I am Chef. At work or with friends, that's what I'm called. But even if you haven't chosen cooking as a profession, your life is marked by what you eat and drink. Is it finally warm out? Break out the bourbon for perfect summer cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Mint Julep. Time to fire up the grill. A harmonious relationship between food and beverage is important — that's where bourbon-braised bacon and the rest of my Knob Creek® Bourbon-inspired recipes come in.
Since I began cooking professionally in 2001, I've worn many hats in the industry — bartending being one of them. Despite the historic tension between the back of the house, or BOH (kitchen), and the front of the house, or FOH (everyone else), bartenders and cooks have always gotten along famously. Why you ask? It's simple: bartenders want to eat and cooks want to drink. Bourbon has become the great equalizer.
I've since taken this relationship to the next level, developing food menus for cocktail bars in cities like New York and Moscow. So when I began creating the following bourbon-fueled recipes, I asked myself the same questions I consider when creating these dishes that can hold their own at a cocktail bar: What do I want to eat when I drink bourbon? And how do I organically infuse the spirit into the food? So it's only natural that if you want to drink bourbon with grilled chicken wings, the bourbon can, and should be incorporated into the sauce. And when using a spirit into a recipe, it's important to use one with big, bold flavor like Knob Creek® Bourbon. Check out my three bourbon-inspired recipes, mix yourself an Old Fashioned, and get grilling!
I'm a pretty big football fan. Some of my favorite lazy Sunday activities are watching games on the television or heading out to a game with friends. At this year's game viewing festivities, I was tasked with one of the more serious culinary responsibilities: wing duty.
Now, when you're asked to bring "the wings" it's implied that they'll be "Buffalo Style" hot wings because this is football and there's really no substitute for hot wings. Since I had never prepared hot wings before, I broke the dish down into priorities. High-quality wings from a butcher I trust: check. A delicious brine to season the wings and keep them juicy: check. An awesome home made hot sauce spiked with bourbon: oh yeah. Knob Creek® Bourbon is produced using at least 51% corn giving the bourbon an inherent sweetness. This sweetness along with the char from extensive aging in Oak barrels that makes Knob Creek® Bourbon ideal for spiking this savory and spicy sauce. Try your hand at my recipe this summer and you'll find you don't need football to celebrate the glory that is the Knob Creek® Bourbon Hot Wing.
For tender, juicy wings, I recommend brining them for 24 hours before grilling. If you skip this step, make sure you season the wings with kosher or sea salt before grilling. (Serves 4)
Wing Brine (Yields 2 qts)
- 1 dozen whole chicken wings, cut in half
- 1qt water
- ¾ cup kosher salt
- 3T sugar
- 3 bay leaves
- 1T whole black peppercorn, toasted
- 1T whole coriander seed, toasted
- 1t chili flake
- 1 small Spanish onion, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
Begin by toasting the spices separately in a dry pan over medium heat. The spices are ready when they are fragrant and begin to emit a light smoke. Peel the onion and cut in half with the grain. Then slice the onion thinly against the grain and set aside. Peel two cloves of garlic and lightly crush with the back of a knife.
Combine all ingredients, minus the chicken wings, in a stainless steel pot and bring to a simmer. Once simmered, remove from the heat and allow the brine to steep for 1 hour in order to extract maximum flavor. Strain the brine through a fine strainer or colander, discard the solids and add enough ice to bring the volume to 2 quarts of liquid. Now your brine is properly diluted and cold enough to pour onto the chicken wings. Submerge the wings in the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Knob Creek® Bourbon Hot Sauce (Yields 2 cups)
- 6 pcs red finger peppers
- 1 ½ cups distilled vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2T sugar
- 2t salt
- ½ t annatto seed powder
- 3oz Knob Creek® Bourbon
- 4oz unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 1" cubes
- 2t corn starch, mixed with 1T cold water
Pour the Knob Creek® Bourbon into a small pot and cook slowly over a low flame until the volume is reduced by half. Be careful because the spirit may catch fire during this process, but this is normal and it will extinguish itself shortly. Once the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat. Add the sugar, salt, annatto seed powder and mix to combine. Pour this mixture into the blender.
Slice the peppers into small pieces approximately ½ inch and put into the blender with the peeled garlic, vinegar and Knob Creek® Bourbon mixture. Puree until smooth, then remove from the blender and transfer to a stainless steel pot.
Turn the heat back on to medium and bring the puree to a simmer. Once simmered, turn off the heat and slowly add the chilled butter to the pot while stirring with a whisk. Once all the butter is incorporated and melted, turn the heat back onto to medium and slowly whisk in the cornstarch-water mixture. Simmer the hot sauce for 30 seconds to sufficiently cook off the starch flavor. Reserve the sauce for tossing with the grilled wings.
Grilling the Wings
Remove the chicken wings from the brine and dry them on paper towels. Once dry, toss the wings with 4T canola oil and 1T kosher salt, then begin grilling. Grill the wings over hot coals after the flames have subsided, or over medium heat on a gas grill. Make sure the grill has had ample time to pre-heat or your chicken wings will stick. Grill the wings on all sides until they are browned, crispy and fully cooked (approximately 8 minutes). Once your wings are grilled, put them in a large bowl, add the Hot Sauce, and toss until fully coated. Feel free to serve with blue cheese dressing (see below).
