Developing an alcohol based cookbook meant having to learn as much about science as we did flavour combinations! It turns out that not only does alcohol smell and taste great, but when used properly in cooking it does some amazing things to food! Understanding evaporation and molecular bonding is important when cooking with alcohol - and don't worry, it's more simple that it sounds!
Alcohol molecules are very volatile and so they evaporate very quickly, hitting our nostrils instantly! This enhances our overall perception of ﬂavour making things appear more intense.
Adding a splash of any spirit will naturally intensify the ﬂavours of a ﬁnished dish by bonding with both the fat and water molecules, bridging the gap between the two. This is particularly important because our scent receptors respond only to molecules dissolved in fat - and food is largely water.
In a marinade, alcohol helps the season the meat and carry flavour and also makes it easier for your aroma receptors to absorb the ﬂavours of food.
COOKING OFF THE ALCOHOL
You have probably heard a lot about how cooking with alcohol burns off all of the alcohol, but is only truly cooked off when it has met several criteria during the cooking process, such as duration of cooking, heat intensity, the amount and ABV of the alcohol, standing time, and even the size and shape of the cookware. Flambé is a theatrical cooking procedure in which alcohol is added to a hot pan to create a burst of flames - however, it's important to realise that because the alcohol only burns for a very short time, it burns very little of the alcohol!