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Q: I'm intimidated by different cuts of meat and I always default to the basics. How can I start branching out?
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Q: For a BYOB party, how much should we bring?
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Cooking With Booze!Ryan Jennings and David Steele, authors of Cooking with Booze, expose a hidden wealth of flavor just waiting to be tapped.

Photograph of Ryan Jennings and David Steele.Toronto’s Ryan Jennings and David Steele want to get you sauced. Their book of recipes, Cooking with Booze (Whitecap Books), is a fun, whimsical romp through the kitchen that turns food-drink pairing on its stuffy head. “Dave and I wanted to show people how much flavor is lurking in their liquor cabinets,” says Jennings. “We want people to think of them as an extension of their spice racks. Want to add some flavor to your barbecue sauce? Try a little rum. And pour yourself a drink while you’re at it—it helps for inspiration!”

Cooking with booze is also a great way to bring couples together, adds Jennings. “A simple Monday night meal can turn into a romantic evening because you’re cooking together and sharing a cocktail. It’s really very intimate.” But teaming up in the kitchen can quickly take a bitter turn if you’re not careful. “It works best when one of you acts as the bartender and the other as chef,” he says. “That way you’re not stepping over each other checking the roast.”

For the season, Jennings recommends cornish hens with dried cherry and hazelnut stuffing, which features Frangelico, an Italian hazelnut liqueur. “It really bumps up the nutty flavour of the stuffing and adds a touch of sweetness to the savoury flavors of the bacon, sage and celery,” he says. Jennings adds that Cornish hens are also the perfect dish for sucking up to the in-laws: “They look really impressive on a plate. Plus you eliminate arguments over who gets the white or dark meat—it makes everyone happy.”

For presentation, pick up some extra herbs at the store and use a sprig or two to garnish each plate, recommends Jennings. “I like to keep things simple and get all my prep work done in advance,” he says. “That way, you can have a couple of drinks with your guests and not be stuck in the kitchen.” Also, stick to what you like. “If you don’t like the taste of a wine when you drink it,” he says, “you probably won’t like the taste it adds to your food.”

Most importantly, when cooking with booze, Jennings says to have fun, experiment and don’t take it too seriously. “If you screw up or burn something, pour another round of cocktails—your guests probably won’t even notice!”