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Cooking with Spirits

Cooking with Spirits
Russian Toast with Bananas Flambe & Raspberry-Lime Vodka Sauce

Ingredients: (Serves 4) 2 eggs
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla Vodka (see recipe below) or vanilla extract
4 thick (about 1-inch) slices of dense bread, cut diagonally to make 8 triangular half slices
1 cup vodka
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bananas, thickly sliced
Raspberry-lime Vodka Sauce (see recipe below), warmed
1/2 cup creme fraÓche or ricotta cheese
1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve

1. Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl with the sugar, salt and Vanilla Vodka.
2. Lay the bread slices in a large dish or platter and pour about half the vodka over them.
3. Melt half the butter in a skillet over a moderate - high heat. Cooking in batches, dip 3-4 vodka-soaked bread slices into the egg mixture and place in the skillet. (Be sure to cover the slices completely with the egg, but do not allow the egg to soak completely through the break or it may break apart.)
4. Cook the slices until medium brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes each side. The slices should be crisp on the surface, but ender inside. When ready, cover to keep warm and set aside. Repeat with the rest of the bread.
5. Add the remaining butter and brown sugar to the pan. As soon as the sugar has completely melted, add the sliced bananas and cook until slightly tender and coated in the butter/sugar mixture„about 1 minute. Add the remaining vodka to the pan and ignite (stand clear!).
6. Immediately top two slices of toast per plate with some of the bananas flambe and drizzle with Raspberry-lime Vodka Sauce. Add a large dollop of creme fraiche or ricotta cheese and a lime wedge. Serve to applause.

Raspberry-Lime Vodka Sauce
1 pound fresh raspberries, or defrosted frozen raspberries
2 tablespoons Vodka Simple Syrup (see recipe below)
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Grated zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons of Lemon Peel Vodka (see recipe below)
Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food-processor, pulse to a chunky mixture and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator until needed. Raspberry-lime Vodka Sauce will keep for about a week in the refrigerator.

Vanilla Vodka
5 vanilla beans
2 cups vodka

1. Split the vanilla pods lengthwise down the center to expose the seeds, keeping the ends of the beans intact.
2. Place the beans with the vodka in a large jar with an airtight seal. Store in a dark, dry place for at least 4 weeks, shaking the jar several times each week.
3. When ready, transfer the extract and the beans to a bottle. As you use the extract, top off with more vodka to replenish your supply. The beans will continue to impart flavor for many months.

Vodka Simple Syrup
Sugar is slow to dissolve, especially in cold food or drinks, so Vodka Simple Syrup to the rescue.

Makes about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups still mineral water
2 pounds granulated sugar
1/2 cup vodka

1. Bring the water to the boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to moderate, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves completely.
2. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes until the mixture has a syrup consistency.
3. Add the vodka, mix well and cool.
4. Transfer to a jar or container and reserve for use.

In a tightly sealed container, Vodka Simple Syrup keeps indefinitely, though it may begin to crystallize over time. If it crystallizes, simply warm the container in a pot of slow-simmering water.(The recipe can be doubled or trebled as necessary.)

Lemon Peel Vodka
4 lemons
3 cups vodka

1. Wash the lemons. Using a zester of vegetable peeler, peel the skin to create narrow ribbons. Scrape away any remaining pith.
2. Put the peel into a large jar and add the vodka. Store in a dark, dry place for about 2 weeks, shaking the jar occasionally.
3. Strain through cheesecloth, discard the peel and store in a bottle ready for use.

Recipe by John Rose: Did you know the clear, odorless and tasteless spirit does wonderful things in cooking? It marinades, tenderises meat, great for de-glazing pans and adding flavor, while in cream sauces it lowers the boiling point and so helps to prevent curdling and all while delivering a unique, delectable taste. In The Vodka Cookbook, John Rose takes vodka out of the martini glass and into the kitchen with over 100 recipes. (Reprinted with permission from The Vodka Cookbook by John Rose, Kyle Books)

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