A lot of people think cooking with wine is a task that can be mastered only by top chefs in five-star restaurants. However, cooking with wine can be quite simple, and even the most average cook can prepare a lot of recipes in the most average kitchen.
Cooking with wine adds a depth and flavor to food that makes even the simplest dish seem complex. Marinating meat or fish in a red or white wine marinade transforms the meat, and there are many recipes that call for white or red wine sauces. Here are some tips on how to incorporate wine into some of your dishes.
Wines Used in Cooking
A lot of people become intimidated by the number of wines that are available for cooking. When a recipe calls for a cup of red wine, will any red wine do? What if it calls for a dry red wine? Here are some suggestions for wines that adapt well to cooking:
American Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice for recipes that call for dry white wine. On the other hand, a strong-flavored dish would benefit from a more robust white wine, such as a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
Your choice of red wine depends very much on the nature of the recipe. Light-flavored dishes might require Chianti or a Pinot Noir. Strong-flavored meats such as lamb would need more powerful reds, such as a Zinfandel.
In addition, fortified wines, with their intense flavors, lend themselves well to cooking. Madeira, Sherry, Port and Marsala are commonly seen in cooking with wine recipes.
There are many cooking wines sold on grocery store shelves. Few, if any, deserve to be used in a cooking with wine recipe. Cooking wines are comprised of thinned wines mixed with salt. These “wines” lack the complexity of real wines, and no professional chef would use them. A decent bottle of real wine doesn”t cost much more than cooking wine and adds much more flavor to dishes.
Cooking with Wine: Wine Quality
When cooking with wine, keep in mind an old cooking adage: Never cook with wine you wouldn”t drink. An undrinkable vintage won”t magically transform into a delicious red wine sauce or white wine marinade. Instead, an inferior wine will add bitterness and/or a sour taste to the meal.
Always use a good-quality wine for cooking. Good quality offers two advantages: The food will taste better, and you”ll have something to sip on while you cook!
Using Wine in Your Kitchen
Wine and food has enjoyed a long partnership, and cooking with wine marries the two in many ways. Why not try combining food and your favorite vintage in the following ways:
- After cooking meats in a pan, use wine to deglaze the pan and make a rich sauce.
- Make a salad dressing by mixing wine, herbs and olive oil.
- Marinate meat and poultry in red or white wine marinades and white wine marinades.
- Make red wine sauces and white wine sauces for pasta, vegetables, meat, fish and poultry by reducing wine, herbs and stock.
Cooking with wine recipes often call for you to make a reduction, especially if you are making a white wine sauce or a red wine sauce. Reduction refers to simmering or boiling a liquid until most of the liquid evaporates. As a result, the reduced sauce has a concentrated, intense flavor.
Whether making a red wine sauce or a white wine sauce, reduction is often a vital step in the cooking process. Because reduced wine has a strong flavor, it can be used to create thick sauces. Using unreduced wine would result in a very thin sauce.
Cooking with Wine: Wine Acidity
All wines contain acid, and this needs to be taken into account when cooking with wine. Different wines have very different acid contents, and this can affect the taste of food. For instance, if you”re making a red wine sauce that includes tomatoes, you should use a wine with a strong acid content, in order to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. If the vintage isn”t very acidic, it will be overpowered by the tomatoes and the food won”t taste as good.
Cooking with wine also affects your choice of cookware. Stainless steel and other non-reactive pans are best for cooking with wine recipes. Using copper pans or other pans that react with acid will discolor the food and may even affect its taste.
Wine: Deglazing and Sauces
Deglazing a pan is an old cooking with wine trick and is used to maximize the flavor of a sauce.