Cooking with Wine

Cooking with wine is another way that wine and food can compliment each other. While this isn't technically wine and food pairing, wine is an important part of cooking many types of dishes. So while we are on the topic of wine and food, why don't we spend a few minutes to teach you about how wine can improve your cooking?

What kind of wine should you use for cooking?

While there is no general answer to this question, you should always use wine that you wouldn't mind drinking. Do not use the little bottles from the market labeled "Cooking Wine" as this is almost always flavorless swill! Does that mean you have to spend a ton of money on a bottle of wine that is going into a sauce? No, please don't waste a $100 bottle of wine to cook with. However, you want flavors that you like in your food, so you don't want bad, flavorless or flawed wine added to it! Generally, try to match the flavor profile to that of the dish so that you have something that will compliment the food and not stick out too much. For example, while a heavy red wine would do well for a reduction sauce for beef or in a beef stew, deglazing a pan to make a light, creamy sauce for fish would best be done with a lighter white wine. Recipes will usually suggest a type of wine, but again, try to match flavors and flavor intensity. Only use sweet wines, like Port or Madeira, for richly flavored dishes, like sauteed mushrooms or a beef dish, which can stand up to their bold flavors.

What are different forms of cooking with wine?

  • Drinking Wine While Cooking: Ok, well this isn't what most people think of when they talk about cooking with wine. But drinking a nice glass of wine while cooking makes the whole experience more fun, doesn't it?! I always remember Julia Child cooking with Jacques Pepin...halfway through a recipe he says "Oh my goodness, I almost forgot! It is very important to always cook with wine!" At that, he pours a big glass for each of them and they take a sip. So don't forget to relax and have a good time when you cook, especially if you are preparing for a wine tasting party or dinner!
  • Marinating with Wine: One of the most obvious and easy forms of cooking with wine is to use wine as a component of a marinade. Not only does the wine add some flavor to the meat you are marinating, but its acid and tannins help to tenderize the meat somewhat. Lighter meats will often work well with crisp, dry white wines like Sauvignon Blanc or lighter Chardonnays, while heavier meats can stand up to a dark red wine. An exception is Lamb, which is beautifully complimented by dry, acidic white wines or even a fruity rosé!
  • Deglazing a Pan: Deglazing is a cooking technique in which a food is first sauteed in a pan and then a liquid is added to the pan to sop up and dissolve all the crusty bits of caramelized food that is stuck to the bottom of the pan, the glaze. This caramelized glaze is full of rich flavors, so it is excellent for flavoring sauces and gravy. Deglazing can be done either to add moisture and flavor to a stir fry or to start and develop a sauce based on the food that you had been sauteing. Generally, all you do is pour in the wine (or you can use stocks or other flavorful liquids) and over high heat use a utensil to scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.
  • Wine Reduction Sauces: As mentioned above, many sauces start with something being sauteed, usually the thing that the sauce will ultimately adorn. After that, the bits and liquid left over acts as a base to start and flavor the sauce. In a wine reduction sauce, a generous amount of wine is poured into the pan or pot and then after deglazing to get all the flavorful bits, it is simmered for a prolonged period of time. This method of cooking with wine is called "reducing" the sauce because as it boils water is boiled out as steam. This results in the rest of the flavors in the sauce getting concentrated. The volume of liquid will actually reduce as it boils. Depending on the type of sauce, you can reduce the wine mixture by a quarter, a half, by two thirds, or even down to only a few tablespoons, depending on how rich and thick you want the sauce to be. These reduced sauces have a rich, concentrated flavor and are great accompaniments to a number of different dishes.
  • Wine Flavoring to Sauces, Soups, Stews, Etc.: Many dishes benefit from a splash of wine at some point in the cooking process. Even if wine isn't the primary ingredient, as in a wine reduction sauce, the flavors of wine can accent the other primary flavors in the dish. For examples of cooking with wine in this way, a splash of red wine to an Italian tomato-based marinara sauce or to a beef stew can help add flavor. A few glugs of white wine can enhance some soups, lamb stews or lighter-colored sauces. For some dishes this is the traditional way to add flavor and liquid to a dish, as in a traditional Risotto, to which white wine is slowly added to cook the Arborio rice.

So there you have it, cooking with wine can take many forms but all of them can add new flavor dimensions to your dishes. Whether you are cooking for a wine dinner party or wine tasting, or for any other reason, your cooking will benefit from the addition of wine to your repertoire!

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