Cooking with Liquor

John Liu

I'd like to have a discussion about if, when and how you use liquor (or liqueur, or likker) when cooking.


That's not wine or beer. Likker, folks! I think the distinction is that liquor is distilled, but I could be wrong.


My own experience with this is very limited. I have made a beef tenderloin with Grand Marnier sauce, and green beans with Amaretto, often enough to call those a repertoire, but that's it.


Tonight I sous vided New York strip steak with Cointreau, and it wasn't any better - actually, faintly less good - than steak at 128 F without the liquor. Not a disaster, but a close call, and I figured I'd better get some real advice.


I mean, I've got a whole liquor cabinet here and am feeling like cooking again, so without some guidance there's apt to be some real stinkers soon. Stewed chicken with tequila? Campari gelato? Whiskey glazed burgers? Tia Maria tomatoes? The possibilities for evil are endless.

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plllog

Alcohol can do magic things, but it can also be drying. I do use liqueurs from time to time. They generally have better flavors than extracts. I'm looking for the flavor, rather than the alcohol, and spoons full, rather than cups. There's a little bottle of brandy in my spice cabinet, as well. With the booze are Grand Marnier, Kahlua, Amaretto, Creme de Cacao and Peppermint Schnapps. The latter two are for baking rather than meat. :) I used to have Sabra, but keep forgetting to buy more. The others, in savory cooking, mostly go into sauces. Things generally wanting alcohol for alcohol's sake generally want Vodka. Once in awhile a recipe wants a slug of tequila. I'm far more likely to use wine or beer, or sometimes Vermouth.

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seagrass_gw

We use Pernod with a shellfish based stew including fennel and always cherry stone clams. Calvados in a winter pork braise with root vegetables and apples. Then there's always Bananas Foster with rum, set on fire tableside.

Two easy desserts a la the French Chef Julia Child in dessert cups are 1) vanilla ice cream with Amaretto and crumbled amaretti cookies and 2) vanilla ice cream with Kahlua and instant coffee powder (bonus points for Pepperidge Farms cookie stuck on the side.)

Overall, I'd rather drink it and cook with beer and wine...

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John Liu

OMG I had the worst walk home after a large steakhouse meal followed by Bananas Foster. The dessert didn't agree with me and I made two detours to throw up in bushes. Just thinking about it gives me plein gorge.

But the Pernod and Calvados sound lovely! I can see trying to make those.

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gyr_falcon

A hefty amount of bourbon (Larceny or Maker's Mark) goes into the marinade for our pork tenderloins, along with ginger, various mustards and garlic. The meat if fairly flavorless without help, IMO, even though we grill it.

A recipe calling for a 1-2 Tablespoons of E&J XO brandy in the mixed meats for cannelloni taught me the plusses of that addition. It really brings out the flavor, much in the same way lime juice does for tortilla soup.

I've used the vodka when called for in some pasta dishes, but I think the difference was not even worth the trouble of pulling it out of the liqueur cabinet.

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wintercat_gw

I used to make Grand Marnier parfait ages ago, with raw eggs - nobody got poisoned. It's a lot of work, but worth it. The Grand Marnier parfait wasn't my favourite, though. I used to make vanilla and lemon parfaits too, and the vanilla was the best of them all.

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sushipup1

Like Gyr, we use a bourbon marinade, but on tri-tip.

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 Jack Daniels
1 T ginger
3/4 cup soy sauce
3 to 4 T
crushed garlic

Also bourbon spiced pecans.

Remember Harvey Wallbanger cakes?

Any rum soaked cake is good, IMHO.

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foodonastump

Gyr - I’d be interested in the recipe or more details of your bourbon pork if you don’t mind.

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foodonastump

Ah I see Sushi posted a recipe. Still interested.

One thing I often find - let me see if I can word this right - when it comes to liquor, when I choose a recipe (or meal at restaurant) specifically because of the liquor, I’m often disappointed in how little the liquor flavor comes through. For instance I was recently looking for a tequila shrimp recipe because it sounded good in my mind, found a highly rated recipe online and it was good but I wouldn’t have picked up on the tequila had I not known. The same is not true for liqueurs. (Add the Pernod slowly to your seafood! (Or, in my opinion, omit it.))

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sushipup1

A long long time ago, about 48 or 49 years ago, I had a boyfriend who was a chef. He made garlic snail butter using Green Chartreuse, simmered the (canned) snails in a broth) and then stuffed them into shells using the butter. Then froze them for future use. They were divine.

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chloebud

I served these over the weekend. FOAS, this might be very close to what you mentioned regarding not tasting the tequila. I can just slightly taste it. I've used the marinade for chicken, too.


