How to Cook With Limoncello Liqueur


Cooking with limoncello benefits from a gentle hand. When winter rolls around, so do Meyer lemons. One of the hottest new trends in international cuisine is the use of limoncello liqueur in the cooking process. Any number of domestic Limoncello brands have sprung up around the United States; some of them made from old family recipes by Italian-Americans who previously made it at home and brought it to parties when invited. The tasty lemon drink, served ice cold for the best results, has become something more than just a hot evening sipper. Great chefs are discovering that it’s adding dimension to delicate fish sautés.

I’ve discovered one of the most efficient and tasty dinner’s is to use limoncello as the base, and the only liquid, in cooking white fish. What this lemon-based drink does for fish and whatever it touches on the rest of the plate is nothing short of marvelous.

Start by placing a large saute pan on high heat for about one minute. Reduce heat to medium. Remove pan from heat, take your favorite limoncello and carefully pour it into the frying pan about a quarter inch full. The liquid will automatically start to bubble. Place pan back on burner over medium heat.

Let some, but not all, the alcohol burn off. Lay tilapia or salmon filets in the limoncello. Cook for three minutes on each side, letting the fish soak up the rich limoncello flavor. Halfway through the cooking process, turn fish, cover the pan, and reduce heat to just below medium.  When fish flakes easily, remove from heat.

About five minutes into the cooking process pour a little more limoncello over the fish, wait a few seconds and ignite the fluid. It won’t burn the fish, but it will give it a caramelized flavor. Let the alcohol burn off.

Serve on dinner plate with brown rice and a nice green vegetable. Pour the leftover limoncello over the fish and rice for an added flavor boost.

Serve immediately. You won’t need additional lemon for the fish because the lemon is already cooked into the filet.

Flavored vodka’s are also available in Blood Orange, Melon, and Berry. We haven’t tried those offerings with meat or fish but feel free to experiment.

The bonus to this cooking is we didn’t add salt and we didn’t cook in oil. This fresh and exciting dish will have you planning the next one before you even leave the table!

Buon appetito!

Image: msheldrake

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