Friday while I was grabbing something to put into my spray bottle to use on the pork I was smoking I noticed that the top shelf of my pantry was starting to build up quite a liquor collection. I normally don’t keep hard liquor in the house, but because of some holier than thou attitude that I don’t touch hard liquor because I’m more of a beer/wine guy. Actually the opposite, hard liquor will get consumed. Some like gin, which I’m not big on but every so often find myself wanting a nice martini, get consumed in a normal timely fashion. Others like Captain Morgan, get consumed in time span that shall we say, is faster. Much faster.
However in the endeavor of cooking, hard liquor (or less than hard liquor) is commonly a required ingredient in many recipes. Over time I’ve picked up quite a few bottles to use on these occasions and they’ve started to take up a large portion of my pantry’s top shelf. I thought I’d take a post and run down these bottles (and a few I’d like to have that I currently don’t) and what I’d use them for. I’d like to hear from my readers on any they have that I might have missed.
COOKING WINE OR SHERRY – If there’s anything, and I mean ANYTHING you should have in your pantry, it’s not this crap. Really, pour it out. Cook with good wine, meaning something you’d drink or preferably the wine you’re serving.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: Walk past it on the supermarket shelf.
FRUIT LIQUEUR: A liqueur is a flavored alcohol that is bottle with added sugar, so they are very useful in cooking where you not only want to add a fruit flavor to your food, but also a touch of sweetness.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: I use Dillard, a French orange liqueur for sauces, and glazing on duck. Apple liqueur is good to spray on pulled pork or ribs during smoking or grilling.
IRISH WHISKEY: To be honest I don’t remember why this is in the pantry, but I’m sure it was for something around St Paddy’s day.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: Add it to anything that I was trying to add the word “Gaelic” to name of the recipe.
SWEET AND DRY VERMOUTH: Outside of martinis, these versatile fortified, aromatic wines should have a welcome place in everyone’s pantry. However, keep in mind that they are wine products and can go bad over time. So if you can’t remember the last time you used yours it might be a good idea to toss it and buy fresh.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: In a piece of aluminum foil, put down a layer of sliced onions and lay a fillet of rock or weak fish on top of them. Drizzle on some vermouth, place some lemon slices and dill on the top, close, bake. Maryland goodness.
BOURBON: Not a big fan of this corn distilled spirit as many of you know, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a place in my pantry. I tend to lean towards Jim Beam.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: Mainly as a marinade ingredient for steaks, but I’ve also used it to make chocolate bourbon balls around Christmas time. A few splashes will also go well in a home made BBQ sauce.
TAWNY PORT: This fortified wine probably isn’t a staple in most people’s pantries, but I find in very useful in things I want a little sweetness in. I try to get Sandeman any time I can, but any quality tawny will do.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: One cup of tawny port plus a splash of Dilliard from above. Reduce it in a pot until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Be careful not to burn it. Drizzle on lamb chops. Forget the mint.
SHERRY: These fortified wines from around the town of Jerez Spain some times get a bad rap because most people’s experiences with “sherry” have either been with the aforementioned “cooking” variety, or the cheap American varieties. Get the good stuff and your food will thank you.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: I’ve seen it called for in braises, marinades and for use as a deglazing agent when cooking. Drop a shot of Dry Sack Sherry in most soups and especially bisques to add a deep rich flavor.
BRANDY: This spirit made from the distillation of wine is always nice to have around. Whether it’s to add flavor to an apple dessert, or just to sip on a cold winter’s evening.
WHAT I’D DO WITH IT: Light it on fire of course! Take a cut of filet mignon and sear in a skillet with butter and brown sugar. When it’s done to your likeness splash in a little brandy and light. Careful, eyebrows are a good thing. I also use it to light the traditional Christmas pudding we make. Nothing fancy, pour on a little brandy, dim lights, apply lit match.
Well that’s about it. Of course wine and cheap beer are always good to have laying around, and rum (if you can keep it around) has many uses as well.
What’s in your pantry?