The complex smokiness of scotch works beautifully in a modified tri-tip stroganoff. (photo by Olga Moroz)

Over the centuries, the world’s cuisines have found myriad ways to incorporate alcoholic beverages in their regional specialties. With increasing global cultural expansion and exposure, the types of dishes and the liquors used therein spread commensurately.

Except for Scotch.

Whether a result of its place at the pinnacle of the spirits hierarchy, its lore, or simply because it’s difficult to control in food, Scotch infused recipes are few and far between. Fortunately, in my never-ending quest for all things Scotch related, I have unlocked the secrets of Scotch’s culinary conundrums.

Cooking with Scotch requires an understanding of residual sugar, perceived sweetness, and the pejorative pungency of peat. The spirit’s inherent dryness makes recipe selection every bit as critical as selecting the Scotch itself. Using Ardbeg or Laphroaig in a recipe results in a profoundly different impact than using Glenmorangie or The Macallan. The truth about cooking with Scotch is that there are few hard and fast guidelines to predict what will work. Trial and error (and in my case, lots of error) is the rule. However, I have done much of that work on your behalf, and hereby offer up these three scrumptiously decadent Scotch whisky recipes!

For a meal befitting a Scottish lord, my favorite is

Medallions of Beef with Smoked Mushroom Sauce.

The smokiness, compliments of Laphroaig 10, makes a regal statement with a tri-tip, but can also work with pork, lamb, or chicken.

1 lb. Tri-tip, cut into ¼” slices.
1 cup finely chopped scallions
2 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup Laphroaig 10 Scotch whisky
1 stick (¼ lb) butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat ½ stick butter in a heavy skillet until melted; add and brown meat, then remove, retaining the liquid in the skillet. Add the rest of the butter, then add scallions and garlic, cooking until caramelized. Add mushrooms and simmer on low heat. Once mushrooms are tender, add Scotch, cooking until reduced. Add the meat back in, cook until hot, then finish with heavy whipping cream, simmering until thickened. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta.

Veggies with Scotch Glaze
Root vegetables are a staple in British gastronomy, here given a tangy-sweet twist from Scotch whisky and brown sugar.

½ lb. each carrots, turnips, rutabaga, and parsnips, cut into 1″ bite-sized chunks
1 stick (¼ lb.) butter
¾ cup Chivas Regal 12 Blended Scotch
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbs. molasses
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a heavy skillet, sauté rosemary in butter for several minutes, then add vegetables and cook until warm, but still crunchy. Add Scotch, and simmer until reduced. Add brown sugar and molasses, stirring until dissolved and bubbling. Turn until completely coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Drunken Scotch Cake
The cake itself plays second fiddle to this divinely decadent Scotch whisky sauce. Unless you prefer to bake the cake, a good store-bought cake will suffice. My preference is plain yellow cake, but it works equally well with chocolate or angel’s food cakes.

The secret to success is to limit the cake height to no more than 3 inches. I use Carlyle Blended Scotch because of its intense raisiny-prune finish, but any sweeter Scotch (preferably with a sherry finish) will do. This recipe yields a two-part sauce, first for the base, then for the top.

2 cups Carlyle Blended Scotch whisky
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 sticks (¼ lb. ea.) of salted butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup chopped pecans
Large cake pan (at least 1/2″ larger than cake’s perimeter)

Add pecans to a heavy skillet and dry roast until crispy. Set aside. In a saucepan, heat ½ stick butter, Scotch, and 1 cup brown sugar. Cook until dissolved, then pour off ½ the liquid into the cake pan. (Adjusting the sauce cooking time impacts the cake’s alcohol flavor; the longer you cook it, the less alcohol in the sauce.) Set the cake into the cake pan to absorb the liquid. Add the remaining butter, molasses, and sugar to your saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Slowly fold in the heavy whipping cream, simmering until it no longer runny. Drizzle over the top of the cake, then top with chopped pecans.

Now make a toast to the sweet life!