can make a pretty tasty sauce with puy lentils, grated carrot and the usual onions and tomato. Add garlic to the oil to saute briefly, then more afer the tomato goes in.

Make aubergine steak with olive oil, red wine, corriander seed and garlic (probably other ingredients). Check recipe, probably from the 'Food for Friends' cook book.

Beer batter is nice and light for your fish. Also works for making your pakoras lighter.

Fish and white wine, covered in the oven.

New potatoes with precise amount of red and some corriander seeds. All the wine is absorbed and the potatoes are pink inside.

Baked bananas with rum, added before or after cooking. Pop some chocolate in as well.

Pour a few tablespoons of rum over a warm chocolate, banana or pineapple cake to make people think you are a sophisticated cook who knows how to work with alcohol. It is absorbed almost immediately and adds to the aromatic enticement. Just don't let them see you doing it.

Make a decent bloody mary, that is an artform in itself. Anything less than 10 ingredients* just isn't going to cut it ; ) *Tomato juice, vodka, lea and perrin's (or similar), celery salt, sherry, lemon juice, something hot (tabasco, piri piri, jalapeno juice from the jar etc), silver onion juice from the jar, black pepper and ice.

Make a jus with red wine and horseradish/wild mushrooms/giblets and bones to pour over the steak or wild-fowl.

Generally, I don't bother cooking with alcohol and just drink the stuff, unlike some who do both.
posted by asok at 8:17 AM on February 19, 2008

Make saghanaki. Take a Greek cheese like kefalotiri or kefalograviera (or feta, if you must) and cut into 3/4-in thick slabs. Fry in butter for a couple of minutes on each side. Plate it, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top, douse it in brandy, set it on fire. When the flames die down, hit it with some fresh cracked pepper and/or oregano. Serve with crusty bread. Simple, sinful, dramatic, delish.

You should also learn to make beurre blanc, especially if you eat a lot of fish. The linked recipe uses vinegar, I use white wine the way God intended -- lower the heat a bit and use a bit more liquid and allow it to cook down for a while longer. If you can't find shallots, use a sweet onion, but it'll make for a sharper-tasting sauce. I cut the butter in away from the heat entirely. If it separates, add a bit more butter over very low heat and whisk it back together.

And then there's beer can chicken. It's really good.

For dessert try bread pudding with whiskey sauce.

A helpful tip from Captain Obvious: When cooking with flammable liquids (ie, 101 proof and up), add them to the pan away from the flame if you value your eyebrows.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:42 AM on February 19, 2008

This beer and cheddar soup is delicious.
posted by rtha at 8:58 AM on February 19, 2008

Best answer: If I am looking to deglaze without adding acidity, I like to do it with vodka rather than wine. It adds a sweetness without the fruity flavor.
This works well with already acidic sauces (such as marinara).
posted by Seamus at 10:41 AM on February 19, 2008

One thing to be aware of—beer, especially cheap lager, is really sweet. It's easy to unbalance a dish by adding too much beer and having it need something to cut it.

That said, beer is one of the most important ingredients for fried onions.
posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on February 19, 2008

Any dish that uses chicken and/or chicken broth, I almost always add sherry. I use plain old cooking sherry from the grocery store. Foodies will tell you to only use the good stuff, but I use it so much that I can only afford the super market brand. Whichever one you use, sherry makes all the difference between a so-so dish and something really tasty.
posted by marsha56 at 3:48 PM on February 19, 2008

I add some vodka to my beer batter for frying fish. About 1/3 vodca in relation to the whole liquid. Alchohol burns off faster than water, leaving a crisper, crunchier crust.
posted by zaelic at 4:04 PM on February 19, 2008

For a family barbecue I sliced up a pineapple and marinated the slices in a mixture of rum and brown sugar. I put the slices on the barbeque for about two minutes on each side and served in a bowl with whipped cream.
posted by lemonwheel at 4:40 PM on February 19, 2008

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