Wine’s got an unlikely competitor in the kitchen — whisky. Mostly absent in the kitchen, it’s earning the adulation of chefs who’ve taken to innovative whisky-laced dishes. The amber hued alcohol may not have a strong culinary history, except in Scotland or Ireland, where they call it ‘the water of life’, but chefs are now recognising its ability to lend varied characters to food. From whisky-drenched desserts to meat smothered in whisky-based sauces, chefs are tossing up a range of whiskilicious dishes.
Whisky connoisseur Sandeep Arora, who loves doing up whisky rotis made of dough kneaded with Laphroaig, says, “Once you understand pairing up flavours, cooking with whisky is fun. A rich highland whisky such as Glen- morangie cheers up a honey cake, while it shies away when mixed with overpowering flavours such as a coffee cake. Similarly, a robust one such as Laphroaig single malt is a great buddy for Indian lamb due to its smoky flavour.” So, embark on a gastronomic adventure with city chefs who have been experimenting with whisky.A whisky-masala combo
Ever thought, whisky would team up with hot Indian spices? Chef Mahinder Kharia of Kothi Mem peps up his Whisky Roghan Josh (Rs 285) with 60 ml of Black Label whisky. The whisky lends the dish fragrance and smoothens the texture of the curry. For his Whiskey Wale Chole (Rs 215), he soaks chickpea in whisky overnight and cooks it with dry amla. His Jhoomta Kookad (Rs 570) is chicken brushed with a whisky and spices marinade and braised in a whisky sauce.
Sweeten up your spirit
Chef Jan Seibold of Imperial swears by dessert made with whisky. His Drambuie Chocolate & Apricot cake (Rs 650) is made with apricots and chocolate sponge soaked in Drambuie, a whisky based Scottish liqueur. The cake comes topped with a rich coating of chocolate ganache. The Drambuie Creme Brulee, made with egg yolk and cream is another dessert pepped up with whisky. While serving, there’s bit of a drama — the chef spreads isomalt on the surface of the brulee and caramelises it, making the sugar look like yellow glaciers.
Pork, whisky and a little magic
There’s no marriage as inciting as whisky and pork’s, bets Chef Glenn Whiteman of The Leela Palace. His Cantonese Pork Belly with Bourbon BBQ sauce (Rs 1,100) comprises slow cooked pork belly, glazed with BBQ sauce, thinly sliced over stir-fry bokchoy and straw mushrooms. The BBQ sauce that he makes for glazing is a combo of hoisin and oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, honey and Makers Mark Bourbon whiskey. The strong, woody accents from the oak barrels used to age the whisky, further peps up the BBQ sauce flavour.
How about succulent lamb smothered in a whisky marinade? For making Olive & Seasame Crusted Lamb (Rs 1,500), Chef Devender Kumar of Le Meridian soaks meat racks in Jack Daniel Old No 7 for about 8-10 hours, and layers them with chopped oven-dried olive and sesame seeds. Once cooked in the oven till tender, it’s served with a zingy sauce made with fresh blue berries and red wine reduction. As the lamb is put on the plate, the chef tops it with whisky and flambés the meat.
On a fruity note
Whisky brilliantly perks up fruits that have a mild flavour. For making a whiskilicious Litchi Salad, Chef Tarun Kapoor of Metropolitan soaks litchis in Chivas Regal whiskey for two hours, cuts them into juliennes, and tosses them in whisky, lemon juice, salt, pepper and oregano. The litchis have chopped zucchini, red and yellow and capsicums, and lettuce leaves for company. The zingy salad is bathed with the whisky dressing before being served in a seashell shaped flour saucer.
Peppery Lamb Chops with Whisky and Honey Sauce
20 chunky chops, freshly pound spices (a mix of cinnamon, cardamom, peppercorns, ginger, salt, dry tamarind), 4 oat cakes, 2 tsp honey, 90 ml The Glenlivet 18YO, 2 spoons vinegar, 90 gm butter, 1 small celery, 1 chopped onion, 1 bay leaf, green peppercorn 3 tsp, 20 ml dry vermouth, 2 carrots, French beans 150 gm, 1 tsp cumin seeds.
Debone, flatten the lamb, and soak in olive oil. Cover with little water and vermouth, add onions and vegetables, boil for 30 min and sieve. Boil and keep carrots glazed with butter, honey and cumin. Roast the spices, mix with oatcakes and hazelnuts. Heat the honey and whisky together, brush and marinade lamb chops in this for 30 minutes. Reduce the lamb stock, add vinegar, roll lamb chops in spices, cook over slow heat, add stocks till lamb is coated with thick sauce. Add peppercorns. Serve hot with glazed vegetables and sweet potato mash.
Also try out paring these:
Woodford Reserve Bourbon works wonder with baked sweet potatoes
Highland Park 12YO pairs brilliantly with honey cake
Nikka from the Barrel livens up pork chops
Glenfiddich 15YO is a great choice for whipping a whisky sauce
Recipe by Sandeep Arora