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Adding Alcohol to Dishes and Sauces
Adding Alcohol can be dangerous but rewarding in flavor
Alcohol is added to various dishes for many reasons but mostly to intensify flavor. We all watch chef's on TV shows adding alcohol to a skillet which is a fancy word called Flambe. Flambe is essentially done when you add a high proof alcohol (Brandy, Vodka, etc) to a very hot pan and once the two combine it flames up creating a burst of flavor and also burning off the alcohol.
So this poses the question...Does flaming it really burn off all the alcohol? The answer depends on the dish you are cooking. The longer the recipe is cooked or the higher the temperature the less alcohol will be presented in the finished product. However, in some uncooked recipes(dressings are a good example) some alcohol content will remain but of course not enough to impair driving or operating any machinery. See chart up above
Here are some general good tips to use when preparing alcohol related dishes:
1) If you can drink it, you can cook with it. If it tastes bad, it's gonna taste worse in your dish.
2) If you use alcohol often many chefs freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays for adding to soups, stews, stocks, etc.
3) When using alcohol in cream sauces add/burn off the alcohol before adding the cream. This prevents curdling.
4) Make sure to use caution when adding alcohol to a pan especially over an open flame. Take the pan off the heat add the alcohol and either cook it out, or flame it.
5) In some cases Alcohol can be used a a beef tenderiser.
Adding alcohol to a dish can be dangerous and it is important to use extreme caution because anyone can have a bad day...even a seasoned professional. It is never wise to add alcohol over an open flame (I know we see chefs on TV do it all the time) because all it takes is one tiny drop to either set your apron, eyebrows, or anything else in the vicinity a flame. Some chef's use a method of putting your thumb over half the bottle and swirling it around the pan. If you're a professional than by all means it's ok but in certain circumstances some alcohol can drip down your hand picking the bottle back up after pouring. Furthermore, I don't recommend flaming(Flambe) if you have a low ceiling.
There are two ways to do this safely where you won't get harmed.
1) When it's time to add the alcohol simply turn the heat off for a moment and pour in your alcohol. You can cook it out as opposed to flaming it. It's slower but safer.
2) If in a skillet....Take the pan off the heat , pour in the alcohol, and return to the stove. Do not tilt the pan as it may flame up. You can also use a grill lighter to flame the alcohol if using a small amount(if you aren't patient).
As a General safety note it is always good to inform your guests of the ingredient you used just to avoid any problems with allergies. I once had a guest that had an allergic reaction to sulfites so wine was out of the question. So is the alcohol all gone...the answer is no. Just because you have "cooked" it out does not mean it is all gone. Always be safe in the kitchen..God knows Ive had my share of accidents.