Wine! It is so versatile - in the glass and on your plate!
Cooking with wine can definitely bring about it's own pleasure. This goes way beyond food and wine pairings.
In fact, using wine in the kitchen can be even more creative.
To achieve the culinary glory of wine requires one simple thing: experimenting with wine as an ingredient in a recipe.
Some chefs - especially those versed in European recipes - use wine as a cooking ingredient liberally and for more types of recipes than one might expect...
Ingredients all play a specific role in cooking. Some add spice to a food, while others tone down heaviness. Whatever you add to or use to create a dish has a purpose.
Butter, spices, milk, flour, baking soda, eggs, meat and fish all bring something (if you pardon the pun) to the table.
This is also true of wine.
As an ingredient, the purpose of wine is to fortify existing aromas and flavors. Adding wine can increase, augment and even accent the flavor of the other ingredients.
For example, wine adds flavor to seafood without smothering it in fatty batter. In fact, some cooks replace fat, shortening, butter and related ingredients with wine. (It not only sounds healthier, it sounds tastier, too!)
Uses Of Wine
Wine typically serves three major roles in the kitchen. (That being said, do not let this stop you from experimenting to your closet-chef's content.) The most common uses for cooking with wine are the following:
Flavoring – usually in a finished dish
The usage, the food, the type of cooking wine, and the type of wine served, will all dictate the amount of cooking wine added in the recipe.
Yet, in all cases, be sure to avoid extremes. Too little wine is wasted, drowned by other ingredients and lost during the process of cooking; too much wine is overbearing.
And for those who are wondering about adding alcohol in their recipes, rest assured: the alcohol does evaporate during the cooking process, due to the high temperatures.
This leaves a highly concentrated flavor. Perfect for the taste buds of foodies!
Tips For Cooking With Wine
These simple rules apply whenever wine is used in cooking. No matter how elaborate the dish, or how expensive the wine, consider the following as gold:
Never, ever use an "off" or tainted wine – the flavor will saturate or at least affect the taste of the dish you are preparing
Never use any of the so-called "cooking" wines you find at a store - they're diluted and oftentimes flavorless, and from questionable wine sources.
Avoid tart white wines – the acidity may be too concentrated
Use white wines, but always add to any recipe with care
In some wines, the sugar may become concentrated during the cooking process. Add any sweet wine with a very gentle hand to not overly sweeten the meal
If the wine has been aged in oak barrels and has a heavy oak flavor, it may aromatically over saturate the cooking
Remember, if a wine's bouquet is fruity, lightly aromatic and/or flowery, this characteristic will not survive the cooking process.
Among the best wines for food are those that are full-bodied – white, red or rosé
Never add wine to a food just prior to serving. Wine needs time to simmer and be absorbed into the food. It needs to become a part of the overall flavor experience. It can only do this if it cooks slowly with the dish it is to influence.
When using wine as an ingredient, remember to consider the desired end result. This will help you select the right wine for the job. If wine is a principal ingredient, such as it is in Coq au Vin, opt for a high quality wine. Consider the potential of non-vintage Burgundy or Bordeaux or even a California Cabernet Sauvignon.
In more general cooking, consider Beaujolais, Côtes du Rhone or California Gamays. All are excellent wines to use in cooking.
Above all, cooking with wine should be fun! Try to discover what works best for you by starting simple:
Add a dash of wine to an old, familiar recipe.
Liven up even a plain stew dish with a small amount of red wine.
Full-bodied Chianti would be an excellent choice for beef stew.
It is also amazing what a little bit of white wine e.g. Chardonnay, can do to your Grandmother's Famous Spice Cake.
And one last tip: the more you refine your own tastes and preferences for drinking wine, the more you'll feel confident cooking with wine, knowing what wines work best in what recipes, and pairing wine with food.