Tequila-Lime Grilled Shrimp

Note: I've also marinated the shrimp in a Ziploc bag instead of on the skewers, then skewered right before grilling. Turn/shake the bag occasionally while marinating.

2 pounds large shrimp, preferably in the shell (I use shelled shrimp)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin (I use a generous teaspoon)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

If using wood skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Thread shrimp on skewers. Lay in a single layer in shallow nonreactive dish.

Whisk together lime juice, tequila, garlic, shallots, cumin, cilantro, salt and pepper. Once the salt dissolves, whisk in olive oil.

Pour over shrimp and let marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3-4 hours in fridge.

Prepare grill for medium-heat. Grill shrimp about 3 inches from heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter; shrimp can remain on skewers or be removed. Garnish with lime slices and cilantro (or watercress).

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lindac92

The classic steak Diane comes to mind....as does steak Nicole. And I always use vodka in my pie crust. What's a fruit cake without brandy or rum? and a fruit tart without some framboise or apricot brandy in the pastry cream and a BBQ sauce without bourbon?

And then there's grasshopper pie.

and we haven't even started on all the things containing a goodly splash of wine.

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gyr_falcon

FOAS, Mine has a note it was originally from Amee's Savory Dish, but I think the red pepper flakes might have been my addition, and I sub half of the soy sauce with additional bourbon for personal taste reasons. I marinate the tenderloins for 12-24 hours, and don't use it as a sauce because I dip mine in honey mustard. I'm less a fan of pork tenderloins than the rest of the family. ;)

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH BOURBON SAUCE

1/2 C KENTUCKY BOURBON OR 3/4 C BRANDY

1/4 C SOY SAUCE

1/2 C SCANT DIJON MUSTARD

1/2 C BROWN SUGAR

4 VERY LARGE CLOVES GARLIC, CHOPPED

1/4 C FRESH GINGER, FINELY GRATED

4 TSP WORCESTERSHIRE SAUCE

1/2 C VEGETABLE OIL

1 TSP GROUND RED PEPPER FLAKES

1-2 PORK TENDERLOINS 1 1/2-2 LBS


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chloebud

"And I always use vodka in my pie crust. "


Linda, I remember reading something once about a small amount of vodka produces a flakier, more tender crust w/o adding any flavor. Yes? I've never tried it.





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lindac92

Yep....and it somehow adds a "wheaty" taste....I use half vodka and half water in my piecrust...

I kbow they say never use a wine in cookling that you wouldn't drink....but I keep a bottle of cheap vodka for pie crust....not sure for a couple of tablespoons I can tell the difference between Belvedere and the cheap stuff.

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plllog

The vodka is for the different steam temperature of tye alcohol. The reason for using different kinds of shortening together, alcohol or vinegar, and most other tweaks, is to have the steam forming at different times, making flakier but forming little pockets here and there. That's also why laminating dough works--you form the pockets as you fold the layers, then the water in the butter, fluffs them up as it steams.

I think most recipes stint on flavor most of the time. People are chintzy with their spices and all due to price. That's probably even more true of the alcohol. And they're leery of the alcohol not burning off. It takes much more cooking to get rid of it than most people think. If I'm going to be using more for flavor than the alcohol taste will cook out, I'll start the alcohol over low heat in a small enamelled saucier, to mellow it. Even wine. If you don't boil it, the flavor holds as well as it will in the cook proper, it'll reduce and concentrate some, and the alcohol will evaporate.

The only time I can think of wanting it to taste actually boozy, rather than of the flavor components of the liquor, other than something like a fruit cake, where the alcohol evaporates over time but still can be t-totalers beware, is in a hard sauce.

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lindac92

Actually the vodka also acidulates the dough, making the gluten tenderer.

I never cook wine before adding to my dish, I like the wine to permeate the other ingredients as it cooks. Otherwise one might make a "wine concentrate" and keep it in the cupboard and add a splash now and then.

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home_farm

I used to use pastis (Pernod, Ricard, etc.) in seafood pastas, but have replaced this by chopping a mountain of tarragon which gives a far more subtle, but delicious, aniseed flavour.

Still can't knock a good white wine as a base for mussels.

You can also buy Jack Daniels oak barrel chippings, which you can use for smoking meats, giving you that bourbon/oak scent. Fabulous.

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plllog

That works for things that will be cooked long, slow, or a combination, but it takes a lot of cooking to get rid of the alcohol, and for other things, cooking out the alcohol first helps. That doesn't mean that the wine flavor doesn't combine well with the food. I doubt the flavor of the wine would hold in the cupboard. Perhaps under a true vacuum. Maybe. But it will oxidize. Cooking it doesn't do it any favors to it, but it doesn't hurt the final outcome.

