Wine Cookery: {Kitchen Q&A}

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You don’t have to be a connoisseur to get a little adventurous by adding a bit of wine here and there in your cooking. It’s used to enhance the flavor of a dish and it’s a great way to use up any leftovers. You’ll find that adding a splash or two to many simple dishes (such as casseroles, vegetable sautes, sauces, etc.) can elevate a dish to something special.

BottleHere’s an introduction to wine cookery that will help you get started.

  • Should I use regular or cooking varieties? You can use both but did you know: cooking wines sold in the grocery store usually contain salt and are horrible to drink. Keep in mind that a more concentrated flavor is present in the dish so if something tastes nasty before cooking, it will carry its flavor to your dish. Common advice is to stick with a regular drinking brand and avoid those marketed for cooking.
  • Is it ok to use a cheap brand, does it have to be expensive? If you like the taste, feel free to use it in your dish. Boxed varieties are a good example of this, they’re inexpensive yet work nicely as a recipe ingredient. As long as it doesn’t smell, taste vinegary or taste off, you can use it.
  • What specificly should I use for a particular recipe? It’s impossible to say because it really depends on the dish. A good rule of thumb is to use one that you would serve with the meal and pairs well with that particular dish. Keep in mind that you want to select one that tastes great, if you don’t like the taste of one, you won’t like its flavor in your food. Another tip (though not a hard and fast rule): use a French wine with a French recipe, an Italian one with an Italian recipe, etc.
  • When to use a red or white? An easy trick to start with is “white for light” and “red for dark”…use white for light dishes and light colored meats such as chicken or fish and red for more full flavored dishes and darker meats such as beef and duck. You’ll learn though that both can work well with many meats so you’ll need to experiment and once you get more experienced, you’ll get more adventurous and learn which will do well in your favorite dishes and you’ll just “know” which ones to try for new recipes.
  • When should it be added to the dish? Follow the recipe instructions but if you’re just winging it, know that the closer to the end of cooking time that you add it, the more overpowering the presence will be in the dish and much of the alcohol remains. If you add it earlier on, the flavor of the food is more enhanced and less alcohol remains in the dish (if any). Still not sure? As a guide, add it a minimum of 7 minutes before the end of cooking (unless recipe states otherwise).
  • Why does it sometimes curdle a sauce? This can happen with dishes using dairy, the trick to this is incorporating the wine into the dish before adding any diary products. You’ll also want to serve the dish warm since once it cools, the sauce can start curdling.

Tips

  • How long is an opened bottle good for? You can keep a half-opened bottle in the refrigerator for about a week or so (keeping it tightly corked). Since the oxygen that comes in contact with wine is what degrades its quality over time, you will find pouring the leftovers into a small glass jar (with a tight lid) will help stretch out the shelf life. If you know you won’t use it within the next few days, pour it into ice cube trays, freeze then pop the cubes out and store in the freezer until needed (using freezer bags or containers). You could also measure 1/2 cup amounts directly into freezer bags and freeze them that way (remove as much air from the bag as possible before freezing).
  • Wine substitute: 1 cup of chicken stock plus 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar.
  • Try marinating meat overnight with it (mix 50/50 with oil), this will not only add nice flavor but it tenderizes the meat too.
  • Try adding a splash to a pan of veggies while cooking, this will add a nice flavor without adding fat.
  • Try adding a splash of red into your gravy and simmer for a few minutes so it can work its magic and give you a rich, flavorful gravy.
  • Depending on the recipe, you can replace the amount of water required with wine (up to a tablespoon or two) or half the water amount if over a couple tablespoons is required.
  • Adding flavor to fish: Add a splash of dry white to melted butter and baste over fish when cooking.
  • Adding flavor to meat: Brush meat with 1/4 cup wine & 2 tablespoons oil during cooking.
  • Did You Know: Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, most of the alcohol is cooked off but can still be present depending on how long it has been cooking.
  • Deglaze & reduction: Pour wine into the pan on medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Stir and scrape until it’s reduced, strain and then continue to boil until it’s thick and syrupy (about 2/3 reduced).
  • If you need to chill a bottle quickly, soak a linen dish towel, wring it out then wrap around the bottle and refrigerate (for 30 minutes) or freeze (for 15 minutes). From marthastewart.com.

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Published: May 11, 2011
Updated: June 27, 2012

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