“Supermarket Score!” is all about taking a look at the great deals and delicious meals that are hidden in lesser-known yet commonly found supermarket items.
Often when reading through food magazines and watching cooking shows on TV, I hear people talk about how much they love adding the flavors of their favorite cocktail to their dinner. Zingers like “Margarita Chicken” or “Bloody Mary BBQ” are cheeky and all, but I’d personally rather save my alcohol for drinking rather than cook it all away. That’s why, for this week’s Supermarket Score, I’m encouraging you to take a look - not at cocktails, per se - but at what flavors them. This week is all about bitters.
In a world long preceding the *ahem* wonders that are Whipped Cream and Birthday Cake flavored vodkas, the classic cocktail was king (which, I’m told, is back to being in vogue right now). Many a classic cocktail is based on ratios of a single spirit, typically something stronger like whiskey or gin, mixed with a little acid or bitters. Bitters are a highly concentrated blend of spices, herbs, and aromatics that are steeped together and used to add depth and flavor to cocktails. Think of them as seasoning salts for your bar.
Equated nowadays with the utmost in modern masculine chic, the use of bitters in mixology is exploding. With that comes a growing portfolio of flavors like orange, rhubarb, grapefruit, chocolate, and many many more. Where it all started, though, was in two original formulas: Peychauds and Angostura. These two varieties of bitters were conceived originally as tonics sold in apothecaries as health aids to digestive ailments. You can find them now on the shelves of supermarkets near the bar mixes.
I’m not saying to take it out of your cocktails, just try bringing bitters into the kitchen using one of the ideas below and you, too, can see what all the fuss is about.
COCKTAIL PARTY SNACK MIX
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Snack mix is one of those party favorites that I just love. Everyone’s got their own take on it, adding in that never-to-be disclosed secret ingredient that makes it their own. Next time your whipping up your own batch, as soon as it comes out from toasting in the oven, toss it with a few dashes of bitters. Not only with the aroma be mouth-watering, the flavors will echo as a perfect complement to that starter round of cocktails you’re serving.
EVERY GUY’S (NEW) FAVORITE BARBECUE SAUCE
Let’s face it, a steak dinner is delicious (sorry, vegetarians). Nothing says “bring on the beef” like an amazing steak sauce to complement it. Whether you’re going store-bought or whipping up your own (take a little recipe help from Rach, if you like http://rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=3896), a few dashes of bitters added to your sauce will have your special guy going from “that was great!” to “wow, that’s a clean plate!”.
MANHATTAN BAKED BEANS
Living nearby New England and spending lots of time there each summer, you see how crafty they are with their baked beans - they sneak them into almost every meal of the day! Take your beachside clam bake’s favorite side dish on a trip downtown with a few dashes of bitters (and even a shot of bourbon or whiskey). Suddenly a side dish of beans got a whole lot classier.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has. Probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team on Rachael’s daytime talk show, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day, and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest twEATs on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickdecker.com.