There are basically two ways to use gin in your dishes when cooking. One is the straight forward one: Allegedly when Julia Child was asked what her favourite dish was, she replied: a red steak and a glass of gin. The other is the more complicated for the rest of us that do not posses Mrs Childs qualities: use gin as an ingredient.
Once in a while you come across a product that clearly has more potential than what it looks like. This is how I feel about Hendricks Gin. It is a gin – and a damn good one – but it is more than “just” a gin. Having listened to a presentation of the history of gin and the ways of distilling gin – and there are more than one way – and having sat through a tasting of Hendricks Gin in different cask strengths and combinations, I could not help feeling that something more than adding tonic and lime was needed.
Be not confused: Hendricks Gin is excellent for your drinks and cocktails, as other gins. Just be prepared for the extra taste, that Hendricks has. It is not a simple gin. It has a complex taste which makes it different from other gins. If you prefer a pure gin of excellent quality, I would still refer you to the tasty clarity of the Arctic Gin we tasted some months ago. But if you (also) like your Gin complex in taste, then Hendricks is a good alternative.
But why – I asked myself – just drink it? French cooking is full of cognac, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, Armagnac, Poire Williams etc added to dishes at different points in the preparation. While all these alcohols have strong tastes, and thus suitable for adding to dishes during cooking, this is not in general applicable for gin. But that’s where I thought Hendricks Gin might offer new opportunities.
An obvious choice with Hendricks is of course to make a pickled cucumber salad with some gin added to the dressing. Obvious because Hendricks contains this tasty hint of cucumber (and warm summer days). I can recommend to try this, but add the gin after boiling the vinegar marinade. In my experience that enhances the taste.
But I was more intrigued by another recipe I found on the net when looking for “cooking with gin”. The recipe is about curing fish with a mixture containing gin. While I have no doubt that this is probably originally a Nordic recipe, using aquavit rather than gin, I immediately thought it would be interesting to test with Hendricks gin.
The process for curing fish is simple if requiring patience. You take a fresh filet of salmon or sea trout – skin on. And you cover it with salt and spice based mixture, leave it in the fridge for days – depending on size of the filet – clean of the mixture and it is ready to be sliced and eaten on white bread, or crispy bread or blinis. You can also experiment with mackerel, but the fish needs to be fat to survive the curing process.
The interesting thing here was to add Hendricks gin to the mixtures of salts, pebber, lemon or lime zest and juice, juniper berries (crushed), different spices according to your taste (cumin, coriander, cardamom, chilli etc). You cover the fish in this mixture on both sides, wrapped up in film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
The taste is stunning. Cured salmon is always delightful, but Hendricks adds that extra touch. And you have the opportunity to enjoy the dish with a Dry Martini with Hendricks. We all have our own
preferences for a Dry Martini. In view of the nice taste of Hendricks I would tend to go for the recipe where you place your glass in the shade of the Vermouth bottle and then you feel the glass with the shaked Hendricks gin, add the olive and enjoy. Alternatively you can of course – if you prefer your Dry Martini less dry – add a few drops of Vermouth.