Cooking with Bourbon
By Lisa Woodroof | Photos by RJ Goodwin
The holiday season elicits the flavors of spice and the experience of warmth—which perfectly describe my favorite relationship in a neat glass of bourbon.
A few years ago, I had an idea: what if I brought the contents of my glass… to the table? Each sip inspires numerous flavors—vanilla, caramel, honey, citrus, rose, black pepper, tobacco leaf, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon. My culinary soul danced at the idea of the collaboration! I took what I knew about this All-American beverage and started incorporating it into different types of recipes.
Cooking with bourbon will elevate your kitchen repertoire. So, shake a classic cocktail and get ready to be inspired.
Bourbon in Sauces
Wheated bourbons, such as Maker’s Mark, are sweeter and warmer enhancing jams, jellies, and barbecue sauces. They pair best with smoky flavors.
Tip: If you use bourbon in your homemade barbecue sauces for basting on the grill, don’t cook off the alcohol in advance. Leave a couple of shots of bourbon in the bottom of your empty bottle, add your vinegar or ketchup-based barbecue sauce into the bottle right over the bourbon and shake well. I recycle the flavors of every bourbon bottle with this technique.
Bourbon in Fruit Pies and/or Cobblers
Spicy, peppery high-rye bourbon offerings, such as Four Roses Single Barrel, work well with dressings and fruit-based dishes and have the brightness to offset rich and creamy ingredients.
Tip: Baking under 375 degrees in your oven will incorporate bourbon flavors richly. As the temperature is increased in cooking, you need to use a higher proof bourbon.
Bourbon in a Marinade
Bourbon will break down the enzymes in meat, so it works well as a multitasking tenderizer and marinade. Mix a shot or two of bourbon with brown sugar, sorghum, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, garlic, shallots, olive oil and your choice of seasonings and spices, and give your protein a soak for a few hours.
Tip: Bourbon marinades need more than a 10-minute pairing. Three hours in advance is ideal. Ensure your meat is brought to room temperature before cooking. This cooking technique is applicable to poultry or beef.
Bourbon on the Grill
Recipes that are exposed to higher temperatures on the grill need the body of a higher proof bourbon. You’re going to incorporate a bourbon bottle above the 100-proof variety. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Wild Turkey 101 and Old GrandDad 114 Barrel Proof, all perform well on the grill.
Tip: Use your bourbon-infused marinade to re-baste during the cooking process. You can even inject your bourbon sauces into your ribs and chicken.
Bourbon Season is Always in Season
From football fare to the Thanksgiving table, be inspired to capitalize on the bourbon spirit… pun intended.
BOURBON SERVED IN CLASSIC FORM
Classic bourbon cocktails inspire the holidays and guests alike. Here’s an early 19th-century recipe for the classic Bourbon Old Fashioned.
1 Demerara sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon water
2 oz. bourbon
Add sugar, water, bitters into a rocks glass, and stir or smash until sugar is nearly dissolved.
Fill the glass with a single or multiple large ice cubes, add the bourbon, gently stir to combine the flavors.
Rim the oil of an orange peel over the glass, then drop it in.
Find more of Lisa’s recipes on the following pages.
Lisa Woodroof lives in Goode and is known as a Virginia foodie and Bourbonista. Follow Bourbon in the Kitchen on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (bourbon_in_the_kitchen) for bourbon recipes and bourbon travel finds.
Bourbon Butter-Basted Cornish Hens
2 Cornish baking hens
Poultry baking herbs
(variety packs for easy purchase at grocer)
1 large onion, halved
1/4 teaspoon of salt & pepper
Warm your oven to 400 degrees (for electric oven)/375 degrees (for gas oven).
Wash your Cornish hens well and pat dry with paper towels. Place both hens in a baking dish that’s been touched with a good hit of non-stick spray. Place the halved onion inside the cavity of each hen. Within the skin and cavity, incorporate whole stems of the baking herbs. Baste hens well with bourbon butter. Top with salt and pepper. Place in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, maybe a little more if they are larger in hen size. Remember to baste throughout the cook time to foster a beautiful brown baking skin on the hen.
Baste with bourbon butter just before serving. If you have any baking herbs left over, garnish your plate next to the hen. It’s fragrant and reminds your guest that this is a holiday plate. A holiday smell can create a life-long memory.
Bourbon Creamed Corn Casserole
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons bourbon
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 (15.25 oz) can, whole kernel sweet corn, drained
1 (14.75 oz) can, cream-style sweet corn
1/2 teaspoon salt Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a sauce pan, heat the butter slowly over medium heat swirling until all butter is melted. Set it aside and measure out the rest of the ingredients.
Whisk in the flour into the melted and cooled butter and incorporate well. Then whisk in the sugar, eggs, milk, and bourbon.
Stir the creamed corn into the butter mixture, along with the drained whole kernel corn. Season with the salt and pepper.
Pour into a shallow 8×8 baking dish that’s been touched with non-stick spray.
Bake uncovered for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the center is set and the corn casserole is brown and caramelized on top. You can always broil the top for a hot-minute if the casserole is set but you want a more caramelized appearance.
This is a custardy baked cream corn casserole recipe. It’s easy prep and under ten ingredients. This is an heirloom recipe for any holiday table…rich and a smidgen of sweetness.
Bourbon Whipped Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4 (Can Easily Double)
4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½” chunks
4 slices thick-cut bacon
2 tablespoons of reserved bacon grease
15-20 sage leaves
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons of brown or Irish butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Warm oven to 400 degrees and cook off the bacon for 10-14 minutes depending on how thick your sliced bacon is. Set cooked bacon aside, draining off the extra fat.
Add potato chunks to large pot of boiling water and cook until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes. While potatoes are in progress, heat a skillet over medium heat and add the 1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter and fry up the sage until it is crispy. 1-2 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.
By now, the potatoes are ready to mash. Once whipped, add in a smidgen of reserved bacon grease, the milk, the bourbon, and the brown and/or Irish butter. Mix until everything is combined. Taste the potatoes and add salt and pepper, seasoning more or less to your preference.
Place potatoes in a dish and top them with the crispy bacon, crumbled with your fingers and/or rough cut with kitchen scissors. If you’re waiting a bit to serve them, place in the oven on a warm 325-degree temp for a maximum of 25-30 minutes. Don’t forget to crumble the sage on top at the very end.
Bourbon Croissant Bread Pudding
6 small stale croissants
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 teaspoons bourbon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, thoroughly whisked
Warm your oven to 350 degrees. Tear croissants into pieces and place into individual ramekins that have been hit with a touch of non-stick spray. Add the sugar and water into a sauce pan. Bring to a rapid boil—remember this is hot stuff. Turn the heat on low and add the heavy cream, bourbon, vanilla and pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and let cool. Slowly add the whisked eggs into the caramel. Pour mixture over croissant pieces in the individual ramekins. Bake for 15 minutes.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime recipe—holiday dessert or a stand-alone breakfast, the choice is yours.
Bourbon Brown Butter*
Melt a stick of butter in a sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. After the butter is melted, it will begin to foam and turn a blond color. A few more minutes and the foaming will subside and the milk solids will turn brown. Measure or eyeball a 1/4 cup of bourbon. Remove the skillet from the heat, and standing back, carefully add the bourbon. The mixture will sputter as the bourbon stops the milk solids in the butter from browning.
*Brown butter is known to French cuisine as beurre noisette. A type of warm sauce used to accompany savory foods and used in French pastry.
(Use this recipe to top the Cornish hens and yeast rolls.)