Search This Blog

Sunday, March 3, 2013


Bourbon margarita shots.
Small shots. Big flavor bombs.
Shoot. Suck. Lick.
I've certainly chugged down my share of them. In any form, (shots, rocks, or frozen)  bourbon margaritas have served me well over the years. For large off-site events at work, I've used the  potent concoction  for marinades, vinaigrettes, and glazes.

For a Makers Mark bourbon tasting held at historic Duncan Tavern in Paris, Kentucky, I filled 150 wax-dipped  Makers Mark shot glasses with bourbon margaritas before rimming each glass with grilled lime-marinated jumbo shrimp. It gave a new meaning to shrimp cocktail. Eat and shoot. 2 for 1. Double the fun.

The second year I taught the Bourbon Culinary Arts Cooking School at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, I turned up the volume by mixing up 3 gallons of  bourbon margarita shots for the salad course. I used half of the bourbon margarita mix to marinate a few hundred jumbo shrimp and turned the rest into a spicy vinaigrette. I grilled the drunken shrimp until they were almost charred before tossing them with minced jalapenos, minced red bell peppers, diced avocados, diced purple onions, and fresh cilantro.  After dousing the salad with the spicy  vinaigrette, I spooned the mix into bibb lettuce cups and served them with fried sweet potato chips as a Bluegrass riff on ceviche with fried tostones.

While bourbon pairs beautifully with shrimp, the subtle caramel and vanilla undertones also lend gorgeous spicy depths of flavor to stews, soups, smoky baked beans, meat marinades, and desserts. When dolled up with margarita lipstick, bourbon brings more to the party.

At work,  I'm used to cranking out vats of bourbon margaritas, but I dialed it way back for a simple week night supper.

Bourbon Margarita Marinated Mahi Mahi.

Makers Mark Bourbon Margarita
1 1/4 oz Makers Mark
3/4 oz Grand Marnier
3/4 oz Fresh Sour Mix (1/2 cup sugar dissolved in 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup lemon and lime juice)
3/4 oz Fresh Lime Juice

I doubled the recipe, added a pinch of coarse kosher salt,  blended the margarita, and gave it a taste. And another taste. Ok, I drank it all. Do over.

I slipped the mahi mahi filets into the margarita marinade and slid them into the refrigerate for an hour.  While the mahi soaked up the bourbon shots, I blanched 1 pound of pencil thin asparagus tips in heavily salted water for 3 minutes before plunging them into salted ice water to stop the cooking process. I drained the asparagus and placed them into the refrigerator to chill.

After preheating the oven to 350 degrees, I roasted a pint of whole grape tomatoes with sliced onions, garlic, halved limes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and ground ancho chili powder.  When the tomatoes collapsed and charred, I blended them with the onions, residual pan juices, and roasted lime juice.

I pulled the mahi filets from the marinade, patted them dry, and set them aside. With everything on deck, I prepared a glaze from the marinade. Working over a medium flame I brought the double margarita shot to a rolling boil,  reduced the heat, added 1/3 cup honey, and let it rip for 10 minutes. When the sweetened glaze reduced to a loose syrup, I pulled it from the heat and set it aside.

I cranked a cast iron grill pan over a high flame, brushed it with oil, and seared the mahi filets skin side for 3 minutes before turning them over for an additional 3 minutes. While the mahi filets were still warm, I brushed them the glaze, dusted them with lime zest, and slid them onto small mounds of red quinoa. After swirling the roasted tomato puree to the side, I tumbled the chilled asparagus tips over the top, finishing with coarse margarita salt.

Texture. Flavor. Sealed under the lacquered glaze, the flaky mahi meat calmed the ridiculous crunch of the nutty red quinoa. While bits of lime zest added tart zing, the peppers provided wet freshness. The asparagus was key. Haphazardly tossed over the roasted ancho tomato puree, the unadorned chilled tips were crisp, clean, and bright.

Simple flavors.
Complex extremes.
Take a shot.

No comments: