Emily Clifton edits movies and TV shows; her husband Matt runs an IT consultancy. Together they create recipes in their Hudson Valley kitchen for Nerds with Knives, the popular food blog they started in 2013. They gather inspiration from their backyard garden and the pubs, bars and restaurants they frequent in New York and beyond. As their eclectic recipe collection grew, they noticed a pattern: most of their favorites contained some type of booze — from the brandy in the cream sauce on the steak au poivre they shared on their first “fancy date,” to the wheat beer for steaming freshly caught clams from their local farmers market.
They dug deeper into the science of each spirit so they could better understand how to take advantage of their unique properties. You’ll find the results of their tasty research in “Cork and Knife: Build Complex Flavors with Bourbon, Wine, Beer and More,” with recipes categorized in 10 chapters according to the dominant spirit in each.
Among their revelations: beer lightens batter for fried seafood; an extra splash of vodka ensures the crust will be even crunchier because it evaporates so quickly. Rye whisky can elevate refrigerator bread-and-butter pickles with an extra layer of complex spice. The floral, citrus and spicy notes of silver tequila add a “poolside feeling” and “sophisticated edge” to parfaits that layer graham cracker crumbs with key lime custard.
Emily Clifton’s luscious photography, along with the duo’s witty and well-informed prose, have already prompted me to dust off that bottle of vodka hiding in the cabinet for Shrimp and Pasta in Vodka Cream Sauce (easy and delish!). I’ve also bookmarked Gin and Tonic Pound Cake, Loin Lamb Chops with Port and Dried Cherries, and Reverse-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Peach-Bourbon Glaze, to name a few.
I’ll take an inventory of my liquor cabinet to help me decide what to make next.
Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.
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