Sure, we drink it—once a day if we’re paying attention to our cardiologist—but wine isn’t just good in glasses, it’s good in sauté pans, stockpots, and saucepans. We always recommend cooking with wine (in a glass, in your hand!), but here are a few tips to help you use it in your recipes as well.
Yes, the alcohol cooks out. Or at least it should. In order to impart the wine flavors without harshness in soups, stews, and sauces, make sure you incorporate the wine early to allow the flavors to become rich and complex. The alcohol dissipates over time—a sauce with wine that’s been simmered for 15 minutes retains only 40% of its alcohol and by the time a roast has been braising with wine for 2 hours only 10% of the alcohol remains. Remember, however, to be mindful of guests who may have cultural or personal reasons for avoiding alcohol altogether. In most cases another liquid can be substituted.
Everything in moderation. Use too little and why bother. Use too much and you risk having wine soup. Use the recipe’s recommended amount and then wait at least 15-20 minutes to taste test. Remember that the flavors tend to intensify over time.
If you won’t drink it, don’t cook with it. Usually. Rule out options like cooking sherry, which brings very little in the way of wine flavors, and far too much artificial presevatives and sodium. But don’t forget about options like Madeira and Port. Though they aren’t always familiar to casual wine drinkers, they’re great in for cooking. Why? Because they’re fortified and have a longer shelf life than more common varieties.
Don’t skimp, don’t splurge. It’s not necessary to buy a $40 bottle if you’re going to use 1/2 cup in a recipe. Save your best bottles for sipping, not simmering. But don’t go slumming with the cheapest label on the shelf. In general, a decent $7 to $10 bottle will do the job just fine.
When in doubt, go with the staples. All the names and attributes of wines can get overwhelming. Most recipes that call for “dry white wine” will be well served by a Sauvignon Blanc. If the ingredient list calls for “dry red wine” you can let the other ingredients be your guide—a rich meat dish can use a big Zinfandel, while lighter flavors might meld better with a Pinot Noir. If you’re a true oenophile and have a wide variety on hand, here’s a handy guide that has specific varietal recommendations for different dishes.
Coborn’s and CobornsDelivers both have great selections of wine for drinking and cooking. Check out this week’s specials at Coborn’s stores for deals like Kenwood Sauvignon Blanc for $6.97, and wine features on CobornsDelivers like Mirrasou Pinot Noir for $7.99.