Five Ways to Barbecue with Booze
If you think you deserve a drink after pulling off a successful summer barbecue, you’re absolutely right. But next time, try using a little of that extra alcohol to amp up the flavors of whatever meat you’re making with a boozy glaze, a wine-spiked sauce or a beer-filled brine. And don’t worry: the goal isn’t to make your dish taste like a shot. “You’re looking for small nuances,” says Jason Dady, a San Antonio chef and restaurateur who co-owns the classic Texas joint Two Bros BBQ Market. “You want the flavor component of whatever you’re using in there and when you’re talking about barbecue, you want things that give that oaky, smoky, toasty flavor.” Here, Dady shares five ways to put your liquor cabinet to even better use than usual.
What Kind: Woodford Reserve
Why It’s So Great: “It’s nice, mild and not over-proofed, so it’s not going to be a complete punch in the mouth,” says Dady, “And it’s great in a glaze.”
Use It With: Baby Back Pork Ribs. Dady often considers the food an animal eats when he decides what to pair with the meat. In this case, corn— a staple of a pig’s diet and a main component in bourbon-making process—is the common thread.
What to Do: Rub the ribs with a little salt, pepper and cumin powder and smoke them on the grill. (Learn how to do that here.) Blend ½ cup of bourbon with a 1 cup of peach jam or peach preserves, then glaze the mixture over the ribs a few times during the last hour and a half of cooking time. The result is both smoky and sweet. “It’s the perfect summer dish with a great flavor profile,” says Dady.
What Kind: Dos Equis
Why It’s So Great: Thanks to the combination of its effervescence, hoppiness and malt flavor, beer is best used in a marinade. Dady adds that Mexican beers work especially well because they’re a bit lighter not too hoppy, making them excellent for a light brine.
Use It With: Chicken Thighs. Dady calls them the greatest invention of all time. “They’re impossible to overcook, the skin gets nice and crispy and they stay super moist,” he says. “It’s a foolproof way of feeding a bunch of people for a low price.”
What to Do: Make a brine (which pulls impurities out of the bird, imparts flavor and keeps the meat moist) by whisking together equal parts water and beer with a little sugar and salt. Soak the chicken for at least four hours, and as long as 24. Then grill the thighs skin side first until the fat starts to render and the skin is crisped—about 10 to 12 minutes total.
What Kind: A big oaky Chardonnay
Why It’s So Great: White wine is pretty much made for sauces, and one that’s spent a good amount of time in an oak barrel is a genius accompaniment for grilled fish since you’re pairing toasty wood elements with the wood flavors from the barbecue.
Use It With: Salmon
What to Do: Grill a filet of salmon on a cedar plank. Mince a couple of shallots and combine with a cup or two of white wine in a saucepan on a burner and reduce until the mixture gets syrupy. Then add a half a cup of heavy cream. When you’re ready to serve the salmon, whisk some butter and lemon juice into your sauce and then top the fish with it. “You’ll get this nice rich butter sauce that helps kind of cut through that rich salmon,” says Dady.
What kind: Zinfandel
Why It’s so Great: It’s a bigger wine with a peppery component and it imparts a ton of richness.
Use It With: Korean-Style Short Ribs
What to Do: Dady likes to mix some Gochujang (a fermented Korean chili paste) with the red wine and soak the ribs overnight to marinate. To cook, get your barbecue super hot and grill ‘em like crazy, getting as much char as you can and flipping them back and forth frequently. “Korean ribs have that great fat component and you get the richness from the wine and the smoked fermenty pepper from the Gochujang,” according to Dady. “It’s a pretty awesome dish.”
What Kind: Amaretto
Why It’s So Great: Liqueurs are perfect for cooking since they have a specific flavor profile built into them.
Use It With: Peaches
What to Do: Cut a few peaches in half and soak them in Amaretto for a couple of hours. Spray your grill with a nonstick spray, set it to high, and put the peaches on the grill, pulling them off before they’re cooked through (the equivalent of medium rare in meat terms). Then let them rest for a few minutes. Serve with whipped mascarpone if you like, but plain is just fine, too. Says Dady: “It’s such a killer little quick dessert.”