Taste | Cooking with coffee — more than just your morning jolt – The Southern

Kara Jillian Brown

The aroma pulls us out of bed in the morning.
Warming notes of caramel and vanilla or maybe smoky chocolate waft through the house as the coffee maker kicks in to welcome a new day. For coffee lovers, this morning ritual not only tastes good, but provides a jolt of caffeine to get us moving.
With research statistics espousing our preference of skipping our morning shower over skipping coffee, it seems as though we need – and love – the drink. 
Coffee is more than just our morning fuel or afternoon ritual. It is an ingredient that can be used in cooking, just like milk or wine. Think beyond that morning “cup of Joe” and add coffee to your recipes. It works in sweet and savory dishes and adds a robust flavor as well as a boost of caffeine, unless, of course, you opt for decaf coffee! If you have coffee left over in the morning, using it in your cooking is a great “no waste” strategy. That said, who really has leftover coffee?
Using Coffee in Savory Dishes
Coffee works well in meat dishes. You can use coffee in liquid form in marinades. The addition of the coffee will also help tenderize tough cuts of meat. Adding coffee to sauces, like a BBQ sauce for ribs, infuses the sauce with the flavors of the coffee you choose. When braising meats, add coffee to the braising liquid. The coffee will caramelize as the braising liquid reduces, leaving you with a very robust and flavorful sauce. 
Ground coffee or instant coffee works well in spice rubs for meats or seasoning mixtures for side dishes like roasted potatoes and root vegetables. Cocoa flavored coffee works well with lamb, and more savory flavors will pair well with warm spices like chili powder or paprika. The addition of brown sugar to your spice rubs will give you a caramelized crust on any roasted or grilled meat. 
Bacon lovers have options, too. Render bacon in your oven until it is almost cooked, then add a glaze of coffee and brown sugar or maple syrup. It’s a step up from the candied bacon recipe making rounds on the internet, and two steps up from regular bacon!
Southern red-eye gravy recipes call for coffee, too. Traditionally, red-eye gravy is made after pan-searing a ham steak. The coffee is used to deglaze the pan, then is cooked down with a little water until it is thick, concentrating the flavor. 
If you love fish, try mixing ground or instant coffee into blackening seasoning to boost the flavor of your fish dishes. Blackening seasoning is a combination of paprika, cayenne pepper, onion and garlic powder, and herbs. It gets its name from the resulting dark crust when fish is coated and seared with the spice mix. This works well with shrimp, chicken and steaks, too. 
If you are not much of a meat eater, you can still add coffee to your savory vegetable dishes. Instant coffee mixed with flavored vinegar, honey or sugar, and salad or olive oil makes a vinaigrette dressing for your greens. Experiment with adding herbs and spices that work with the flavor of your coffee and you will have your own unique blend. 
Using Coffee in Sweet Dishes
If you have cooked with coffee, you likely have incorporated it into your baking. This is one of the simplest ways to use coffee in sweet dishes. Coffee works well in many sweet recipes; cakes are just the beginning.  
Traditional Tiramisu recipes call for coffee. To make this Italian dessert, ladyfingers or sponge cake is soaked in espresso then layered with creamy mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa powder. A little coffee-flavored liqueur wakes up the dessert just a bit more. 
Turn coffee into a spreadable treat by adding it to butter or cream cheese along with cocoa powder. If you want a little more sweetness, include honey or sugar in the mix. Warm spices like cinnamon and allspice will make your next spread taste like fall. Use your spread on quick croissants, breads, muffins, biscuits, and even your morning toast. Similarly, you can add coffee to chocolate sauce to use on ice cream, pancakes, or waffles. 
Coffee can be incorporated into cheesecake filling, cream pie filling, frosting, icing, and pudding. Swap water for coffee in cookies, brownies, and blondies. Use it in chocolate coating for pretzels, bonbons and other candies.  
Sweet or savory, coffee is a robust and flavorful addition to your cooking. You can use leftover coffee if you have it or opt for ground or instant coffee ingredients. Try incorporating coffee into your favorite recipe to enhance its overall character.  

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