When I drink Knob Creek® Bourbon, I smell and taste toasted oak, nuts and caramel: flavors that remind me of barbecue. And for me, nothing goes hand in hand like bourbon and barbecue. Not only does bourbon make a great addition to a barbecue recipe, it also offers an ideal way to pass the five or more hours after the meat goes into the smoker. Quality time outdoors, the smell of charred wood, and a drink in my hand: life is good.
One of my favorite barbecued meats is bacon, and I've found that braising bacon gives it the same salty, smoky flavor with an added tenderness. I chose Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon for this braise because the smoke and caramelized flavors of the bacon are further compounded by the unique components of this spirit. The braised bacon is permeated with smoked hickory, vanilla and caramel the trademarks of both a well crafted bourbon and excellent barbecue. In the past, I've served this braised bacon as the center of a dish with fried green tomatoes and creamy grits, or as a crispy, salty accompaniment to roasted beets. This time around, I wanted to put a twist on the classic wedge salad, swapping in lightly grilled romaine for the traditional iceberg lettuce, and serving it with bourbon-braised bacon, blue cheese dressing, and the usual fixings. Yep, life is good indeed.
Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon Braised Bacon
- 8oz bacon, unsliced
- 4oz Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon
- 2oz maple syrup
- 8"x8" casserole dish
Preheat oven to 325F. Place bacon skin-side up in the casserole dish with Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon and maple syrup. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for 2 ½ to 3 hours, or until a skewer can be easily inserted and removed from the bacon. Once the bacon is cooked and tender, place the entire casserole dish into the fridge to cool completely. The bacon can be stored in the liquid for up to a week and would benefit from cooling in it for 24 hours before use.
- 2 romaine hearts, cut lengthwise in quarters
- 3T olive oil
- 1T kosher salt
- 1 cup blue cheese dressing
- 8oz braised bacon, sliced and crisped
- ½ cup scallion, sliced thinly
- 10 cherry tomatoes cut in half
Blue Cheese Dressing (Yields 1 Cup)
- 4oz blue cheese, crumbled
- ½ t salt
- 3 turns freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup sour cream
- 2T white wine vinegar
Crumble the blue cheese into a mixing bowl, then add the sour cream and vinegar. Mix well with a whisk, and season with salt and pepper.
Preparing the Salad
Cut the braised bacon into 1 ½" thin square slices. In a large sauté pan over medium heat add the bacon to the dry pan and cook both sides until browned and crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel to drain.
Preheat your grill on high. Season the romaine hearts with the olive oil and salt, and place cut-side down on the grill. Grill the romaine for 1 minute or until there is a good char on one side of the lettuce. Remove to a plate or platter and dress with the blue cheese dressing, bacon, tomatoes, and scallion. Serve immediately. (Serves four)
Summertime in New York means peaches. When I get to cook with a product in its prime, I try to do as little to it as possible. There's no need to get all "chefy" with the peach itself, but you can surround it with delicious and boozy supporting characters. In my recipe, the peach is simply grilled and served with a Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon-spiked caramel sauce and an equally boozy whipped cream blended with yogurt. The result is a lightly roasted, tender, sweet peach in perfect harmony with the roasted oak and rich sugar flavors of the maple spirit. (Serves four)
- 2 ripe peaches, cut in half, pit removed
- 4T unsalted butter, melted
- a few pinches kosher salt
- a few turns freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup maple syrup
Preheat your grill on high. Brush the cut side of the peaches with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place the cut side of the peaches down on the grill and cook for 1½ minutes before rotating a ¼ turn to produce a hatch grill mark. Grill for an additional 1½ minutes, then remove the peaches and brush the grilled sides with the maple syrup. Return the peaches to the grill (cut-side up) and cook an additional 2 minutes, or until tender. Remove and serve with the accompanying caramel sauce and cream.
Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon Caramel (Yields 1 Cup)
- 2oz Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon
- 3oz maple syrup
- 4T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
- 2oz heavy cream
- 1T kosher salt
In a stainless steel pot combine Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon and maple syrup and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and pour in heavy cream while whisking. Return the pot to the burner, and bring it back to a simmer. Remove from heat again, and slowly whisk in the butter until fully incorporated. Season with salt and reserve for plating.
Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon Cream (Yields 1 Cup)
- 5oz heavy cream
- 2oz whole yogurt
- 1oz Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon
- 1oz maple syrup
In a stand mixer or with a whisk and bowl, whisk heavy cream and maple syrup to stiff peaks. Then slowly add the Knob Creek® Smoked Maple Bourbon and yogurt while whisking until fully incorporated. Reserve for serving with peaches.
Chef Corwin Kave is a freelance chef based out of New York. He is the former Executive Chef and part-owner of Fatty Crew (Fatty Crab, Fatty 'Cue, Pig & Khao).