Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cooking with Wine - Taste Matters.

I have always like to cook (facilitates the fact that I also like to eat), but as my interest in wine grew, so did my interest in cooking and finding great food and wine pairings.  In some recipes, wine is in the ingredient list.  There are two big rules I follow when cooking with wine:

The first is never, ever, ever buy the stuff in your grocery store called "Cooking Wine" typically found near the oils and vinegars.  This stuff is mostly made of really bad wine with salt added... Mmmmmmm!!  You want to be able to control the amount of salt in your dish, so adding cooking wine can throw off your dish's seasoning. Worse, is the fact that cooking wine is made with poor quality wine - which leads us to rule #2.

Rule #2 is never cook with a wine that you would not drink.  There is no reason to use an expensive wine to cook with, but using a reasonable everyday wine makes a difference. Remember - cooking will eliminate the alcohol in the wine, but the other flavors of the wine will be imparted to your dish.

When I have some wine left in a bottle, I will save it aside for cooking later. This occasion is the one time that it is OK to keep wine in your food refrigerator. In fact, I have a screw top red and white bottle that I pour any leftover wine into.  Different wine varieties being mixed for cooking won't matter that much as long as you're not dumping a sweet Riesling in with a buttery Chardonnay - and creating a possibly unpleasant concoction. 

Another option is to use ice cube trays to freeze your leftover wine until you are ready to use. You can then grab out the amount you need for your cooking. Unlike Vodka or other spirits, wine will actually freeze. Works great for both reds and whites.

Wine can also be used as a flavorful way to make your cooking a bit healthier.  Instead of sautéing in oil or butter, replace up to half of with white wine to reduce calories while adding flavor and moisture.  Also you can replace up to half the oil in a marinade with wine to make it healthier, plus it acts as an acidic ingredient which can help tenderize the meat.

If you are unsure what wine to use in a particular recipe, a wine that would taste good with the finished dish is a safe one to use. Cooking the wine will keep it from tasting just like wine poured over your food, but the flavor characteristics will remain.

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