Food Pairings: Dinner and Absinthe

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I love to cook, but sometimes after a long weekend it can feel like work to me. After a begrudged visit to the grocery store last night, I came home with a beautiful head of butter lettuce, some Oregon gorgonzola cheese, locally-grown Evonuk hazelnuts and two Tombo tuna steaks. I knew what would put a smile back on my face: a nice dinner and a glass of absinthe.

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Tonight’s Menu:
Pan-Seared Tombo Tuna with Wasabi Cream
Butterleaf Salad with Oregonzola Dressing and Roasted Hazelnuts
Lucid Absinthe in the Traditional Preparation

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Absinthe has a nice way of pairing well with a wide variety of foods. It has enough acidity to cut through the fats in my dressing, yet it provides a nice, clean palate on which to balance a piece of tuna crusted in black peppercorns. All this magic in one glass, yet in order to make absinthe truly sing, you need to pay attention to preparation.

Properly-prepared absinthe is cold, a little sweet, and bitter enough to stand up to some hearty flavors. It is never consumed straight, and there is never a burning cube of molten sugar involved. So I set about filling a small pitcher with ice water, and let it rest to ensure it was nice and cold. Next I poured an ounce of absinthe into a glass, and capped the mouth of the glass with a slotted spoon upon which rested a single cube of sugar.

Absinthe louches as ice-cold water is dribbled over the sugar cube.

Patience is key here, but I knew that the payoff would be worth my time as I slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, dripped ice cold water over the sugar cube and into the waiting shot of absinthe. The liquid gradually formed an opalescent louche (the milkiness that is the hallmark of proper absinthe) and once the glass was half-full I knew I was ready.

Gorgonzola Dressing

If you’ve never made a veined-cheese salad dressing from scratch before, you’ll be amazed at how little effort it takes.

¼ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 tsp black pepper
pinch salt

Whisk ingredients together until combined and dressing is smooth.

The tanginess of the vinegar and Gorgonzola flirted with sweetness of the drink, and the cold from the ice water tamed the heat rising from the black peppercorn crust. Wormwood’s bitterness teased the wasabi into revealing its sweeter side, and the lush savory aromas of fennel mingled with the roasted hazelnuts for a flavor that lingered well after it was gone.

I’ve tried pairing absinthe with everything from rare hamburgers to grilled pizzettas with caramelized onions and smoked trout, and I’m constantly amazed at how well it works with the curve-balls I throw at it. What foods have you tried with absinthe? Fresh country-style pork ribs, anyone?

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Photos and text by Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Thanks for reading.

21 Replies to “Food Pairings: Dinner and Absinthe”

  • Jer says:

    I like It goes with chips and salsa as weird as that sounds… It is the way that absinthe has this amazing quality to immediately cool and sweeten the palate. I have even gotten in to the habit of drinking mine even without sugar and it still does not cease to surprise me in the ways that it can compliment things.

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