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Cooking with Wine

Wine doesn’t just belong in the glass. It’s a secret weapon in the kitchen that can add depth, complexity, and surprising versatility to your favorite dishes. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a culinary novice, incorporating wine into your repertoire can elevate your cooking game from ordinary to memorable.

More Than Just Flavor:

Wine brings so much more to the table than just taste. The acidity in wine acts like a tenderizer, coaxing toughness out of meats while brightening flavors across the board. As the alcohol cooks off, it draws out the essence of other ingredients while keeping the food moist and juicy, creating a symphony of deliciousness.

Wine Techniques for Every Dish:

There’s a world of possibilities when it comes to cooking with wine. Here are a few inspiring ideas:

  • Roasting: A splash of wine keeps roasted vegetables and meats moist, and the choice of wine can influence the final flavor. Hearty meats and dark vegetables pair well with bold reds like Gamay or Grenache, while lighter options like chicken and pale vegetables find harmony with crisp white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay.
  • Steaming: Delicate dishes like fish can benefit from the subtle flavor boost of full-bodied white wines, fortified wines (think Shaoxing or sherry), or rice wines. These options add depth without overpowering the natural taste of the fish and avoid adding unwanted color.
  • Marinating: Wine adds a magic touch to marinades, not only tenderizing meat but also infusing it with complex flavors. To concentrate the fruitiness and acidity, consider bringing the wine to a boil before adding other ingredients.
  • Braising: This slow-cooking technique is where wine truly shines. Braising liquids often include fruity reds or fortified wines like Madeira or port. These choices not only add depth of flavor, but the acidity also helps to enhance the flavors developed during the slow cooking process.
  • Deglazing: Ever wondered what to do with those browned bits stuck to the pan after searing meat? Deglaze with wine! This technique both loosens those flavorful bits and creates a rich pan sauce base that elevates your dish.
  • Baking: Wine—especially sparkling wine—is a game-changer for baked goods. Prosecco, for example, can lighten your cakes with a hint of tartness, similar to buttermilk. And don’t forget about poaching fruit! Wine can be used as a gentle poaching liquid to create tender, flavorful compotes.

Wine and Food Pairings: While there are some classic pairings, don’t be afraid to experiment!

  • White Wine: This versatile option shines with seafood, creamy sauces, and even as a substitute for citrus or broth in some recipes.
  • Red Wine: Beyond tenderizing meats, red wine adds richness and depth to stews, braises, and sauces.
  • Sparkling Wine: Dry sparkling wines offer a delightful touch of acidity and can be a fun substitute for white wine in many dishes.

Pro Tips:

  • Skip the “cooking wines” as they often contain unnecessary additives and don’t offer significant savings.
  • Freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays for easy access when a recipe calls for it.
  • Consider using white wine instead of red wine in stews or braises for a lighter palate.
  • Red wine can be a surprising friend to cream-based sauces, adding depth and cutting through the weight.
  • When using red wine, be mindful of tannins which can become concentrated during cooking. If necessary, a touch of butter can help smooth them out.

So next time you’re in the kitchen, reach for that bottle of wine. And if you’re feeling adventurous, add it to your food.