There are two paradigms people generally think of when talking about food and Bourbon: cooking with Bourbon or eating food while drinking Bourbon. I much prefer the latter, in fact, I very rarely get a good hit of Bourbon flavor when I see people trying to throw the drink into their mix as an ingredient. I almost always feel like it’s just there to sound sexy. Bourbon chocolate cake sounds like it could sell some units, but I always find myself asking, “where’s the Bourbon and why did they waste it in this recipe?”
When we’re cooking with Bourbon we tend to think of sugary things, like bread pudding, glazes, caramel or peach preserves. In these instances, the Bourbon is not being framed, rather contributing to a dish, surrendering a lot of its character to fit in. Conversely, when pairing food with Bourbon, we intend to create harmony with the Bourbon, to make it better than it would have been by itself and not squash too much of its essence. Cooking with it can mask it while pairing should frame it.
Eating super sugary things, like caramel, with Bourbon actually lays waste to the sweet receptors on your tongue, destroying any sweetness you could have perceived in the spirit and throwing the whole thing out of balance. Caramel might sound like a delicious pairing but if you’re drinking a Bourbon after a big hit of it, you’ll find a sour, bitter mess in your glass. Not that a little sweetness is completely uncalled for, just don’t go overboard. You need to temper your sweet with a heavy dose of creamy, savory, perfumed or bready.
Carrots, parsnips, pretty much any sweet and earthy root vegetable, when prepared correctly, play nicely with Bourbon’s perfumed and savory side. Mayonnaise is just about as mouth-coatingly creamy as you can get. Fried foods work to the bready ends and, using meat as a vehicle, mingle a little in the savory side as well. With this in mind, the toasted batter on savory wings served with a side of creamy celeriac slaw are all begging to be served with a few fingers of heady Bourbon.
There are a few day-before preparations to attend to in this recipe. Chicken fries best when it’s had lots of time to dry out, and giving the salt lots of time to absorb into the meat will not only help keep it juicy, but helps make the outer surfaces dry and fry better, so don’t skip these steps or you could end up with soggy, flavorless wings. The most difficult part for the celeriac slaw is making your own mayonnaise, which you could just as easily skip, but I love the flavor of homemade mayo; making your own is a skill any good cook should have under their belt.
- 1 medium celeriac (celery root)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
- pinch of ground allspice
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp champagne vinegar
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- sprinkle salt
- sprinkle sugar
- a few grinds black pepper
- If you don’t wish to try your hand at making your own mayonnaise you can skip to step 7.
- In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder grind both mustard seeds and coriander.
- In a flat bottomed bowl add yolk, ground spices, allspice, black pepper, salt and sugar and beat yolk until smooth.
- Add vinegar and lemon juice.
- Whisk in a few drops of oil, one drop at a time, until a stable emulsion forms. Take your time. The key is to go slow and let each drop fully mix in before proceeding.
- After 10-20 drops are mixed in, you can begin to slowly drizzle in the rest of the oil slowly, whisking quickly. Every few seconds back off the oil and make sure it’s good and mixed before proceeding. When all of the oil is mixed in you should have a thick sauce. Set aside. Don’t be discouraged if it comes out runny. Just try again and add the oil a little slower during the first stages of mixing. Go, literally, one drop at a time.
- Peel the celeriac, wiping the freshly cut sides with the leftover lemon as you go, to prevent browning.
- Once peeled, cut one side flat. Flip that side to the bottom so the root sits steady. Cut slices of the root as thinly as you can, and after you get a few, lay them on the cutting board and finely julienne. A julienne-capable mandolin will save you lots of time, but a sharp chef’s knife will work, too.
- When you get a small handful of strips, toss them into the bowl of mayonnaise and fold to cover. If you want a thicker dressing, don’t use as much of the root. If you want a thinner dressing, use it all. If it’s still too thick you can add some extra lemon juice to thin it out.
- Cover surface with plastic wrap and store in fridge up to a few hours ahead of time.
- 8 whole chicken wings cut into flats and drumettes (16 pieces)
- 1 c cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 1/2 c ap flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup vodka
- kosher salt
- Canola oil for deep frying
- The night before your meal, spread the wing pieces out on a drying rack over a baking dish. Season liberally with kosher salt on both sides and rest in refrigerator overnight.
- The next morning, rinse the wings. Dry them off well with a paper towel and set aside.
- Mix 1/2 cup of the corn starch, baking powder, spices, and a sprinkle of salt. Whisk to mix and then dredge the wings in the mix, shaking off the excess well before returning them to the drying rack. Set back in fridge for at least one hour, up to twelve.
- Preheat heavy pot of oil to 390*F. Preheat oven to 250*F.
- While oil heats, whisk together last 1/2 cup of starch, all flour, vodka, chicken stock and a sprinkle of salt. Batter should be very thin.
- Fry in two batches to keep oil hot. One by one, dip wings in batter, let excess drip off and then slowly add to fryer. Fry for 7-9 minutes or until wings are light bronze. Oil should drop down to around 360-375*F. Try to maintain that temp. Drain wings on paper towel or brown paper bags. Keep first batch of wings warm on a pan in the oven until second batch is done and ready to serve. Taste one and if they need salt sprinkle it on while the wings are still warm.