Spike your winter with these saucy suggestions!
By Sophie Isbister, Columnist
It seems like the months of January and February cause people to slow down on their drinking. Whether you’re detoxing from the holidays, following through on a New Year’s resolution, or taking part in the BC Cancer Foundation’s “Lose the Booze” challenge, taking a break from alcohol is never a bad thing… but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with the hard stuff in other ways.
I’ve been cooking a lot more lately, and as I upgrade my skills I’ve been tackling more complex and difficult recipes. A lot of these involve alcohol. Using beer, wine, or liquor in your dishes is a great way to add depth and flavour to your meal, and if you’re trying to stay sober, don’t worry; the heat of cooking burns off most of the alcohol, leaving behind a rich flavour.
I’ve compiled four possible ways you can spike your food! Don’t worry about buying the best booze for these dishes. A mid-range wine or cheap liquor will spice up a meal just as well as a pricier bottle.
Add beer to chili
Whether I’m making chili on the stove or in the slow cooker, I always sauté my finely-chopped veggies on the stove first. That’s when you can add the beer. I dice up onions, peppers, celery, whatever I have on hand, cook until soft, and then pour in most of a 355ml can of beer. Let it cook until the beer is half gone, or even fully evaporated to leave no trace of alcohol. The first recipe that suggested this method called for a Mexican beer like Corona or Dos Equis, but I had some stout on hand so I used that. It imparted a rich flavour on my chili and I really think it took it to the next level!
Add white wine to risotto
You may have heard that making risotto is scary, given that it involves hunching over a stove and stirring for an hour. At least, that’s what I used to think. However, while this creamy rice dish may be time-consuming, it is totally simple. The recipe I used didn’t call for wine, but my chef friend suggested I toss some white wine in at the beginning of the cooking process. Use a half a cup of a dry white wine, like pinot grigio, in place of whatever liquid your recipe calls for. It will cook off during the process and leave behind a touch of acidity that will add complexity to the finished risotto.
Deglaze a pan with red wine
You know when you sear or cook meat in a steel or cast-iron pan and you’re left with what seems like little burnt bits on the pan? Well, those aren’t actually ruined food. They’re like the shy person at the party who just needs a little bit of alcohol to be coaxed out. This is where deglazing comes in. You can deglaze with any liquid, like water or broth, but wine is also a great choice! While your pan is still hot but you have removed the meat to rest (or cook further in the oven), pour a cup or so of any red wine in the pan and scrape up all those little bits. You can make it into a delicious sauce to eat with your meal, or if the meat you were cooking was for a stew or chili, add the deglazed liquid to your pot.
Marinade meat with liquor
Marinating a cheap cut of meat can be easily done with whatever flavourful liquids you have on hand, and if you add gin, vodka, rum, or whiskey to that marinade, it helps add flavour to the dish and tenderizes the meat even more! I marinade my cuts of meat for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Don’t add too much liquor, but start with just a half ounce for a few steaks or chicken breast. Use light coloured liquors for white meats, and dark liquors for beef or venison.