Cooking With Spirits

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Now that we’re knee-deep in November, Thanksgiving and Chanukah have jumped onto my radar screen. This inspires me to think of fare more sophisticated than meatloaf and coleslaw for these holidays and the Shabbat dinners that lay ahead between now and the end of the year.

While I crave stylish food, I’m actually too busy to tackle recipes with two dozen tricky steps. I enjoy the challenge of complex cooking, but as the year winds down, my responsibilities ramp up. To achieve the flavor intensity of fine French cuisine, I find nothing is more elegant than splashing a little liquor into recipes. It takes so little time and effort, yet yields maximum impact.

An ordinary roast chicken is elevated to dinner party status by brushing on pinot noir wine. Likewise, vermouth works wonders on poultry and pasta. Orange liqueur transforms everyday carrots into the sublime. Coffee liqueur turns whipped cream into a celebration. And believe it or not, a touch of amaretto is all you need to jazz up pears.

Among other brands, the following products are certified kosher: Barkan Pinot Noir, Kedem Dry Vermouth, Binyamina Triple Sec (orange liqueur), Sabra Coffee Liqueur and Amaretto Disaronno Originale.

As the days grow shorter and colder, there’s something cozy and warming about turning to my liquor cabinet to find ingredients for cooking.

Triple Sec Carrot Soufflé | Dairy or Pareve

Serves four to six

Equipment: 6-cup soufflé dish and a food processor

Nonstick vegetable spray

8 medium-sized carrots

1 cup 2 percent milk, or unsweetened almond milk

3 tablespoons flour

½ cup sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

8 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine

cup triple sec (orange liqueur)

Pinch of salt

Coat a 6-cup soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Set up the food processor with the metal blade. Reserve both.

Peel the carrots and cut into carrot sticks. Place them in a medium-large pot. Pour in enough water to fill the pot three-quarters full. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a fast simmer. Simmer until the carrot sticks are softened in the center, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and reserve. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When ready, drain the carrots in a colander. With a slotted spoon, move the hot carrots to the food processor and cover them with the lid. Process until the ingredients are pureed. Using a spatula, pour the puree into the prepared soufflé dish.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the soufflé domes. It should appear dry in the center. If the center appears gelatinous, bake for another two to three minutes. Serve immediately. The dome will deflate somewhat when removed from the oven.

Tagliatelle With Mushrooms | Dairy or Pareve

Serves six

1 pound tagliatelle pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced fine

8 cloves of garlic, minced

pounds mushrooms of any kind or a mixture of varieties, sliced

½ cup dry vermouth

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup heavy cream at room temperature or vegetable broth

Boil the water in a large pot and follow the package directions for preparing tagliatelle. When ready, drain it in a colander and move to a pasta bowl.

Meanwhile, in another large pot, heat the oil on a low flame and sauté the onion and garlic until fragrant and wilting, about two minutes. Add the mushrooms and mix well. Stir occasionally until softened, about five minutes.

Remove the pot from the flame and stir for about a minute. Add the vermouth and mix well. Place the pot on a medium flame and simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the flame and stir vigorously for three minutes. Slowly add the cream or the broth and mix well. Pour it over the tagliatelle and serve immediately.

Roast Chicken with Pinot Noir | Meat

Serves three to four

Nonstick vegetable spray

1 small chicken, cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon plus ⅛ cup pinot noir

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a roasting pan with nonstick spray.

Place the chicken in the roasting pan. Drizzle a tablespoon of pinot noir on both sides of the chicken. Drizzle the olive oil on the chicken and with your fingers spread it evenly all over. Rub the chicken skin with garlic halves from one clove of garlic and reserve the garlic. Sprinkle the rosemary, salt and pepper evenly over the chicken. Arrange the halves from all three cloves of garlic in the roasting pan. Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the garlic.

Roast the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken and baste with pan juices. Brush half of the remaining pinot noir over the chicken and roast it for another 20 minutes. Turn the chicken again (skin side up) and brush the rest of the pinot noir over it. Continue roasting for 20 minutes. The total cooking time is an hour.

Move the chicken to a platter and sprinkle with parsley, if using. Serve immediately.

Drunken Pears Almandine | Pareve

Serves two to three

2 tablespoons skinned, slivered almonds

2 ripe pears

2 tablespoons maple syrup, preferably Grade A amber

1 teaspoon amaretto

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and evenly distribute the almonds on top. Place the sheet in the oven and bake until golden brown, about two minutes. Check the almonds frequently, as they burn easily. Remove the sheet from the oven and reserve.

Cut the pears in half. Remove the skins and cores and discard them. Slice the pears thinly. Arrange the slices in two or three small bowls or deep plates with rims. Reserve.

In a small pot, heat the maple syrup and amaretto on a very low flame for five minutes. Stir almost constantly until the mixture thickens slightly. Drizzle it over the pears while still hot. Sprinkle on the almonds. Serve immediately.

Coffee Whipped Cream | Dairy

Serves six to eight as a topping

½ pint heavy cream

1 tablespoon coffee liqueur

1 tablespoon sugar

Serve over: chocolate cake, chocolate pudding, pound cake, angel food cake, fresh strawberries, ice cream, or in black coffee.

With an electric mixer, beat the cream, coffee liqueur and sugar until soft peaks form, about three minutes. Stop the beater often to check the consistency because whipped cream can turn to butter within seconds. Serve immediately.