We enjoy wine as an companion to our everyday get-togethers from family lunches to holiday dinners. But did you know that wine is also a great cooking ingredient? Yes, wine can be used to add flavor to many dishes such as soups, stews, braised meats, pastas among others. You can even make wine jellies! When adding wine to your recipes, remember these simple rules.
Never cook with wine that you would not drink – This rule of thumb is known by many chefs, which is why they do not mind "wasting money" on expensive wines being used as a food flavoring rather than using "cooking wines" that you may have noticed in some grocery shelves. Unfortunately, most cooking wines are either more vinegar than grape or too sweet and way more expensive than its actual value. You would be better off spending the same amount for a cheap bottle of wine and get more flavor than what cooking wine can do.
Adjust salt when using cooking wine – However, if you insist on using cooking wine, you need to adjust the amount of salt on the dish. To check how much to add or lessen, try tasting the cooking wine yourself (but we advise you that it does not taste like wine). It can either be too sweet or too salty. Cooking wine may also have other additives that may adversely affect the taste of your chosen menu.
An expensive wine is not necessarily – On the other hand, a cheap wine will not bring out the best characteristics of your dish. The process of cooking would only bring out the worst in an inferior wine. However, cooking with a good quality wine that you would enjoy drinking will provide the same flavor to a dish as a premium wine. Also, cooking with an expensive wine requires more careful handling, cooking it slowly (but not simmering too long) and not letting it come to boil in order to maximize the quality of the dish. It is better to save the expensive wine to serve with the meal.
Use young wines – For the novice cook, it is best to use good quality, well-balanced, young, and powerful wines (with vintage varying from one to three years ago). These good wines can withstand higher temperatures and longer cooking time.
Match wine with the right food – Just as you pair wines with the food you eat, it also applies the same when it comes to the food you cook. Red wines go well with braised meats, for instance, while whites are great for seafoods. Some chefs even go overboard and use a particular type of wine for a certain dish, such as pairing Zinfandel or Chianti to spaghetti sauce because it adds rich tartness to the sauce, and Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc for shrimps.
Don’t put too much wine – Recipes usually use at least 1/4 cup of wine. When cooking, wine is meant to add flavors that complement your food, as well as bring out its natural flavors. Putting too much wine would overpower the rest of the flavors.
Do not add wine just before serving – The wine should simmer with the food, or sauce, to enhance the flavor of the dish. If added late in the preparation, it could impart a harsh quality.
Taste depends on how you cook the wine – A wine that is simmered for a short time on low heat would impart a different flavor of that same wine simmered at high heat for an extended period of time.
Avoid using aluminum or cast iron – When cooking with wine, avoid using aluminum or cast iron cookware. Instead, stick to non-reactive cookware such as enamel.