You want to have a dinner party — mostly as an excuse to get your friends together and drink a glass or two of whiskey. What do you serve that will help fill you up, but not compete with the whiskey on your palate?
Pairing a meal with whiskey can be difficult. For one, most people prefer to drink it after dinner, not with their three courses. (If you’re Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame, that means sipping on a glass of Lagavulin Single Malt Scotch Whisky for 45 minutes, while winning a staring contest with the camera.) On top of that, as the makers of Glenfiddich whiskies attest, the higher alcohol content in whiskey makes the pairing a little more difficult.
Despite the challenges, however, there are some ways you can pour a glass of your favorite whiskey (or “whisky,” if you prefer selections from Scotland). If you’re planning to set out a spread of appetizers and snack foods instead of an entire meal, go with strong cheeses, certain fruits, and dark chocolates. “The more cacao, the better,” Houston Press writer Christine Ha advises. Stronger whiskeys might need to be diluted with a bit of water for full enjoyment with a meal, though that’s of course up to personal preference. If you’re ready for a challenge and want to make dinner and serve whiskey with it, take a look at these five recipes for an idea of where to begin.
1. Whiskey Glazed Flat Iron Steaks and Grilled Potatoes
Red wine goes with red meat, but if you’d prefer a distilled drink, whiskey can also go great with a steak. Matching Food & Wine suggests pairing steak with full-bodied, rich whiskies, including The Macallan. Since this recipe from Food Network already includes a bit of whiskey in it, you know you’re on the right track.
- ½ cup whiskey, such as Jack Daniels
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed
- 4 (8-ounce) flat iron steaks or filet mignon steaks
- 1½ pounds Yukon gold potatoes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Directions: Preheat a grill on medium-high heat. Whisk together the whiskey, brown sugar, 1½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic. Add the steaks, turn a few times to coat with the marinade, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter each potato lengthwise to form wedges and put in a medium pot. Cover with cold water to cover by 1-inch and add salt until the water tastes like sea water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender (but not falling apart), about 15 minutes. Drain well. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Remove the steaks from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Pour the marinade into a small pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes until slightly reduced, making sure the sugar does not burn, to make a glaze and sauce for the steak.
Grill the steaks until an internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer reads about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, 3 to 4 minutes per side, brushing with the boiled marinade several times in the last few minutes of grilling time. (If you are cooking the filet mignon steaks, you will need to increase this time to 8 to 10 minutes per side to account for the thicker cut.) Transfer to a large plate to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. While the steaks grill, add the potatoes to the grill and grill until well-marked and crispy, turning to grill all sides, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the potato wedges to a bowl.
Toss the grilled potatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, chives, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the garlic cloves from the remaining glaze and serve drizzled over the steaks with the potatoes on the side.
2. Duck Poached in Consommé with Baby Vegetables
Glenfiddich put together a sample menu that pairs well with its own selection of whisky labels, including an entree featuring duck in a consommé. If you go with Glenfiddich, try the Solera 15-year-old malt. “The dried fruit notes work exceptionally well with the duck meat, while the mouthfeel of the rich salty broth is perfect for the full bodied honey sweetness of the whisky,” Glenfiddich explains. Of course, you’re welcome to try any drink selection you’d prefer, but keeping those characteristics will make this dish from Poultry & Game shine.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on duck consommé, you’ll save yourself several steps in an otherwise straightforward dish. If not, you can make the consommé ahead of time so you don’t spend hours in the kitchen at a time.
- 4 duck breasts, skinned and trimmed of excess fat, with bone
- 8 baby carrots, with tops on
- 8 baby turnips, with tops on
- 8 pencil-thin leeks
- 8 baby courgettes (zucchini)
- 2 ounces shelled peas or French beans
- 1½ cups duck consommé
- Salt and pepper
- Sprigs of French parsley
- 1 duck leg
- 1 stalk celery
- ½ small onion
- 1 small leek
- 1 tomato, blanched, skinned, and seeded
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 2 egg whites
- 3½ cups duck stock
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Directions: For consommé: Skin and bone the duck leg and very finely chop the meat. Finely dice the celery, onion, leek, and tomato. Combine these with the chopped meat and thyme in a saucepan. Add the egg whites and mix together well. Stir in the cold stock, check the mixture for seasoning, and add salt and pepper as required.
Place over high heat, stirring continuously until it almost comes to a boil. Just as it comes to a boil, reduce the heat so that it simmers. Continue simmering for 30 minutes. Strain the finished consommé through muslin.
For entrée: Prepare all of the vegetables, retaining their natural shapes where possible. Blanch each vegetable separately in boiling salted water and refresh in iced water. Drain and set aside.
Bring the consommé to a boil in a saucepan large enough to hold the duck breasts. Lightly season each breast and lower into the consommé. Simmer gently for about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan, cover, and keep warm. Reduce the consommé by just over half.
Return the breasts to the consommé and allow to warm through. Remove them and slice each breast into 6 or 7 slices across and at a slight angle. Place the vegetables in the consommé to reheat while dressing the duck.
Arrange the duck slices on the plates in a circle. Drain the vegetables and scatter them over and around the duck. Strain the consommé through muslin and pour it on the plates over the duck and the vegetables, scattering French parsley over the top.
