Prepared Food Focus: Spirited Cooking

Like salt, a small amount of alcohol highlights and brightens other flavors in a dish. Here are three recipes, using bourbon, rum and Grand Marnier, to liven up your menu.

by Joanna Pruess

Beer and wine are indispensible in fine cooking, but they aren’t the only alcoholic beverages that can enhance the flavors of dishes savory and sweet. Brandies and liqueurs; whiskeys, bourbons, rum and tequila; and fortified wines can add flavor and complexity, though a measure of restraint is necessary with the higher alcohol contents.

While commonly thought that boiling an alcoholic liquid removes almost all of the alcohol, studies show that isn’t the case. Several factors affect the level of alcohol remaining: the amount initially used, how long it cooks and stands, the intensity of heat and even the size of the cooking
vessel. Much like salt, a small amount of alcohol acts to highlight and brighten other flavors in a dish.

Try the Recipes:

Alcohol Chemistry

A study by the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory calculated the percentage of alcohol remaining in a dish based on various cooking methods. Here are the results:

Flamed (flambé): 75% Alcohol Remaining / 25% Burned Off

Left uncovered overnight, no heat: 70% Alcohol Remaining / 30% Burned Off

Stirred into mixture and baked or simmered for 1 hour: 25% Alcohol Remaining / 75% Burned Off

Stirred into mixture; baked or simmered for 2½ hours: 5% Alcohol Remaining / 95% Burned Off

Source: USDA Table of Nutrient Retention Factors, Release 6

Joanna Pruess is a regular contributor to Specialty Food Magazine.

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