Emma Freud, who is spending a year in New York, discovers just how many of the city's dishes benefit from a judicious helping of alcohol.
Cooking with alcohol is a big deal here – boozy dishes crop up on menus all over the city. Let me walk you through an entirely alcoholic meal made with some of the spirited delights I’ve found in American cookbooks, eaten from food trucks, or tried in Manhattan restaurants on your behalf (seriously, I love this job).
Masha & The Bear, a Russian restaurant in Williamsburg, serves beetroot-infused vodka ON TAP. You can blend this with beetroot soup, crème fraiche, lemon and ice – and drink it in shot glasses as a vodka borscht. It’s the perfect canapé, because if you drink so many you forget to have dinner, you’ll still be getting one of your five-a-day.
There are now more Mexican restaurants in America than burger bars. New York has 2,000, and a classic boozy Mexican starter is chicken goujons marinated in tequila, lime, agave syrup and green chilli, griddled on skewers and served with a spicy chipotle mayonnaise.
Slow-cooked short ribs in Barolo are really popular. After breakfast, brown the short ribs in a casserole dish with some chopped onion, carrot and celery. Add a bottle of Barolo or any ballsy red wine, and put in an oven set to 100C until dinner time. When I first made it, I couldn't believe something so delicious had come out of my own kitchen - it's the wine that does the magic.
Eggnog is the classic American flavour. The easiest version I’ve found is to whisk together two cups of single cream, one cup of rum, two eggs, two tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. You then warm it and drink it, or cook with it. Bread & butter pudding using eggnog instead of milk is sensational. New Yorkers dip white bread in it for amazing French toast, I’ve seen it used instead of milk in porridge and pancakes, and if you soak oats in eggnog before using them in muffins (with a rum and cinnamon glaze on top), they taste like a party.
It’s hard to blend alcohol into a cake batter without ruining the texture of the bake. But you can add it later: Americans call them ‘poke cakes’ as you poke holes in the warm cake, then pour over something delicious. In a café in the Flatiron district, I was served a lemon cake into which they had drizzled a gin & tonic. Sadly the cake side of things didn’t really fly.
The clever bakers at Prohibition Bakery have cracked it though. Their signature bakes are based on cocktails, with the ‘mixer’ flavour baked into the sponge, and the alcohol added to the icing, or heavily laced into a jam baked into the centre. When you bite into the espresso coffee sponge of their ‘White Russian’, there’s a gorgeous kick from the vodka and Kahlúa cream.
The American Alcoholic Triumph award, however, goes to Manhattan’s Melissa Tavss. Her great, great, great grandfather moved from Italy to Glasgow in the 1800s, made ice cream at home and sold it from a pushcart. Ice cream parlours have run in her family ever since, and she created Tipsy Scoop – a range of liquor-infused ice cream. Flavours include Dark Chocolate Whiskey Salted Caramel and Cake Batter Vodka Martini. For a late-night snack, team some Tipsy Scoop with a Drunken Doughnut from Flex Mussells restaurant in the West Village – perfect little balls with a caramel brandy jam in the middle – and New York becomes so good you might want to name it twice.
Try Emma's beer mac 'n' cheese recipe for a boozy take on a family favourite.
What are your favourite boozy recipes? Let us know in the comments section below...