Cooking with tequila creates flavor explosion
Submitted by Tequila.net
February 28, 2007
¡Sabor Grande! Cooking with tequila creates flavor explosion
Any bartender or barfly could tell you that tequila, salt and lime are the ultimate Friday night combination.
While some might be fond of this trio, it isn’t the only way to get a tequila fix. In fact, the spirit makes an excellent cooking ingredient, say local chefs, providing a little south-of-the-border zest in marinades, meat dishes and more.
Most people know that wine and liquor can be cooked with in various dishes, but they usually stop short of adding tequila to recipes, said Jennifer Guerra, and general manager and chef at Republic of the Rio Grande restaurant in McAllen.
"I don’t think many people (use tequila) at all," she said. "I think tequila is always thought of as a drinking liquor, but very few people probably cook with it, especially home cooks. It’s no different than cooking with any other liquor; it’s that the flavor profile is different and unique to tequila."
When cooking with tequila, you should know a little bit about the drink first. According to the book The Bartender’s Best Friend, authentic tequila can only be made from blue agave grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco, or in parts of Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacán or Tamaulipas. For tequila to be called "tequila," it must have a minimum of 51 percent certified blue agave in it. If the spirit is made from a different type of agave, the resulting liquor is called mezcal.
At Tequila’s Bar and Grill in McAllen, the menu includes several dishes that honor the restaurant’s namesake, said chef William Vieza. One of the entrees includes shrimp marinated in a tequila/chipotle sauce, he said. The restaurant also serves a tequila ceviche.
"We were trying to create something new with the flavors," Vieza said.
Vieza’s tequila of choice for these dishes is Patrón, he said, because it has a lighter flavor. He also uses a very small dose of the spirit in the recipe, less than four ounces for a batch of 100 shrimp. However, that small dose packs a flavorful punch.
"It’s smoky, when you mix it in and cook it with the rest of the ingredients," Vieza said. "With the chipotle and bacon and tomatoes (with the shrimp), it’s a great combination."
If you have a favorite recipe that calls for a different liquor, tequila can sometimes be substituted in its place, Guerra said.
"Blanco (white) or plata (silver) tequilas can be substituted into recipes that call for vodka," she said. "Reposada (rested) tequilas can be substituted when recipes call for rum, and añejo (aged) tequilas can be used when cognac or brandy are called for."
Certain foods taste better with tequila than others, Guerra said. Citrus flavors pair well with tequila, while tropical fruits like mango, papaya and avocado. Spices like cilantro and mint also pair well with the drink, Guerra said. Because tequila is such a strong drink, both in alcohol content and in taste, Guerra said to be careful with how much you use.
"As with wine, if you would not drink it, do not cook with it," she said. "A little will go a long way in a recipe, so don’t be heavy-handed."
Kate Lohnes, The Monitor.