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Bourbon brings burst of flavor to baked beans

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:37PM

Cooking with spirits is nothing new: Julia Child recommends cognac in her recipe for traditional French pate, and vodka has a home in pasta sauce. Whisky, however, remains relatively uncommon in recipes.

Bourbon is American whisky. It’s required by law to contain at least 51 percent corn, which means it usually has a slight sweetness uncommon in Scotch and other whiskeys. In addition to corn, it frequently contains rye, which makes for a spicier sip.

Bourbon must be aged in charred new oak, which gives the beverage slight notes of many flavors, including some additional sweetness and hints of vanilla and tobacco. It’s actually a versatile cooking ingredient.

Fred Noe is the grandson of the Jim Beam, and he’s happy to show folks around the family distillery in Clermont, Ky. Noe cooks with the family beverage, and he’s collected many bourbon-based recipes in his autobiographical Beam, Straight Up.

In the dining room of the T. Jeremiah Beam home, Noe served barbecue and beans, both enhanced (of course!) with bourbon. Here’s a modified version of Noe’s recipe for bourbon-baked beans. We used Jim Beam White Label, the least expensive bourbon in the Beam line and just fine for cooking (and it contains a significant percentage of rye, which complements the other spices).

1. Combine two (28-ounce) cans of baked beans with ½ cup chili sauce, ½ cup strong coffee (“best if left over from morning,” Noe counsels), 1tablespoon dry mustard and 1/3 cup bourbon.

2. Pour into two-quart casserole dish.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or “until good and bubbly.”

Hot dog medallions can be added.

David Hammond

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