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Spirited Recipes For Your Father’s Day Celebration

photo: Bob B. Brown

Brunch is a given on Mother’s Day, but a proper Father’s Day celebration calls for stronger stuff.

Instead of getting Dad an expensive bottle of liquor (a common enough gift) or taking him out for a pricey restaurant meal, meld the two ideas into a bargain solution by delving into your existing stash of alcohol and adding a splash to favorite recipes.

Cooking with alcohol is easy and offers tangible results. “It adds subtle complexities,” says Laura Mohseni, the general manager of the winery division at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria, Calif. That tried-and-true meatball, grilled chicken or chocolate mousse recipe gets new life with just a tablespoon or two. “Alcohol can also act as a bridge for food and wine pairings,” Mohseni says. In other words, the Chardonnay you’ve been saving for a special occasion will taste that much better when paired with pasta in a Chardonnay-butter sauce.

Even better, many boozy recipes involve other Dad favorites: barbecue and grilling. Don’t worry if you don’t consume alcohol, though: those recipes work just as well without.

(And if you’d really rather go out, check back on Friday for weekend Father’s Day specials in addition to the usual roundup of upcoming dine-out deals.)

Barbecued Shrimp

This New Orleans-inspired dish gets part of its kick from a half-cup of dark beer in the sauce.

Tequila Lime Tilapia

“Have all your ingredients nearby,” suggests Brian Darrow of ARunnersBlog.com, who came up with this recipe. “Things move pretty quickly once the fish is in the pan.” Use a paper towel to pat dry two filets of tilapia, swai or other white fish. In a bowl, mix a cup cornmeal and another of flour. In a second bowl, beat one egg. Heat a tablespoon olive oil on high in a shallow pan. Dredge fish filets in the eggs and then the flour mixture, and place in the pan. Reduce heat to medium and fry fish two to three minutes per side before removing from pan.

Remove the pan from heat and add juice of three limes to pan juices, using a wooden spoon to stir. Add a cup of raw sugar and stir until it dissolves. Put the pan back on medium heat and add a half-cup tequila. (Take a moment here to savor the aroma, Darrow says — it’s amazing.) Add a second cup of raw sugar and stir until it dissolves. At this point, the sauce should be syrupy. If not, add a little more sugar. Return the fish to the pan and use a spoon to coat it with sauce.  Sprinkle with half a tablespoon ground cumin and cook for two to three minutes. Turn, sprinkle with another half-tablespoon cumin and cook another two to three minutes.

Mainland Burgers

Mohseni’s lamb burger recipe includes two tablespoons white wine to offset the other ingredients, including Greek seasonings, yogurt and lemon juice.

Roman Meatballs with Red Wine

Lauren Scuncio Birmingham, the creator of culinary travel operator Cooking Vacations Italy, mixes a pound chopped Sirloin, one tablespoon balsamic vinegar, a half-cup red wine, a half-cup Parmesan cheese and finely chopped celery, parsley and
onion. Salt and pepper to taste. Form small balls by molding meat around a single green, pitted olive (preferably, Sicilian olives). Roll the meatballs in breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Jalapeño Beer Brittle

Don’t let this combination of dark beer, roasted peanuts and spicy jalapeños intimidate you, says Marie Porter, the author of the forthcoming cookbook “The Spirited Baker,” who came up with the recipe after her husband started brewing his own beer. “The way the jalapenos cook in the syrup gives the brittle an even, ‘low, slow burn,’” she says, rather than an overwhelming kick.

Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray and place an oven set to “warm.” Combine one cup white sugar, a half-cup corn syrup, a quarter-teaspoon salt, one-third cup beer (preferably dark beer), and one or two chopped, seeded jalapeños in a large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, and then attach a candy thermometer to saucepan. Stir often until temperature reaches 300 degrees F. (Keep a close eye on it after 280 degrees, Porter says. “The temperature has a tendency to race up at that point.”)

Remove the pan from heat and add one teaspoon baking soda and two tablespoons butter, stirring until incorporated. Quickly add in a cup and a half of roasted, salted peanuts and stir until completely coated. Remove cookie sheet from oven, and pour brittle out onto it. Use two buttered forks to pull the brittle mixture out from the center, until it is thinly spread and relatively even. Cool completely and then break into pieces.

Watermelon with Sake

Asked to come up with a drink to pair with sushi for a dinner party, Scott Bloom of New York decided to muddle a seedless watermelon with a magnum of sake. “It was the most popular drink there,” he says. To tweak the recipe into an appetizer or dessert, cube the watermelon and soak it in the sake in the refrigerator for two days. The result: alcohol-infused bites.

Mojito Chicken

Stuart Reb Donald, the author of “Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes from the Gulf of Mexico,” starts with a basic mojito: chiffonade a dozen mint leaves and use a mortar and pestle to muddle them, along with two tablespoons of sugar. Transfer the mix to a sealable container and stir in a quarter-cup each of rum, Key lime juice and chicken stock, plus a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add four chicken breasts and marinate for an hour. Shake off the excess marinade and saute or grill the chicken. If you saute, add the marinade to the pan after the chicken has cooked for a minute, and lower the heat to maintain a simmer for about five minutes. Remove cooked chicken, and then raise the heat to bring the liquid to a bowl. Remove from heat and stir in three tablespoons butter. Use as a topping, along with pineapple salsa if desired.

Steak Au Poivre

Frugal Foodie is a fan of serving grilled steak with Alton Brown’s Cognac-infused recipe, but the Village Tavern chain has a version of the popular Au Poivre sauce that’s worth trying.  Preheat a saucepot with oil, and cook a cup of sliced shallots until tender and translucent. Add a cup red wine and cook until the mixture has reduced to about two tablespoons of liquid. Add a tablespoon of beef base and four cups heavy cream, and cook until the liquid has been reduced by a quarter. Add three-quarters of a teaspoon kosher salt and a quarter-cup each of brandy and cognac.

Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.