Drunken dishes for dad

Mexican drunken prawns uses tequila for sweetness and kick. Picture: LANCE SEETO

It’s been more than two years since I’ve seen or hugged my dad, who is safe and well in Australia, but with everyone else celebrating this special day, I’ll be in my kitchen cooking for many of Nadi’s dads and grandads.

Like many dads across the world today, alcohol is not only for boozing but used in cooking for added flavour.

It’s like adding an extra ingredient and once the alcohol has evaporated you are left with the flavours that went into making the drink.

Humankind has been using alcohol in cooking ever since our ancestors learned to make home brew.

You will find nearly every country has a dish or two that uses wine, beer or whatever the local booze is to create a flavoursome dish.

The Chinese use rice wine, Italian’s use wine, and most South East Asian countries use beer or coconut wine to create their drunken food dishes.

You can find a food recipe for nearly every alcohol in your booze cabinet including vodka, whiskey, tequila, gin, rum, wines and of course, beer.

As with any alcohol you cook with, the alcohol that makes you drunk evaporates at high temperature, leaving the dish with that booze’s undertones and flavours that make it special.

Cooking with beer, hard liquor or wine doesn’t mean you are going to get drunk, but it will sure add more flavour to your dish.

 

One for dad, one for the pot

Beer has more in common with food than any other cooking beverage. It contains grain (barley), herbs (hops), water and yeast, whilst wine contains grapes.

Adding beer to a recipe can really change the character of the dish. It can enhance particular ingredients, help blend the fl avours of the dish, or just add that little zing that your meal might be lacking.

Instead of adding plain water, coconut bu water or a stock to your next wet dish, don’t be afraid to experiment with beer.

You’ll be surprised at the number of recipes from around the world that include beer.

Beer battered fish is probably the most commonly known recipe but there are some crazy, yet fun recipes like beer-can chicken where you shove a full can of opened beer up the cavity of the chook as it roasts.

The next time you’re standing around the BBQ with a bottle of beer in your hand, tip some on the meats as their grilling and watch the magic happen.

The beer quickly burns and caramelises the meats or seafood, adding a flavour that will leave your family wondering what special ingredient you added.

 

Drunken pasta dishes

In addition to using wines in pasta sauces, vodka and gin are also commonly used as their fl oral and herbal tones match perfectly in rich tomato or creamy pasta sauces.

However, part from flavour, there is a little science in adding vodka to a pasta sauce.

Normally combining tomatoes and cream can be problematic as the acidity of the tomatoes can make the cream separate if cooked too long.

But the ethanol in the vodka helps emulsify the sauce, keeping the tomato and cream from breaking part.

The ethanol is thought to help transform the flavours of the tomato by adding bit of a sharp bite that helps balance out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the cream.

If you’re wondering if you can taste the vodka in the sauce the answer is yes… and, well, no.

You can’t actually taste the boozy flavour of the alcohol but it will add a pleasing flavour when sauteed with the tomato and cream.

I’m literally drooling about one of my favourite American dishes called Pasta Alla Vodka. It’s sooo good and I’ve included it into today’s recipes.

 

Forget gin and tonic, try chicken 

Gin, vodka and tequila are magical ingredients when added to grilled or roast chicken as each of these boozy favorites are also made with spices, fruits and floral elements.

Gin is made by distilling a neutral grain alcohol with juniper berries and other botanicals to make the fragrant spirit we all know and love.

The botanicals are infused into the raw spirit to release their flavours.

You can also vary the recipe by adding different spices, fruits and fl oral elements.

Tequila is a fascinating distilled spirit, made from the sweet nectar of the agave plant and tastes closest to honey.

When used in cooking, these fragrant flavours are left behind and add new elements to your food.

I am a firm believer that alcohol belongs in food as much as it does in a bottle, so pairing gin, with its woodsy undertones with the sweetness of brown sugar and lemon in today’s roast chicken recipe is on another level.

 

Rum is not just for pirates 

Chances are that a lot of dad’s across Fiji today are warming shot of Fiji rum but this molasses- based liquor adds delicious sweetness and aromatic flavour to a lot of recipes.

Dark rum and spiced rum are best when marinating meats for the BBQ and won’t overpower your dish unless you add too much — then it will just taste like alcohol.

Both white and dark rum can be used in glazes and marinades for meats and vegetables.

Often, you’ll see it paired with fruits like pineapple for tropical dishes and Caribbean food. You’ll often see rum used in classic dessert dishes like Tiramisu, Bananas Foster and Rum Raisin ice cream, but it would also be great in a chocolate sauce. Use a dark rum or spiced rum when baking for greater flavour.

