Cooking with Whisky

Darcy O'Neil :: March 20, 2006 12:50 PM

As part of my attitude that you should use your liquors in any way you see fit, I have been know to add expensive spirits (scotch and single malt Irish Whiskey). Depending on the recipe, whisky can add an additional level of flavour or it can compliment the existing ingredients. Usually I'll buy stuff pre-flavour, such as Canadian Club barbecue sauce or Buffalo Trace BBQ sauce. Sometimes these things just don't exist, so using whisky in the recipe is the only way to go. Now I prefer to cook with quality ingredients, so using a quality whisky is the way to go. I find malt whisky or full flavoured blends are an excellent choice, depending on my needs. Here is a recipe that might peek your interest, or cause you to gasp in horror.

A great winter recipe is classic French Onion Soup. When I make the soup, I stick pretty close to the classic recipe, except I will substitute a smoky, full flavoured, scotch in place of brandy. So I add an once or three of Johnnie Walker Blue Label ($200 per bottle) to a pot of french onion soup. Gasp! I know, this is blasphemy, but I paid for the Blue Label and reserve the right to use it anyway I want. I'm sure there are cheaper single malts around that would do just as well, but I have yet to pick up a bottle, I'm still paying off the bottle of Blue Label.

The reason I did this, was that when I was making the soup I wanted to give it 'something' and smoke and wood seemed appropriate. The best part is that the Blue Label went exceptionally well with the soup, it gave it a rustic, over the fire place appeal. Now, I don't regularly put $200 a bottle scotch into peasant variety soup, it was more of an experiment that turned out really well. Try this recipe with a good smoky scotch like Cragganmore or Jon, Mark and Robbo's "The Smokey Peaty One."

French Onion Soup

3 tablespoons butter
4 cups onions, thinly sliced (about 3 onions)
2 tablespoons flour
2 quarts beef stock
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 oz Scotch whisky
1 teaspoon BV meat glaze or bovril
grated Gruyere cheese
French bread
olive oil

Melt the butter in a 4 quart pot and add the onions, stirring constantly. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes to soften the onion, but do not caramelize.

When the onions are soft, add the garlic, sprinkle in the flour, stir for a minute or two. This will help get the 'rawness' out of the flour. Add the beef stock and stir in salt, the pepper, and the scotch. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1/2 hour to an hour. Add the meat glaze and taste for seasoning.
Cut slices of French bread into 1/2 inch pieces and toast them at 350 degrees in the oven for about 15 minutes--until they are dry crusts.

When you're ready to serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and cover each with a thick handful of Gruyere cheese. Top each with a piece of the toasted bread, which has been drizzled with olive oil. Sprinkle it with the more Gruyere, then put them under a broiler for a few minutes and take to the table.

I generally use two Spanish onions and one red onion, but you can use which ever onions you like, but using all Vidalias, Walla Walla or Texas 1015 will make your soup a bit too sweet. Also, you can add selected herbs in a bouquet garni (i.e. tied up in a bundle) to add some more flavour. Herbs like thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley seem to work well. I personally like the added flavour that scotch brings to the soup. Give it a try if you are looking to add new flavours to your menu.

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