Friday, June 21, 2013

Let's get this party started...



Booze… liquor… alcohol… hooch…

Great stuff right there. Some call it the solution to-- and cause of-- many of life’s problems.


That’s right folks, I’m here to discuss booze with you. Now I’m not talking about drinking it and tearing up the town, although I could give you a few great stories. Like how the people you trust the most with your safety feel compelled to draw a penis on your forehead in permanent ink when you pass out and the next day you have scrub it so hard that you swear you’re polishing bone. Or waking up in the morning and somehow in the night a witch has cast a spell that transformed the girl on your arm from Scarlett Johansson to Sandra Bernhardt.  There is a great blog article to be found in regaling the stories of being “floor lickin’ loser pissed” but this is not the one. No I’m not here to talk about those great nights that we so often cannot remember until we see the YouTube clip. I’m here to talk about food--and more specifically cooking-- with booze.

Booze is an amazing way to add flavor to food, it is as simple as that. There are multiple ways to use it in cooking and--like all flavor enhancers-- most people need to use trial and error to get it right, like what I said in my post about spices.

The first and easiest way to use booze in food is simply as a flavor. By that I mean add it to your food while you cook it, and that is that. I make a wicked Irish Stew *see recipe below* that uses two cans of Guinness stout to help make the broth. This adds some serious depth of flavor and gives the claim of the stew being Irish a bit of credibility. I also use white wine in a white wine and mustard sauce that I put on clam linguine. Got the idea from Food Network. Seriously, watch it. Hell you can even use alcohol that is still in the package when cooking if you stuff a can of beer up a chicken’s wazoo before you put it on the BBQ and make Beer can Chicken.


Another method of using alcohol is as a marinade. Using red wine to marinade roasts adds huge amounts of flavor and actually begins to break down the connective tissue in the meat which will tenderize it for you a bit. I personally have used wine, whiskey, tequila, rum, beer and vodka in marinades before and they all turned out well.

The two methods above can also be combined as in the case of my “Tequila-Lime Enchiladas” recipe that I previously posted. The leftover marinade is cooked down to make the sauce in the enchiladas. This picks up extra flavor in the food and is less wasteful. I also reuse the red wine marinade from my roasts as the braising liquid and then put the left over “juices” after the roast is cooked in the gravy. Now I’m getting hungry…

The fourth way to use booze in cooking is to make a sauce with it. I’ve found that BBQ sauce lends itself to booze as an ingredient exceptionally well. Who among us hasn’t had a Jack Daniels BBQ sauce at some point, or a beer and chipotle sauce?
And finally, you can use booze simply as the people who make it intend on you using it to enhance your meal; drink it. There are entire industries made on pairing wine with food and as a lifelong baseball fan I can tell you that there is magic involved when hot dogs and beer get together at the ballpark*. Others feel that a small glass or shot of some kind of spirits matches fantastically with your favorite dessert. Always remember that if you are drinking to do it responsibly and either know your limits or have a way home.

*shameless plug – I have posted regularly on the MLB.com message board for well over a decade now and we are always interested in having new and fun people to talk to. If you enjoy baseball and good discussion please use the following link and come give us a try: http://www.forums.mlb.com/ml-mlb

So there it is, cooking with booze. I raise a glass to you for making it this far and hope to see you here again.

Chris Irish Stew

Ingredients:
2 Pounds Lean Stew Beef                                6 Large Potatoes Chopped
2 Cups Carrots Chopped                                  3 Stalks Celery Chopped
7 Cloves Garlic Crushed                                  1 Large onion Chopped
1 ½ Cups Frozen Peas                                      2 Cups Fresh Mushrooms Chopped
4 Cups Beef Stock                                            2 Cans Guinness Beer
1 Small Can Tomato Paste                               Seasoning Salt
Black Pepper                                                    Sunflower Oil

Directions:
  1. Make sure the beef is fully thawed and has been patted dry with paper towel. Put enough oil in the bottom of your stew pot to just coat it and put on medium-high heat. Once the oil it hot, add enough beef to just cover the bottom of the pot. Turn once it is brown. Remove once both sides are browned. Repeat until all of the beef is browned.
  2. Once the beef is out of the pan, add the garlic and stir with a wooden spoon making sure to scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, these are HUGE flavor. Once the garlic is translucent, add the beef stock, the browned beef, the onion, half of the potatoes, both cans of Guinness and the tomato paste. Stir it all together really well, making sure you get all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pot.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium until it boils and then reduce to simmer. Simmer until the potatoes have dissolved into the mixture (about 3 hours).
  4. Add the rest of the potatoes, the carrots, celery and the mushrooms and simmer for 30 minutes or so
  5. Mix 1 Tbsp cornstarch in 4 Tbsp cold water and add to Stew if thickening is desired. Bring entire pot to a boil to thicken.
  6. Add peas with there is about 5 minutes until serving. 
Bon appetite...

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