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Islay Corbel

Pleine gorge=really loud lol

I love dry sherry - a spoon in a consomme and other soups is a game changer.

Cognac in a cream sauce for steak.

Rum in cakes, babas....

I'm not sure I'd use a sweet liqueur like grand marnier with a steak as it's orange flavoured.

For a boeuf bourguignon I'd reduce the red wine before marinating the beef.

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John Liu

I've got a pork shoulder to cook tonight. Probably will sous vide it, then portion and sear. What liquor would you try in the bag? I can divide the shoulder into a few pieces to try different things,

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lindac92

Calvados!

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Feathers11

Pernod--now that's a blast from the past. I may have to go digging for some recipes. Years ago, I worked in a pub where it was served with carbonated lemonade (ie, Schweppes).

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chloebud

I can definitely see the Calvados Linda suggested.

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John Liu

Off to the likker store :-)

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Jakkom Katsu

Tip: Use good liquor, but not TOO good.

- Jack Daniels made an excellent addition to a chocolate bourbon cake (Fine Cooking recipe), but using the exact same amount of Pappy Van Winkle's 21 yr Reserve (what can I say, I had a whole bottle of it back in the days it was cheap!?!) made a cake that was....ummmm, very powerfully bourbon-y!

Yummy, of course, but you would have sworn I added 3x the amount compared to the Jack's.

I use hard liquor for a few things:

- Cognac: a splash of it once I've finished cooking down the curry paste in oil, but before I add any other liquids. Let it steam and cook off just a few seconds, then continue as usual with your recipe. It mellows the flavor very nicely, but best used with only a moderately spicy or a mild curry gravy. Too much chile heat and cognac don't seem to mix as well.

- During holidays I make a cooked eggnog, and instead of straight rum, I add 2/3 dark rum (like Mt. Gay) and 1/3 high-rye bourbon. This came about because I bought a brand of high-rye bourbon on-line, based on glowing reviews, and found I hated it. The only rye I like is Jefferson's, which is smooth and mellow. The high-rye bourbon just sat in my cupboard, unloved and unwanted, LOL.

BUT....on impulse one year i added it to the eggnog. Lo and behold, it mellowed out the next day to an absolute yumminess - far better than just using rum alone. I tried cognac once in the eggnog - I always have Remy on hand although I prefer Germain-Robin Reserve for drinking - but altho the Remy works okay with the rum, the bourbon just works better.

- John, since you have your wonderful espresso machine, this next you should definitely try. It comes from Trattorio Corso/Berkeley.

in 2016 we went back for dinner. We weren't impressed with the food, but I ended my meal with their Affogato Corretto: Chocolate gelato, espresso, bourbon. It was a sensational combination (and is yet another use for any bourbon, whether a rye/corn blend or wheated; Corso used a rye/corn bourbon).

I'm not fond of sweet desserts and found the bourbon's high alcohol level really cut the gelato's sweetness. It was a brilliant creation.

- Scotch, especially some of the Japanese whiskeys, is also excellent with chocolate. A friend and I split a glass of the Oban whiskey to accompany a molten chocolate lava cake, and it too went very well together.

- Rum, bourbon, or Scotch can be used to thin down a fruit jam as a BBQ glaze, applied 10 min or so before final doneness (a high-sugar glaze burns very quickly, as you know).

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John Liu

Thank you for those mouth watering descriptions! I will try some, probably starting with the espresso bourbon gelato.

I'm back to report that I made the pork with Calvados. Well, it was actually generic apple brandy as SWMBO declined to purchase me a $40 bottle of actual Calvados to cook with. But it was actual pork, two thick bone-in loin chops. I put them in a bag with salt, pepper, a little garlic powder, quite a bit of fresh basil, and about a cup of apple brandy. Removed air and sealed, then sous vided for 4 hours at 140F. Seared and served with a quickie sauce of reduced pork cooking juice + reduced apple brandy with a little thickener. It was very good. I'm going to make this for a dinner party sometime. But I might substitute sage for basil and add a little sugar.

I'm thinking this with the espresso bourbon gelato, except that I'll actually make the gelato with espresso and bourbon plus chocolate. For veg I'm thinking something very caramelized, like beer sugar carrots. Plus wild rice.

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lindac92

I don't want basil with pork unless it also has a tomato sauce. I'll bet the sage will be better....or thyme. And I like the idea of a little sugar....or perhaps maybe instead of sugar about half an apple grated added to the marinade.

