Cooking with Quaffs

I learned a new word a while ago when working the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle but found myself looking it up again this week. This week’s puzzle was workable and fun and reminded me of one of my favorite new terms: quaff. It means “alcoholic beverage.”

There are many wine aficionados in Lawrence County, particularly in Loretto. Some are second and third generation wine makers, the first bringing skills from their native Germany when they immigrated. My husband has been growing muscadines and making wine for many years now. He follows my uncle, who followed my grandfather (his father-in-law), who raised a vineyard to make wine to sell for his many children’s Christmas presents. He created his sweet grape concoction in the cellar of his barn during Prohibition. My father always enjoyed my uncle’s sweet wine as he had my grandfather’s. Nowadays, we make the wine using only the natural fruit juices, preferring a dryer taste. The problem is that we don’t let it age long enough for the true flavors to be created. It’s too good to shelve!

There are also beer enthusiasts around these parts. Some make their own home brew. Others prefer ales from small breweries, savoring the different hops and malted barley flavors. My husband made a batch once. We had guests from England for whom he purchased a variety of lagers and ales to satisfy their tastes while in America. Their beer of choice? His homebrew! They drank it all!

Cooking with quaffs is a real joy because they add lovely complex flavors without imbibing consumers. In other words, you won’t get tipsy on my Chicken Marbella cooked with white wine, my daughter’s Shepherd’s Pie with her dad’s muscadine, or my hamburger pie baked with dark beer. You’ll have to rely on your aperitifs and digestifs for that! (I can’t help myself with the crossword trivia.) Recently, my husband, daughter, and I participated in workshops in Loretto hosted by my friend, Michelle Lewis, who has started Adventures in Alternative Cooking. So far we have used quaffs to make wine salts, orange extract (using vodka), and red sauce chili with beer. Not only were the aromas heavenly as we cooked, but the tastes were delightfully enhanced and rich. Below are favorite recipes using spirits to enhance flavors:

FIRESIDE CHILI

(Contributed by Michelle Lewis of Adventures in Alternative Cooking)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
5 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes
32 ounces (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
1 12-ounce bottle of beer
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 16-ounce cans kidney beans, drained & rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add beef and sauté until brown, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, basil, oregano, and thyme. Stir 2 minutes. Mix in crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, beer, tomato paste and beans. Simmer until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

CHICKEN MARBELLA

1 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives, no pimentos
1/2 capers with juice
6 bay leaves
Salt & pepper to taste
16 boneless skinless breasts
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine

Marinate chicken breasts overnight and covered in aluminum foil in the garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, green olives, capers, bay leaves, salt & pepper.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove aluminum foil and sprinkle chicken with brown sugar. Pour white wine over chicken. Bake, covered, 45 minutes.

 

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