Drunk dinners!

Well I’ve only been home a few days so far this month, so I’ve been forced to infuse booze into every meal I make.  I can’t begin to explain how challenging easy it was to make three drunk dinners!

On our first day home from vacation, I did not want to go out to eat again, but also didn’t have the energy for an elaborate meal.  I decided to make Chicken Marsala meatballs from one of my favorite cookbooks, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites.   I tend to collect cookbooks and make one recipe, put them on a shelf, and never use them again.  I used this cookbook ALL. THE. TIME.  The savory recipes are unique, flavorful, reliable, and straightforward.  If you’re going to invest in a cookbook that isn’t just the same old Betty Crocker classics, buy this one.

The recipe combines ground chicken, panko, egg, onion, milk, and a few seasonings to make simple meatballs.  Once browned, a quick sauce is made with butter, flour, cream, chicken broth, and Marsala wine.  Served over egg noodles for a simple, tasty meal.  I love the flavor of Marsala wine, but traditional Marsala has mushrooms (hurl).  I’ve made this recipe many times – it’s pretty quick, and also reheats well if you prep ahead or perhaps hoard leftovers to eat for lunch!

Next, I was inspired to add red wine Bolognese to my #boozeinfusedapril plans on Spring Break. One of my friends made spaghetti one night and it was so delicious that I needed to have it again. I figured with my theme this month, I needed to find a way to make drunken Bolognese. Turns out adding wine to Bolognese serves two purposes: 1) you have a bottle of wine open…may as well finish it, and 2) the wine adds a richness to the sauce that is typically only possible with hours of simmering. Except it didn’t take hours.

Most of the ingredients for red wine Bolognese – except seasonings, which are pretty important.

If you search for Bolognese on Pinterest, there are endless versions. I saw some with sausage (yum), different varieties of canned tomatoes, different seasonings, milk vs. cream, red vs. white onion and wine, etc. The beauty of a Bolognese is that you can make it how you want. The saucy was thick, rich, and just chunky enough you could probably hide a few more veggies. Sausage or bacon would be delicious, roasting your own tomatoes, simmering the sauce for days on end, or adding your own super secret spice blend are all ok. This particular was perfect for me, and I adjusted a few seasonings and the method to fit my preferences. The sauce was easy to prepare (and then walk away and do other stuff) and put on the table in a reasonable about of time. AND, I have leftovers that I can’t wait to eat again later this week.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • carrot & celery, chopped – I use a pre-cut package from the deli to avoid buying a huge bunch of carrots & celery
  • 3 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup red wine for the sauce, the rest of the bottle for you
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste – try the tube from Trader Joe’s to avoid opening an entire can
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
METHOD:
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften.
  3. Add seasonings and tomato paste, stir to coat the cooked veggies.
  4. Add the ground beef, breaking it up and browning.
  5. Add the wine, stirring to scrape browned goodness from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add crushed tomatoes and stir until combined.
  7. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Pour in heavy cream and season to taste.
  9. Serve over pasta with copious amounts of parmesan cheese, and maybe a hefty hunk of homemade garlic bread.
  10. For homemade garlic bread, split a loaf of crusty bread and bake at 425 for just a few minutes to firm up. Pour melted butter with garlic over the bread, add cheese, and then pop in the oven for a few more minutes until the cheese is melted. Call cardiologist later.

And finally – Bourbon chicken! I’ve had this on my list of booze-infused ideas since January! I don’t think I’ve ever had bourbon chicken before – but I’ll definitely be having it again. I followed this recipe from Dessert, then Dinner pretty closely – EXCEPT, I used all water instead of broth, and I used half as much brown sugar as called for. Trader Joe’s boneless chicken thighs are my go-to, and they were perfect. I saved half of the sauce to use later (although – I’m curious to see how it freezes with the bourbon!). After the chicken was cooked through and the sauce was thickened, I added a bag of sugar snap peas to the mix to coat them in the sweet goodness.

Bourbon chicken & sugar snap peas over jasmine rice

The recipe and sauce reminded me of an orange chicken recipe I’ve made a few times. By cutting the chicken into small pieces, each bite was very flavorful, even without marinating!

What other booze can I infuse in my dinners for the rest of the month?

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