“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” So said old Magdalenite Oscar Wilde and so trundles the Gourmand through his life of luxurious overindulgence. Nowhere is this maxim more valuable, however, than regarding the use of that ever-evolving, multi-flavoured libation – we speak, of course, of alcohol – in the primary pleasure of any discerning gentlefop’s life: food.
This week’s feature will be, therefore, a rundown of the most fantastically hedonistic ways to use your preferred tipple in a variety of forays into the culinary world. Whilst the ubiquitous ‘lads’ are out getting ‘totally fucking smashed’ on Tesco’s finest, you can enjoy a rather more sophisticated evening, tenderly wrapping your lips around an exquisite piece of meat as it glistens with the contents of the cellar of Bacchus himself.
Braised beef in red wine
A centrepiece of the Gourmand’s latest feast, this classic mixture of cow and alcohol is a sure-fire hit. Credit must go to two of my idols, whose philosophy – as is obvious from their epithet – is one I am ever striving to more fully espouse: the Two Greedy Italians, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. “Fit for an emperor”, remarks Antonio on the dish. You’ll see why.
Start by procuring a nice joint of beef tied up with butcher’s string (but preferably not rolled). Rib eye, if you’re a rich bastard with money burning a hole in your pocket, but if you’re condemned to a life of poverty like most Oxonians, better stick with something like pot roast or top rib. Take it home, place it lovingly in a large bowl with some herbs, chop up some vegetables (“Which vegetables?” I don’t know, onions and carrots or something. I’m a columnist, not a fucking recipe book.) and then – and this is the best part – douse the whole fucking thing in as much red wine as you can. Officially, the volume is one measly bottle, but here Chez OxStu, we go big or go home. At least two or don’t bother at all. Cover and leave to marinate overnight then seal the meat in a big pot, add the rest of it, and slow cook for a few hours – but remember to season the fuck out of it near the end. The resultant flesh will be unable to hold itself together, much like the returning Park End masses stumbling past your window (“Eet’s a-sooo a-draaank!” comments Carluccio), so feel free to take advantage of the tender young flesh doused in a thick, glossy vinous glaze sure to delight any epicure.
Pan-fried duck breast with sauce à la gourmande
The Gourmand’s personal favourite dish, duck breasts are versatile for a romantic dinner for two or a delightfully hedonistic gourmet supper for one – always a good alternative to a lonely pizza, ever the plague of loft-dwelling teachers and students everywhere. The general formula for success, of my own conception, seems to be duck + alcohol + fruit = instant deliciousness, and so past combinations have included the likes of a classic red wine and orange, a rather more gentlemanly port and cherries, and the highly experimental ‘forest fruits’: crème de cassis and raspberries.
Pick up a beautiful pair of luscious-looking breasts – or more, if you’re that way inclined – then wash, score the skin, and douse with boiling water. The result is a skin that shrivels like a pair of testicles on a late-Michaelmas 3am expedition to Hassan’s: perfect for that oh-so-satisfying crispiness. Season and place skin-side down in a cold, clean (you filthy bandit) pan and gradually increase the heat to render all of that mouth-watering fat, turning when the skin is crispy and removing when just about pink and juicy inside; if you overcook it, throw it to the dogs and start again. Disregard your arteries and keep all the exquisite fat and juice left in the pan, crank it up ‘til it sizzles, then throw in a glass or two of your chosen booze. Careful, though – my first time doing this with anything stronger than wine resulted in what is now referred to as the ‘accidental flambé’, though it resembled more of a pan fire; still, pull off an accident with enough flair and it’ll impress any onlookers who’ll be none the wiser. At this point, add your fruit (tinned is perfect here, but inexcusable anywhere else) and simmer down until it’s more or less jam…delicious duck fat jam. Season with as much salt and pepper as you can throw in and serve to your paramour (or yourself, or your dog), who’ll doubtless be overwhelmed by your culinary skill and finesse. Thanks again, alcohol!
Chocolate amaretto pudding
Another of Carluccio and Contaldo’s delights, this pudding is the key to any Casanova’s dastardly conquests as the mix of rich, sumptuous chocolate and the sweetness of amandine amaretto bewitch the mind, ensnare the senses and loosen the lingerie. It may help that it’s just boozy enough to seal the deal after a night of carefully plying your victim/dear heart with laced dishes, and has actually been used to seduce Madame la Gourmande on occasion…
The dessert is, in theory, really quite simple: about a pint of milk, warmed in a pan in tandem with another pan of flour, sugar and that rare indulgence, real vanilla – seeds and pod. Whisk the wet into the dry, little by little, over a gentle heat, and keep doing so until it thickens. That is the theory. Practice suggests that the reality is a little more arduous and does, in fact, require a full afternoon of exasperated whisking, desperately begging the accursed thing to thicken into the creamy, slow-flowing dream of a consistency desired. Once that is (finally) achieved, the amaretto is added; be liberal, but bear in mind that three shots are prescribed, four shots are suggested and five shots to be used only with caution, lest the entire thing thin and drag you kicking and screaming back to square one. Remember also to add the liqueur as late as possible so as to avoid losing the all-important alcohol in cooking; your sex life depends on this. A generous helping of grated chocolate and our friend butter later, and the confection should be uniformly lustrous, chocolatey and irresistible. Serve in glasses, bowls, troughs, or drizzled liberally over your paramour’s body. Garnish with a crushed amaretti biscuit. And THAT’S the way the cookie crumbles.