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nandina

John, Many years ago liquor stores had shelves of recipes using liquor developed by the various distillers. I have saved and used many of them through the years. But, the following recipe is a winner loved and often requested over the past 60 years or so. Try it. Enjoy it!

ROAST PORK SORONNO

3-pound loin of pork roast

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

1/2 cup catsup

1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 tablespoons Amaretto di Saronno (Use only this Amaretto for best flavor).

Roast the pork in the usual manner. Combine the next 7 ingredients and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Blend cornstarch with 2 tbsp. of the mixture and add in the rest, stirring until slightly thickened. Stir in Amaretto and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from fire. (This sauce may be made ahead.) Half an hour before the roast is done, remove and save pan drippings and baste meat with 1/3 of sauce. Roast 15 minutes and baste with another 1/3 of the sauce. Make a gravy from the drippings, adding 3 tablespoons of the sauce to the gravy. Serve remaining sauce with the roast. Serves 6.

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John Liu

What do you all think about injecting meat with liquor before cooking?

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lindac92

Try it!! Sounds good! But I find that often when meat cooks the fibers tighten and eject the marinade. But it lends flavor for a while!

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John Liu

Bought a pork shoulder, cut into six pieces and in the sous vide in three bags. Bag #1 has two pieces that were brined, then both injected with and marinated in apple brandy. Bag #2 has two pieces brined, marinated in apple brandy, no injection. Bag #3 has two pieces neither brined, marinated, nor injected. All pieces have salt and pepper, sage, garlic in the bags. 140F for four hours. We'll see if there's any difference.

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John Liu

Wow! Total taste difference! I failed to keep track of which piece came from which bag when I seared them, so my partner in culinary crime (Zach, the recently graduated architecture student / room renter until he finds an apartment) just called it a blind tasting.


To our surprise, we could easily tell which piece came from bag #1 #2 or #3. The #1 pieces had a sweet, sort of apple-y, flavor tone both inside and out, and were pretty delicious if I do say so. #3 was clearly plain old pork, fine but nothing special. #2 had some sweetness on the crust only.


I foresee more liquor liqueur likker injection and marination experiments ahead.

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artemis_ma

Tonight I sous vided New York strip steak with Cointreau, and it wasn't any better - actually, faintly less good - than steak at 128 F without the liquor. Not a disaster, but a close call, and I figured I'd better get some real advice.

The idea is that you should marinate the steak with the Cointreau marinate, but dry the steak off before sticking it in the sous vide.

Apparently, the reason you do this is because in regular cooking, the alcohol itself pretty much evaporates off, but can't when tightly tucked into plastic (or silicon) bags. Therefore the taste of the alcohol is too strong.

Alternatively, you could sous vide without having marinated, meanwhile prep your sauce with the Cointreau in a skillet, put aside into a bowl, sear the steak, then pour the sauce over the steak to finish it.

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2ManyDiversions

John, that's an interesting test you did, and thank you so much for posting the results. Apple brandy injected pork, sous vide? Sounds fantastic. Did you use an ordinary meat injector? I ask because I don't have one and wondered if you got creative, LOL! What else would one use a meat injector for, btw? I mean, what exactly does one inject into what meats? Clearly I'm deprived...

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John Liu

I had a regular hypodermic needle and 6 ml syringe, like one would use for injecting, I guess, drugs. I bought several for some meat injection experiments long ago and found an unused one left in the junk drawer. Each piece got 12 ml although some of the brandy seemed to leak out after the needle was withdrawn. Apparently I didn't find the vein :-)

The previous injection experiments used chicken that was injected then braised, to no particularly interesting result. Sous vide seems to work better with injection, at least so far.

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lindac92

Somewhere kin this house I have a veterinary hypodermic....not disposable....holds maybe 6 oz and you can take it apart to wash it,...and if you are going to use it on animals presumably sterilize it.....wonder where I stashed it?


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2ManyDiversions

Thanks John, I'm so glad I asked! I used to have to inject myself Intra-muscularly with a viscous medication so big needles were prescribed. Later I used those I had remaining to refill ink cartridges for calligraphy. I think I tossed them all away since, though. But lindac92, you just reminded me, I've got an old physician's needle, glass with two needles that outta hold some apple brandy. I could sterilize it, but the rubber stopper might not take boiling water.

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ritaweeda

While I frequently use wine, sherry, even beer in dishes, I seldom use hard spirits in cooking except for things like Bread Pudding, some cakes and cookies, etc. I have used Tequila a couple of times, vodka in pasta dishes (not too impressed with it) and there is one shrimp salad/appetizer that calls for soaking cooked shrimp in brandy overnight but I've not made it in a very long time. But it is delicious and worth having brandy on hand for it.

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