Picking a drink to lift your spirits is easy. Sure, you might find yourself torn between a margarita and whiskey, but the thing is, you already know that you will like the result no matter what you choose.
Preparing dishes with alcohol is a bit less intuitive, though. Not only will you be forced to use substances you probably don’t like such as flat beer, but you might also find it quite a challenge to pick out the right kind of wine for cooking. You wouldn’t want those labeled “wine for cooking” to tarnish what could have been an excellent dish.
You’ll be plagued with questions like whether any liquor would suffice, how much to add, and when to pour it in.
This article will help clarify your doubts about using your favorite bottle of wine in steak rather than with it, and what you can do to make cooking with alcohol a success the first time you try it.
Why Use Alcohol in Cooking?
When you buy alcohol in Dubai — after you get your purchase permission, of course — you already know the reason why you drink it. But why, exactly, would you want to prepare your food using these expensive drinks?
Cooking with any kind of liquor is not only fun, but it also elevates the flavor and aroma of food. If used correctly, the right kind of spirit can enhance the flavor of different dishes.
While you can definitely use stock or vinegar for recipes that require wine or any other liquor, doing so will mean you’ll be missing out on the nuanced flavor fermentation that wine or beer can add to a dish. These beverages also bond well with fat and water molecules, which makes it possible for the aroma of alcohol to improve the overall dining experience with much less effort.
6 Tips in Using Alcohol for Cooking
If you think adding extra liquor to cocktails is great, you’ll definitely want to bring up the action when cooking with alcohol. Whether you’re preserving fruit or making sauces, spirits can give your recipes a boost in flavor and aroma that the people who eat your food will not be able to resist.
Want to learn how to use spirits in your dishes? Here are six tips you can apply to maximize liquor’s effect on your favorite meals:
Pick alcohol you would want to drink
When buying alcohol in Dubai, you’ll need more than your license and your money – you also need a reason. Even if you intend to use it for cooking, it would be best to choose alcoholic beverages that you would want to drink. The tastier it is, the better the aroma and flavor it adds to your dish.
There are only a few recipes that require an entire bottle of wine, so you might as well buy something you can also drink later on. If you choose something you won’t enjoy drinking, chances are you’ll be able to taste the difference in the food you prepare with it, as well.
Still, you must remember to steer clear of the really nice stuff. Instead, save that for later once you’re ready to wine and dine.
Add just the right amount
When it comes to adding the right amount of liquor in cooking, you’ll find yourself learning as you go. If you add too little, it won’t have any effect on the food. However, too much could mask the innate flavors and aroma of the dish.
While there’s no rule of thumb for how much alcohol should be used, you can start by gradually adding some with care. Then, taste it as you go to determine if you’ve poured in enough.
The flavor of the booze should be strong enough to complement the flavor of the dish but also subtle enough to not be so easily detected. Avoid adding too much as it can overpower the flavor native to the dish and denature the proteins and change the texture of the meat.
It would also be best to choose the liquor according to the type of meat you’re using. Darker alcohols such as whiskey can be used with dark meats like beef. On the other hand, lighter liquors like tequila and gin are best paired with seafood and white meat.
Change water into wine (in the recipe)
Although you cannot always use alcohol in place of water in every recipe you prepare, you can swap out some of it for wine or beer to give your dishes a flavor boost. This technique is best used for poaching fruits as spirits are capable of highlighting the sweetness of the fruit.
Preserve fruits with a punch
You can also use wine to preserve fruits through a process called macerating. This is done by marinating sliced or whole fruits in alcohol to elevate their flavor and make them last longer.
Like meat, marinating fruits in wine also calls for a perfect pairing: red wine for pears during dark winter days and white wine for apricots on a lovely summer evening. Wine soaking can also save overripe fruits.
Sauce it up
Use alcohol to simmer other ingredients such as butter and stock to soften the liquor’s fiery punch and make an aromatic and flavorful sauce. This works well in livening up pasta and many other dishes.
You can also elevate a plain steak or a bland chicken breast by making a pan sauce. After removing the meat from the pan, pour beer or wine onto it. Then, begin scraping the bottom to dislodge all the caramelized bits of meat and transform them into a thick, flavorful sauce.
Again, it is best to use light beers or white wine with white meats and fish, while darker beers and red wines pair best with red meat.
Enhance the glaze
Glazing is done by drizzling over sweets after baking or brushing over meat. This process helps lock in the moisture in different types of food. It also adds a caramelized component that, with the help of liquor, serves to intensify the flavors.
For example, you can glaze grilled chicken thighs using tequila. The sweet punch from this Mexican liquor comes from the agave plant. When combined with pineapple juice, lime juice, and honey, you can achieve a tangy glaze flavor that can balance what would be an otherwise spicy chicken.
Pack a flavorful punch
Cooking with alcohol enhances food flavor and aroma to elevate the entire dining experience. Make sure you do a bit of research and understand the science behind these different alcoholic beverages, so you can cook with liquor to great effect.
Valentina Chessa is the Retail Marketing Manager at African + Eastern, the largest alcohol retailer in the Middle East with a network of 29 stores in the UAE, 5 in Oman, and a team of over 400 professional staff. The company boasts an extensive portfolio of beer, wine and spirits, and customers can shop online or at one of its conveniently located stores.