Monday, March 20, 2006

Liquor = sauce

Sometimes, I think the best thing about alcohol is that you can cook with it. "Sauced," of course, can mean that one has had too much fruit of the vine. On the other hand, fruit of the vine (or its relatives) can also help make a phenomenal sauce.

Well, ok, so last night's sauce wasn't phenomenal. I picked up a mix of fresh "gourmet" mushrooms at the supermarket (shiitake, oyster and crimini) and decided to make a liquor-based sauce and pour it over spinach fettuccini. The sauce template I used was Mark Bittman's miso-red wine sauce; it is proving to be a very flexible base for sauce improvisation. I used up the last of my vermouth (3/4 of a cup) and added 1/4 of a cup of cooking ch'ongju to eke out the required one cup of liquor for the sauce.

I tasted the sauce as it was cooking down and thought it wasn't sweet enough. In went a tablespoon or so of sugar, and then, after another taste, a tablespoon or so of mirin. That did the trick. I poured the sauce over three thin pan-seared pork chops.

It's not that it was bad; I'm sure plenty of people would've enjoyed this extemporaneous sauce. But it didn't quite do it for me. The final result had almost as bright and aggressive a taste as some candies have; the combination of the sweet liquor blend and the deep wininess of the white miso resulted in too much going on, tastewise. The mushrooms picked up the flavors strongly; delectable, if you like that sort of thing, but too intense if you don't. I guess that the next time I try something like this, I'll go for the "less is more" approach.

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