You can also change up your cocktails or any other recipe by infusing rum with other flavours.

Soak herbs, fruits, vegetables, spices and even candy in rum for a few days and both the rum and the infusion will take on new flavours.

COVID has put a dampener on another year of special occasions, but we can still enjoy the small moments of life and food is the universal indulgence that we all can appreciate until the day comes when we can finally meet at a restaurant, bar or hotel.

Happy Father’s Day.

 Lance Seeto is owner/chef at KANU Restaurant in Martintar, and host of FBC-TV’s Exotic Delights.

 

BEER-BRAISED
CHICKEN & ONIONS
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 chicken thighs or 1 whole chicken
Salt
1 kg brown onions, sliced
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups dark beer
1 cup chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Brown the chicken thighs on all
sides in a large pot with butter.
Salt the meat side lightly. Brown
the chicken on both sides well.
Remove the browned thighs
from the pan and set aside in a
bowl.
2. Drain off some of the chicken
fat and fry the onions. Sprinkle
with brown sugar to caramelize.
Cook the onions slowly, stirring
occasionally, until they begin to
brown, about 15 minutes.
3. Add herbs mustard, salt, beer,
stock, chicken, bring to simmer:
Add the bay leaves, thyme,
mustard, 2 teaspoons of salt,
and beer to the onions. Scrape
up any browned bits from
the bottom of the pot with a
wooden spoon. Add the chicken
thighs and the chicken stock
and bring to a simmer.
4. Cook until chicken is falling off
the bone tender: Cook covered
for 45 minutes, then uncover
the pot and simmer well until
the liquid is greatly reduced and
the meat wants to fall off the
bone, between 45 minutes and
1 hour.
5. Add freshly ground black pepper
and more salt to taste.
6. Serve over noodles, rice or root
crops.
JAMAICAN BEER GRILLED FISH
2 medium whole fi sh, gutted, scaled
and cleaned
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoon sweet paprika
pinch dried thyme
375ml beer, plus extra to baste
2 limes, 1 sliced, 1 cut into wedges
1. Make a few slashes in the fl esh
on either side of the fi sh with a
sharp knife. Mix the onion powder,
paprika, thyme and some
seasoning with the beer. Pour
over the fi sh and rub into the
slashes and cavity. Place the
lime slices inside the fi shes’ bellies,
cover with cling fi lm and
leave to marinate in the fridge
for 1 hr.
2. Heat the grill to medium-high.
Place the fi sh on a tray and
grill for 15-20 mins, depending
on the size, turning halfway
through. Baste the fi sh with
a little beer as it cooks. Serve
with lime wedges to squeeze
over before serving.
GIN & SUGAR CHICKEN WINGS
1kg chicken wings, at room temperature
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup Gin
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat your oven to 185°C.
2. Whisk all the ingredients together,
except the wings.
3. Toss the wings in the mixture,
making sure they are completely
coated.
4. Allow to marinate for a few
hours or overnight in fridge
5. Line a baking sheet with foil and
place the wings on the foil in a
single layer.
6. Bake for 30 minutes or until
fully cooked
PASTA ALLA VODKA
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
500gm boneless chicken
1 medium onion fi nely chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup grated cheese (more for garnish)
1/3 cup parsley (more for garnish)
20 basil leaves chopped (more for
garnish)
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
1 packet short pasta
1. Heat a large pan over medium
heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive
oil and seasoned chicken skin
down. Pan-fry for 5-8 minutes
per side, or until it is fully
cooked. Remove once cooked
but keep the oil in the pan.
2. Add another tablespoon of oil to
the pan. Add onion and garlic,
then saute for 4-5 minutes over
medium heat.
3. Stir the vodka into the pan and
simmer for 2 minutes.
4. Add chicken stock, crushed tomatoes,
tomato paste, sugar,
cheese, parsley, basil, sugar, salt
and pepper.
5. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil,
then reduce heat and simmer
for 15 minutes.
6. While the sauce simmers, cook
penne noodles in salted boiling
water, as per the instructions
7. Turn down the heat on the tomato
sauce and slowly stir or
whisk the cream in, saute for 2
minutes then remove the pan
from the heat.
8. Fold the cooked pasta into the
sauce.
9. Slice the chicken breasts and
serve them over the pasta
with more grated cheese, fresh
chopped parsley and bas

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