For quite a number of years, I have had many interesting experiences cooking with wine and spirits, which is nothing really new. For instance, vodka sauce has been around for quite a while, and there are many traditional dishes made with wine – think coq au vin (chicken cooked in white wine) or boeuf bourgingnon, a recipe immortalized by the great Julia Childs.
When I was researching tequila for an article that I did for the Staten Island Advance a while back, I heard many people – chefs, publicity people, etc. – talking about cooking with the spirit. At first I was intrigued. Tequila has such a unique flavor that any cocktail made with the spirit is immediately recognizable (no, we don’t only make margaritas with it) that it might overpower the flavor of other spices used in the dish. But when I learned that Maizal, a Mexican restaurant on Staten Island has a chicken dish made with Patron, I decided to experiment.
The first one I tried was with chicken, trying to emulate what they’d done at the restaurant (have to make a mental note to return there, it has been quite a while). The results were quite positive either when I marinated the chicken previously or when I added during the cooking. However, I decided to take the experiment further: why not try with fish?
I first experimented with tilapia, which I pan-fry with very little grease. I seasoned the fish with salt and pepper and poured a little tequila on it before cooking. Then I sautéed a little garlic in olive oil and then cooked the fish. I reserved some of the marinade and poured at the end of the process, and let the alcohol evaporate and leave the flavor of the agave in the juices. More recently, I tried the same with salmon, and the results were a much juicier, flavorful dish.
Salmon in tequila sauce
2 salmon fillets, patted dry if bought frozen
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 shot tequila (1 oz.)
½ cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Marinate the fish fillets in salt and pepper with the tequila. In the meantime, heat the oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant. Add the fish and pan-fry for 2 minutes on each side (low heat). Add the tequila mix from the marinade and let the alcohol burn (another two minutes), turning the fish every now and then. Add the cilantro and scallions and cook for another minute. Serve with rice and mixed vegetables.