When we moved back to Waco 11 years ago, we had a rental house just off Lake Shore Drive lined up. However, the night before the truck with all of our belongings was due to arrive, that rental house wasn’t close to being ready. Painters were there doing their thing. There was no carpet on the bare floors. There was no way it was going to be in any condition to move in the next day.
We backed out of that deal, and my parents graciously allowed us to live with them while we looked for something else. We looked at a bunch of houses over the next few weeks, really needing a place of our own. Our real estate agent, Sheila Stewart, was very patient with us. We called her about a house just a few blocks from where we are now, but it was too small and didn’t have a fenced backyard. Sophie was nearly a year old, and that was a priority.
On one day of house-hunting, Sheila showed us two places a couple of doors down from each other. One had curb appeal (a front porch and trees). The other didn’t. The house with the front porch and trees had a kitchen that was a tight squeeze for two people. We knew we would be spending a lot of time in there, so we moved on to the house with no curb appeal. It had a roomier kitchen, and it was empty — that’s the one we ended up buying.
We planted a Chinese pistache tree to add a little something to the front yard, but we still lacked a front porch. The front of the house was dark brown, the door was dark brown. Everything was dark brown and boring. During the summer of 2015, we finally did something about that.
Our neighbor, Bill Painter, owns Texas Style Construction, and he and his crews did a wonderful job enlarging the porch. We now have an outdoor space we can actually use. We’ve furnished it with a couple of tables and a few chairs and thoroughly enjoyed our first fall season on the porch. We spend time out there as often as we can, though not so much this fall with 90-degree temperatures into mid-October! On cool evenings, we like to sit on the porch, wave at passing cars and kids on bicycles and folks walking their dogs. And we occasionally enjoy a cocktail as we sit. We’ve written in this space before about the cocktail classes we attended at Dichotomy Coffee & Spirits last summer, and we would try at home the recipes we learned there.
Recently, I learned about a brand of bourbon called Jefferson’s, which makes “ridiculously small batches” of its products. I was intrigued by its Ocean variety of bourbon, which is aged in barrels on small boats that typically spend enough time at sea to cross the equator four times and visit five continents. The time on the water allows the bourbon to take on flavor and aroma from the ocean, and the rocking of the boat causes the bourbon to be constantly jostled against the wood of the barrel — wood that’s been exposed to the sea air.
Sending bourbon out to sea isn’t an inexpensive operation, and that’s reflected in Ocean’s price, which is about $80 a bottle. But if you want to tell your bourbon-loving friends a good story about what you’re serving them, then this is the bourbon for you.
We used bourbon in recipes this month, but we didn’t use Ocean for cooking. There’s an old adage about not cooking with any wine you wouldn’t drink. I can go along with that, but I’m still not using an $80 bourbon to make a sauce for pork tenderloin. Any good — and much cheaper — bourbon can be used for that. Use the good stuff for sipping. And if you don’t like your bourbon neat, there are a couple of cocktail recipes as well.
Brown Sugar Bourbon Brussels Sprouts
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch cubes
Cut the stems from the sprouts, remove the outer leaves and slice in half.
Place the butter, brown sugar, salt, cayenne and bourbon in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is boiling. Once it’s boiled, stir well and remove from heat.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings from the skillet. Add the sliced sprouts and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Spoon the Brussels sprouts into a serving bowl and drizzle the bourbon mixture over the top. Sprinkle with bacon and serve immediately. Makes about 4 servings.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 pound butter, slightly softened
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 8 ounces cold water
Sift flour into a large mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour, leaving butter in large pieces. Dissolve the salt in the cold water, then add the salted water to the flour. Mix until the water is absorbed into the flour. Let the mixture rest in the bowl for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, then fold in half again. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight.
Unwrap the dough and leave it folded. Again, on a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a large rectangle. Fold it in thirds and then in half, and rewrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (You can only refrigerate the dough overnight one time.)
Repeat the rolling and 30-minute refrigerating process 2-4 more times. The more times you roll and refrigerate, the flakier and puffier the dough will become once it’s baked. Makes about 2 1/2 pounds of dough.
3 Apple Hand Pies
- 1 cup Apple Butter (recipe follows)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 recipe Blitz Dough
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
For the glaze:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon bourbon
- 1 tablespoon apple juice
Heat oven to 400 F.
In a bowl, mix together the apple butter, diced apple and bourbon. Set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the Blitz Dough. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut circles from the dough as close together as possible. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll the dough and repeat the circle-cutting process until most of the dough has been cut.
Scoop about 1 tablespoon of the apple mixture in the center of half of the dough circles. Dip your finger in the egg mixture and run your finger around the edge of the circles. Place another dough circle on top and press down gently. Using a fork, crimp the edges to seal the filling inside.
Using a paring knife, make 4 small cuts in the center of the pie to allow steam to escape.
Lightly brush the tops of each pie with the rest of the egg mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until pies are puffy and golden.
While the pies are baking, make the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, bourbon and apple juice until it’s smooth and pourable.
When the pies are done, remove from the oven and cool slightly. Drizzle with the glaze and serve warm. Makes about 12-14 hand pies.
- 6 pounds apples (choose a variety of baking apples such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Envy or others)
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- Pinch kosher salt
Peel, core and dice the apples. Place in a slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir together. Cook on low setting overnight or for 10-12 hours.
Turn off the slow cooker and let the apple butter cool to room temperature. Spoon into jars and store in the refrigerator. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Makes 6-8 cups apple butter.
Cinnamon-Bourbon Pork Tenderloin
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package pork tenderloin (2 tenderloins, about 2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup bourbon
- 4 tablespoons butter, in large pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and salt. Sprinkle the mixture over all sides of the tenderloins and press into the meat.
Pour olive oil into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tenderloins and brown on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. (You might have to brown the tenderloins one at a time, depending on the size of your skillet.) Once they’re browned, transfer to a baking dish. Bake the tenderloins for about 10-15 minutes, until they’ve reached an internal temperature of 150-160 F on an instant-read thermometer.
While the tenderloin is roasting, return the skillet to the heat. Use the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the stock by about half.
Remove pan from the stovetop. Add the cream and bourbon to the skillet. (Always add alcohol to a dish away from the heat source.) If you wish, you can use a long match or fireplace lighter to ignite the mixture. Gently swirl until the flames die out.
Add the butter, 1 piece at a time, and swirl the pan until all the butter has been incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour some of the sauce over the tenderloins and serve. Pour the rest of the sauce in a bowl and serve alongside. Makes 6-8 servings.
- 1 ounce bourbon
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- 4 ounces cold ginger ale
- Orange slice of mint leave, for garnish
Add bourbon, gin, lime juice and bitters to an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass. Top with ginger ale. Add more ice if needed. Garnish with an orange slice or mint sprig. Makes 1 drink.
The Big Texan
- 2 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
- 1 1/2 ounces bourbon
- 1/2 tablespoon simple syrup
- 2 basil leaves
- 1 grapefruit slice
In a cocktail shaker, combine the grapefruit juice, bourbon, simple syrup and basil. Fill a chilled Old Fashioned glass with ice. Add 5 ice cubes to the shaker and shake well. Strain the drink into the glass. Garnish with the grapefruit slice. Makes 1 drink.