This begins a short series on food. The first segment is “Cooking Wine: Why Not”. If I ever edited a piece of yours, you know the missing question mark means something significant
Some of my followers would rather follow me to the kitchen than the computer screen. As modesty would have it, I am a fabulous cook. Let me share some of my secrets with you.
Go to the horse’s mouth.
Being of curious nature, I contacted a friend who owns a vineyard who promptly provided the real story of “cooking wine”. These small bottles of sherry, Madeira, port and Marsala are hidden in a grocer’s spice corridor, and they should remain hidden.
A grape is a grape?
Cooking wines are typically made from the grapes vintners do not choose for wine-making. Whether the choice was poor color, odd flavor or over-ripeness, the fact remains the fruits were inferior. To cover the inferiority of the fruit, bottlers add a large quantity of salt.
Less Flavor + More Salt =
Not in my Kitchen
Buy inexpensive drinking quality wine, since it will have no additional salt to mask its immature or less-bodied flavor. Even if your cardiologist missed the opportunity to tell you, I will not. You (and your tastebuds) do not need the extra salt.
“Don’t cook with it if you wouldn’t drink it.” ~Justin Wilson
Do not despair! Wine is a culinary gem which has been the secret ingredient in many a grandmother’s recipe. Very few dishes (as in nearly none) will not benefit from a splash of the right wine.
Desserts demand sweetness.
Although white wines are the sweetest, a dry rose is a better fit. Just as one salts melons to enhance sweetness, a rose or blush wine (like white Zinfandel) will punctuate the sweetness of your dessert with its slight sourness. Fruit steeped in rose, added to a simple sponge or angel food cake or atop vanilla ice cream, makes a very rich dessert.
Delicate foods must have delicate wine.
The sweet smoothness of a good white wine enhances pork, fish and sharp vegetables. Marinating a white fish fillet (cod, haddock or tilapia) in white wine before searing. Press a garlic clove into chardonnay fifteen minutes before you toss it and your asparagus into the saute pan.
Sauce should be rich.
Red wine’s full body and propensity to oaken or nutty flavor makes gravies, stews and meats sing. Dash (thumb and shake) Merlot into pasta sauce for depth. Pinot Noir makes an excellent addition to beef, veal and lamb, either as a base or addition to gravy.
Beef is strong.
Fortify its wine. Yes, fortified wine is a perfect tenderizer for beef. Marinading your sirloin, New York Strip or rib eye in port will produce a steak that needs no other sauce. Sherry soaked onions and shallots or garlic will permeate meat during searing, adding a new dimension.
Enough is as good as a feast.
Over-zealousness is the only faux pas in cooking with wine. Begin with a small amount, even as little as a teaspoon. Add in small increments until you approve of the flavor. Remember, wait a two to four minutes between additions to allow for the alcohol to evaporate and the richness to ensue.
Now, pour a glass and enjoy it with your culinary creation!
What is your wine secret in the kitchen?
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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