Foodie on the Half Shell: Cooking with wine

As pretty much anyone who knows me or reads my column knows; I love food. I love to try new recipes with interesting ingredients and different methods of cooking them. I love how food tastes, and I also love how it looks. I love everything about food (other than the large amounts of calories in things that I love, like butter). I also love drinks, though. I find it really important when I am describing my passion for the edible world that I include the words “food and drink.”

I bartended for a short time in my hometown, and I loved it almost more than I love to cook. There is a different feeling you get when you put a perfect martini in front of someone rather than a perfect bowl of noodles or a perfect sandwich. There is something a little naughty and fun about the whole interaction. We know that if it’s good enough they may even have another, which has the potential to be even more wickedly fun (or not so fun for some).

I don’t enjoy alcohol just because it has the potential to intoxicate me, nor do I just enjoy food because it nourishes me. What I love is the complexity of flavors different types of drinks hold. The best part of wines, spirits, and beer is the fact that they don’t always need to be drank to be enjoyed—they can also be cooked with! If you are someone who does not drink, this article is still for you because if you cook with alcoholic beverages, the alcohol itself is cooked out of it. Here are some really fun ways to incorporate your favorite adult beverage into your food.

Beer mussels: The ocean taste of mussels pairs well with just about any kind of beer. Want to dump some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the pot? Go for it! Seriously! You can also go for your favorite IPA to give the broth an awesome punch. Sauté garlic and onion in a pot and then dump in some water, a can or two of beer (depending on the amount of mussels), and maybe some tomato sauce and chili flakes to make it really delicious. Dump a bag or two of mussels in the pot and cover it with a lid. Cook until all of the mussels are open.

Red wine poached pears: This is perfect for a fancy looking dessert that is super simple. Place skinned whole pears in a pot and cover with red wine and a little sugar. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. For a little extra flavor, add a couple cloves and an orange peel. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Vodka tomato cream sauce: This is my family’s favorite sauce for their spaghetti, and it is so simple. Sautee some olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes in a pan till fragrant. Add about a half a cup of vodka in the pan (change depending on how much pasta and how much of the vodka you want to taste). A half cup of vodka is enough for sauce to serve about six people. Add the red sauce immediately, and let simmer for five to 10 minutes. At the end, add enough cream to make the sauce a dark pink color. Put the sauce on top of your favorite type of pasta.

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