Your Home Bar Holds the Secret to Upgrading Weeknight Dinners

Whether your home bar includes just a bottle or two or a full panoply of spirits and liqueurs, your liquor cabinet can be a source of simple upgrades to everyday cooking. The same tastes and aromas you may savor when drinking a cocktail are amplified and distributed throughout food as it’s cooked. Despite alcohol’s relatively low boiling point (173 ° F compared to water’s boiling point of 212 ° F), food researcher Harold McGee notes that “it’s difficult to cook out all of the alcohol [in a meal]” As it cooks and some molecules evaporate, the preliminary burn associated with drinking alcohol will decrease and in some cases almost entirely dissipate (depending upon the length of cooking), however the flavors of the spirit will stay and in fact become focused.

Consider your spirits collection as a 2nd kitchen– a toolbox of spices awaiting their chance. Attempt starting with a splash of piney gin joined fruity Castelvetrano olives to develop an easy pan sauce like in cookbook author Amy Thielen’s Dirty Martini Pork Chops, or check out the adaptability of sherry and Cognac, which bring intricacy and a mild sharpness to cut through the rich and tacky sauce in Creamy Chicken and Root Vegetable Gratin.
Bar cart
Just remember, the old adage, “Only cook with wine you ‘d consume,” likewise applies to spirits. Keep your bar cart equipped with your favorites, and use the recipes that follow to raise all kinds of meals with those bottles.
Boozy fundamentals
Deglazing
Alcohol works exceptionally well for deglazing (including liquid to a hot pan to release fond, the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan) since it has a low boiling point. Gin will bring a crisp, citrusy flavor, while brandy and dry sherry will include warm, nutty notes.

Marinading
Acid has the ability to denature proteins, which can both soften and increase water absorption, resulting in juicier meat. Attempt tequila-based marinades to impart a sharp, earthy taste to mild proteins like chicken, shrimp, and fish, and whiskey-based marinades to add complexity to richer meats like beef.

Braising
Often utilized to transform harder cuts of meat into tender bites, braising is a two-step method that includes burning a protein in fat and after that slowly cooking it in a covered vessel with liquid (typically stock), enabling time for the protein to absorb taste. Add a splash of alcohol to take it to the next level: The alcohol bonds with particles of fat and water and helps to bring flavor throughout the meal. Try fortified red wines like port or vermouth in braised chicken, beef, or pork dishes for fruity and organic flavors, or grab gin with lamb or cabbage for a piney, spiced flavor.

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