Cooking With Wine
By: John Williams
Wine is often enjoyed as a drink among friends, but did you ever notice that wines enjoyed at the table are just as often the ingredients of major recipes? When did this happen or were we all too warm and fuzzy to even notice? Explore wine as a flavoring for holiday cooking and enter a brave and scrumptious new world. You might even want to re-visit at other times of the year as well.
Although there are many wonderful spices and seasonings available throughout the culinary cosmos, there is truly nothing that intensifies and enhances the flavor of food as much as wine does. Apart from the virtues of taste that we all enjoy, wine releases flavors in food that are unique. However, there are some things to watch for while cooking with it, and none of them involve drinking too much or finding someone to drive you home.
Probably the most important rule of thumb is never to cook with a wine you would not drink. Most cooking wines on the market today are truly terrible, and as such can only add a terrible flavor to whatever you are preparing. If it tastes like vinegar in the bottle, it will introduce the same flavor to your casserole. (Consider that old expression about quacking like a duck, walking like a duck and looking like a duck.) Buy a nice bottle (not too cheap and not too costly) and always be aware that whatever flavor the wine has will be transported to your dish.
It's also important to know that when wine is used as flavoring it should simmer with the recipe because it takes time for the flavor to take hold. You should also wait about ten minutes after adding an initial dose and taste before adding any more. The flavor of any wine can overpower the best of dishes quite easily. If added late in the cooking process, it can also impart a harsh taste. Also, do not use aluminum or cast-iron pans when cooking anything with wine. Stick with enamel and other non-reactive cookware. Generally speaking, when a recipe calls for water, it can be replaced with the same amount of wine. A tablespoon or two can also enhance the flavors of gravies, oils and marinades.
Red or white is the eternal question revolving around the wine mulberry bush. Some say red wine with meat and white with fish and some say, well, other things. Don't worry about what others say or about what tradition dictates is proper and fitting for this time of year. Let your own tastebuds be your guide.