How to cook with wine

Story by Victoria Walsh

Here, for kitchen novices, is an easy-peasy primer on adding wine to your recipes — what to use and how to use it.

What kind of wine is good for cooking?

It’s best to cook with reasonably priced, delicious wine. Never, ever use up plonk leftover from a party or that old stuff uncorked months ago and lingering in your fridge. The rule: If it’s not drinkable, toss it.

Does the alcohol “burn” off?

It’s a myth that all of the alcohol evaporates during cooking. The amount of alcohol that is cooked off depends on the cooking time of a dish and its temperature. Slowly simmered dishes such as stews and casseroles will often contain trace alcohol content. But short-cooked recipes like sauces and soups (with the wine added near the end of the process) will likely retain a high percentage of the original alcohol.

What types of wine do I use?

All wines have their place in cooking; you can use red and white, including sparkling or fortified wines such as sherry, Marsala and Madeira. It’s safest to select a wine that common sense will tell you “goes” with the dish (a Chianti, for instance, in an Italian tomato-based sauce for pasta). The wine’s flavour is more important than its price point. That said, it would be a waste to cook with a $50-a-bottle cellar-keeper.

Which cooking techniques involve wine?

  • Deglazing is a method where liquid is added to a pan after browning ingredients (such as meat or mushrooms) and the fat has been removed. That liquid is used to scrape up any residue on the pan and incorporate “the brown bits’ into the liquid. Using wine as the liquid adds more depth of flavour than using water or broth. Whatever you’re sipping or fortified wine hanging from the cupboard will do the trick. This mixture makes a tasty base for a sauce.
  • A wine marinade is a popular way to tenderize red meat.
  • Simmering ingredients with wine incorporates wine’s robust flavour into a dish.
  • Small fruits, such as pears or peaches are poached, by simmering in a mixture of wine and simple syrup until tender and its flavours infuse.

Leftover tip

Pour leftover white wine into an ice cube tray. Place in the freezer, then place the ice cubes into a large Ziploc bag and store until ready to use.

Get cooking

Ten nifty ideas for using wine in your next dish:

Mussels

A mix of white wine, broth and chopped tomatoes make a delicious base for mussels. Simply simmer the ingredients allowing flavours to infuse. Then, add washed mussels. Make sure they’re either closed or ones that close when tapped. Cook until the mussels open. Discard any unopened mussels. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Tomato sauce

To add depth of flavour to your next tomato sauce, simply deglaze the pan with some red wine after sautéing the onion.

Chicken with jus

Have (inexpensive) fortified wine, such as a port or sherry, on hand when you’re cooking chicken. When you remove cooked chicken from pan, add a splash of wine to the pan, then scrape up and stir in any brown bits. Simmer with a little chicken broth then use as a sauce for your chicken.

Béarnaise

Use leftover white wine for a reduction when you’re making your next béarnaise. Delicious over eggs Benedict or roast beef.

Fondue

Emmental, white wine and cornstarch are all your need to make a delicious cheese fondue. You can add a little Kirsch and freshly grated nutmeg for a little kick.

Soup

Add a flavour boost to your next creamy mushroom soup by finishing cooking with a splash of sherry.

Ice wine dessert

For a treat, spike ice cream or waffles with a drizzle of ice wine.

Steak and mushroom sauce

Cook a steak in a pan as usual. Remove to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add a little butter, then sliced cremini or shiitake mushrooms to the hot pan. Cook until golden. Add a hefty dose of fortified wine such as sherry or Madeira. Deglaze the pan, scraping up and stirring in any brown bits from pan bottom. Remove from heat. Stir in a pat of cold butter to thicken. Serve over steak.

Fish en Papilotte

Place a fish fillet on a large piece of parchment. Season, then drizzle with a splash of white wine. Seal. Bake it until knife inserted into centre of fish, and held for 10 seconds, comes out warm. Remember to carefully open packets, avoiding the steam.

Risotto

A mix of broth and wine is essential to deepen the flavour of a slow-stirred creamy risotto. Use white wine or even try a sparkling one such as Champagne, Cava or Prosecco.

This content is from Winefox, a website dedicated to taking the snobbery out of wine. Head over to winefox.ca to learn more about wine pairings, tours and updates on the latest trends and vintages.

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