Remember a few weeks ago when half the flights in the country were canceled because of a fire in Chicago? I sure do. Mainly because I was stuck in an airport waiting to fly into Louisville, Kentucky, for a tour of the Knob Creek Distillery, complete with a dinner prepared by Iron Chef and all-around good guy Michael Symon.
Unfortunately, I never made it to the party. Luckily, I was still able to catch up with Michael Symon and ask him some questions about cooking and eating with booze.
You’ve created a lot of different recipes for Knob Creek. Can you talk a bit about the process of creating a recipe with whiskey?
Michael Symon: One of the key things to keep in mind when creating recipes that use whiskey is, of course, the flavors, but also how you’re planning on cooking the dish. For example, when I create grilling recipes that use Knob Creek, I know that the big, full flavor can stand up to the heat of the grill and none of the flavor will be lost. You also want to consider flavors that will complement each other well. I’m a fan of using Knob Creek as a base for my sauces and brines, and keeping it simple by just adding some fresh herbs and citrus, and letting the meat marinate in those flavors to really blend and make a delicious and easy dish.
Anything unique you think about when using Knob Creek specifically — flavors or tasting notes that affect the way you think about creating a recipe?
I like to use Knob Creek Rye in dishes that I want to add some spice, since it has more rye than the traditional Knob Creek. For grilled desserts, I like to use Knob Creek Smoked Maple since it has that sweetness without sacrificing the big, full flavor of the bourbon. Knob Creek Bourbon and Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve are great when making an Old Fashioned – and are also great in marinades of all types.
On Iron Chef you have to come up with a full meal in a matter of minutes and then have one hour to execute it. So let’s test your Iron Chef skills. Three courses. Whiskey. Go.
The first course would be a Knob Creek Rye Whiskey-cured salmon with radishes, celery leaves and grapefruit. The second course would feature grilled bacon with Knob Creek plumped cherries, shaved fennel and arugula. The third would be an apple bread pudding with a Knob Creek sabayon.
How about the process of pairing whiskey with food? Are there any cocktails that pair really well with certain dishes — or even any straight whiskey and food pairings that you think work really well together?
I like to try to tie my Knob Creek cocktails to whatever dish I’m cooking. One of my favorite cocktails to sip while I’m at the grill in the summer is the Knob Creek Smoke & Char, which uses peaches fresh off the grill. It’s really delicious and combines those fresh flavors of summer. In the fall, I like to sip a more traditional cocktail – with a twist of course – like my Mulled Old Fashioned cocktail. This pairs really well with my short ribs or my grilled turkey, which I like to serve around the holidays. Honestly, you can’t ever go wrong with a bourbon cocktail!
Here at Cooking with Booze, we love to cook with whiskey. I was looking at some of your restaurant menus and I saw something at Lola that caught my eye. It’s called the Lola S’More: dark chocolate ganache, bourbon marshmallow, smoked honey, and a graham cracker ice cream. If I ever end up on death row will you make that for me?
Of course! We love making homemade marshmallows and weaving different flavors into them. Besides, what brings up great memories more than s’mores?
Esquire named the beer menu at Roast, your Detroit restaurant, one of the best in the country. It’s quite heavy on Jolly Pumpkin beers and other sour and wild ales. What is it about sour and wild ales that you love so much?
MS: Sour and wild ales pair so well with food. They’re much more complex and the sourness and wild yeast flavors really help to cut through the fattiness of the meat.
And if you love drinking sour beers you must love drinking sour beers while you eat. What kind of foods do you like to serve with tart and funky beers and why?
Super-fatty protein and smoked meats, like sausages, pork belly, aged beef ribyes, etc.
Are there any dishes you’ve prepared utilizing wild ale as an ingredient? What kind of flavor profiles go well with wild ales?
I love to use it in spicy stews and braises – it gives you so much more complexity than wine. I actually created a Knob Creek cocktail that has stout beer in it, called the Knob Creek Big and Stout. It combines Knob Creek stout beer and an egg, which creates a hearty, fall cocktail.
Look out for next week’s Cooking With Booze, featuring Symon’s recipe for grilled salmon with a whiskey glaze!