When a whiskey disappoints, fix it in the kitchen

J.M. HIRSCH, Associated PressJune 3, 2014 

In case you haven't noticed, there is a serious whiskey boom going on. And for those of us who enjoy whiskey in any of its iterations -- rye, bourbon and scotch, among others, are all close relatives of the whiskey family -- it has triggered a sometimes overwhelming wealth of choice when shopping.

The fun part is selecting among these new offerings, finding those delicious gems that will become regular fixtures in your liquor cabinet. The not-so-fun part? You inevitably will stumble upon some losers.

But when you do, it would be a shame to pour a bottle down the drain. The good news is you don't need to. Whiskey happens to work rather well in cooking, particularly in sauces for meats and roasted vegetables. So when we recently came across two bottles -- an all-corn whiskey from Texas and an overtly peaty Scotch Whisky -- I took to the kitchen to rescue them.

Though we call for specific styles of whiskeys in these recipes, the truth is you can use whatever you have (and presumably don't want for drinking).

Also, if you happen to prefer baking to barbecue, another way to use up a so-so whiskey is to soak raisins or dried apricots in it for a few days. Once the fruit is plumped, drain off any remaining whiskey (and use it for a cocktail). Bake the raisins or apricots (chop the latter) into your favorite blondie or oatmeal cookie recipe.

Smoky Socth-Date Barbecue Roasted Potatoes

This sauce also would be delicious on grilled meats, such as flank steak or baby back ribs.

Start to finish: 40 minutes (15 minutes active). Servings: 8.

1/2 cup chopped dates
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/4 cup Scotch Whisky (a particularly peaty variety is good)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 pounds small potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat it with cooking spray.

In a blender, combine the dates, garlic, rosemary, whiskey, salt, pepper, vinegar and melted butter. Puree until completely smooth.

In a large bowl, combine the sauce and potatoes and mix until completely coated. Spread onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until browned and tender, 25 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with the mint, scallions, and blue cheese.

Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 35 calories from fat (19 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 10 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 9 g sugar; 4 g protein; 180 mg sodium.

-- Recipe by Alison Ladman

Bourbon-Peanut Barbecue Sauce

Start to finish: 20 minutes. Makes 2 cups.

2 cups bourbon
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup natural peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sorghum syrup or honey
2 teaspoons hot sauce (more or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, whisk together the bourbon and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half and thickened, about 8 minutes. Whisk in the peanut butter, soy sauce, sorghum or honey, hot sauce, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, ginger and mustard powder. Return to a simmer and cook another 5 minutes. If a thinner sauce is desired, whisk in 1/3 cup water.

Nutrition information per 1/4 cup serving: 220 calories; 50 calories from fat (23 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 3 g protein; 120 mg sodium.

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