Book Review: Cooking With Spirits

Reviewer’s Note: Review copy of the book discussed here was provided to me at no cost in exchange for my honest opinion.

One might call this book of 28 recipes the culmination of a culinary odyssey born years ago in a California distillery. One could also call it the a solid introduction to a new way of working with spirits, finding their value as elements of meal courses rather than cocktails. Author Aurora J. Miller’s experimentations toward that end began after she joined the St. George Spirits family and started, as part of her training, to taste her way through the distillery’s product line.

That experience inspired Miller to explore ways to cook with the spirits in place of the ingredients and flavors from which they were distilled (think raspberry liqueur standing in for raspberries, or citrus vodka applied in lieu of fruit zest, in both instances achieving the same fruity boldness of flavor, but with an added kick of alcohol) and a wealth of recipes was born. This slender collection is filled with vividly photographed dishes whose names intrigue at a glance. One would have to possess both a heart and stomach of stone to be capable of reading phrases like “Botanivore Banh Mi” or “Absinthe Foccacia” without not just wanting, but legitimately needing to know more about them.

Image: Anthony Beal / FlavorfulWorld.com
Image: Anthony Beal / FlavorfulWorld.com

Whenever mention gets made of cooking with liquor, it’s not uncommon for people’s thoughts to swing at once toward baked, drunken sweets and spiked dessert courses. This collection doesn’t shy away from that expectation. There are plenty of chocolate- and fruit-led bites to be found; enough to go around the table twice. But this recipe book also gleefully leans into deviating from the well-worn path regarding liquored edibles, outlining recipes for mushroom crostini, meats like beef and spicy pork, caviar-loaded baked potatoes, and other alcohol-enlivened savories.

Miller’s book span three sections that group the recipes according to one’s level of kitchen confidence, allowing even the novice to enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with having created something tasty with one’s own hands. There’s even a section on cocktails, albeit one that roused a smile for what could be described as its honest, if somewhat minimalist approach to sharing steps for concocting hundreds of quality alcoholic beverages.

The recipes found in this fun read (a quick one at a scant 37 pages) bring an oft-neglected air of whimsy to prepping gourmet food at home. The wide variety of spirits utilized throughout the book and the relaxed manner in which Miller tailors each section to the reader’s personal confidence level, so that (hopefully) no entry feels intimidating or plainly out of reach, made this a pleasant one to read and then read again. It’s certain to have readers looking at their home bar with fresh and inspired eyes.

Paperback: 37 pages
Publisher: Aurora
ISBN-10: 0997758104
ISBN-13: 978-0997758108

Purchase it at www.cookingwithspirits.com

This article first appeared on FlavorfulWorld.com.

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