3. Chicken Biryani
Indian food… and whiskey? It might sound like an odd combination, but it’s actually somewhat common. Fiona Beckett, author of Matching Food & Wine, said this dish paired well with a glass of Barry Crockett Legacy Single Pot Still whiskey, distilled in Ireland. “In India they don’t have our hang-ups about whisky and food not going together” whiskey expert Dave Broom told Beckett. “We can learn something from the rest of the world.”
Try your hand at this Indian cuisine, and pour your favorite glass of whiskey to go with it. This variation hosted on Allrecipes.com received high reviews from those who gave it a try. The ingredient list looks daunting, but once you’ve stocked your pantry, the instructions are fairly easy to follow.
For chicken mixture
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 small potatoes, peeled and halved
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 (2-inch) piece cinnamon stick
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken pieces cut into chunks
- 2½ tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 pinch powdered saffron
- 5 pods cardamom
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 (1-inch) piece cinnamon stick
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 pound basmati rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1½ teaspoons salt
Directions: In a large skillet add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and fry potatoes until brown; drain and reserve the potatoes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and fry onion, garlic, and ginger until onion is soft and golden. Add chili, pepper, turmeric, cumin, salt, and the tomatoes. Fry, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Add yogurt, mint, cardamom, and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes are cooked to a pulp. It may be necessary to add a little hot water if the mixture becomes too dry and starts to stick to the pan.
When the mixture is thick and smooth, add the chicken pieces and stir well to coat them with the spice mixture. Cover and cook over very low heat until the chicken is tender, approximately 35 to 45 minutes. There should only be a little very thick gravy left when chicken is finished cooking. If necessary cook uncovered for a few minutes to reduce the gravy.
Wash rice well and drain in colander for at least 30 minutes.
In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil and fry the onions until they are golden. Add saffron, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, ginger, and rice. Stir continuously until the rice is coated with the spices.
In a medium-size pot, heat the chicken stock and salt. When the mixture is hot pour it over the rice and stir well. Add the chicken mixture and the potatoes; gently mix them into the rice. Bring to boil. Cover the saucepan tightly, turn heat to very low and steam for 20 minutes. Do not lift lid or stir while cooking. Spoon biryani onto a warm serving dish.
This is the dish to try if you have a truly adventurous palate, or already know that your guests enjoy Scotland’s national dish. It’s also a good option if you want to celebrate Burns Night, the annual celebration of Scottish poet Robert Burns.
It will be difficult to make true haggis in the United States, since some of the required sheep ingredients are banned by the FDA. However, Food Network’s Alton Brown offers a recipe that will get you very close to the original. You can say you’ve lived like a true Scotsman, though the haggis could be what made the Scots yearn to wash down their meal with whisky in the first place.
- 1 sheep stomach
- 1 sheep liver
- 1 sheep heart
- 1 sheep tongue
- ½ pound suet, minced
- 3 medium onions, minced
- ½ pound dry oats, toasted
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried ground herbs
Directions: Rinse the stomach thoroughly and soak overnight in cold salted water.
Rinse the liver, heart, and tongue. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook these parts over medium heat for 2 hours. Remove and mince. Remove any gristle or skin and discard.
In a large bowl, combine the minced liver, heart, tongue, suet, onions, and toasted oats. Season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs. Moisten with some of the cooking water so the mixture binds. Remove the stomach from the cold salted water and fill ⅔ with the mixture. Sew or tie the stomach closed. Use a turning fork to pierce the stomach several times. This will prevent the haggis from bursting.
In a large pot of boiling water, gently place the filled stomach, being careful not to splash. Cook over high heat for 3 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes.
If you want to stay with a traditional Scottish dish but would rather go in a sweet direction than one with offal, try this pudding known for its inclusion of raspberries and whisky. This variation from Open Kitchen uses orange zest and rosemary for a little extra flavor, plus you can add to the fun by letting everyone craft their own mixtures of cream, oats, and fruit, much like a sundae or parfait.
- 1 pound frozen raspberries or strawberries (or a mix)
- A sprig of fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons runny honey
- 1 orange
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 3½ ounces sliced almonds
- 1 vanilla bean
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ⅔ cup low-fat yogurt
- A splash of whisky
- 5 ounces fresh raspberries
Directions: Put the frozen berries, rosemary, and 1 tablespoon of the honey in a small saucepan, grate over the zest, and squeeze in the juice from the orange. Bring everything to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for roughly 10 minutes, or until it’s thick and syrupy. Get rid of the rosemary sprig, then pour the mixture into a serving bowl and leave to cool.
While the fruit is bubbling away, put the rolled oats in a dry medium frying pan on a medium heat. Stir and gently toast them, around 5 minutes, or until they’re golden, then tip them into a second serving bowl and put it on the table with a spoon. Return frying pan to the heat and add remaining 2 tablespoons of honey and the sliced almonds. Toss around for a few minutes, until the almonds are lightly golden and sticky, then remove to another serving bowl and put that on the table with a spoon too.
Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Put the cream and sugar into a bowl, add the vanilla bean seeds, and whisk until you get soft peaks. Then fold in the yogurt and whisky. Spoon into a nice serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and pop into the fridge, along with the stewed berries, while you enjoy your dinner.
When you’re ready to serve, simply take all of the elements — the stewed berries, toasted oats, sticky almonds, and flavoured cream — to the table with a bowl of fresh raspberries or other fruit, a handful of spoons, and some tumblers or bowls. The joy is letting everybody build their own cranachan, layering up the ingredients and eating it like a sundae.