There it is plain and simple. Sorry you had to hear it like this but the truth is, the rest of the developed world knows there is more to wine than enjoying a glass of your favorite bottle after the kids have long gone to bed.
The reason behind cooking with wine is to intensify and enhance the flavor of food–which is what we should all strive for. Wine helps to release additional flavors in your food that otherwise aren’t experienced.
If you’re new to cooking with wine, here are a few tips to help you along:
- Stay away from wines labeled “Cooking Wine”. These are cheaply made and less expensive than even the “Two-buck-chuck” you can buy at Trader Joes. And believe me, you get what you pay for. Salty and bitter, you would never consume a glass of this stuff in polite company. If you wouldn’t drink it, you shouldn’t cook with it!
- No need to reach for that expensive bottle on the shelf. While you definitely don’t want to cook with cheap wine, cooking with an expensive vintage is just pouring your money down the drain. The heat from cooking strips a lot of the nuance and subtlety from a superior wine and isn’t necessary. Find that bottle between $8-$15 and that will work fine.
- Whatever the defining characteristic of the wine is (ex: fruity, heavy tannins etc…) will be will be emphasized during cooking.
- Wine needs time to impart its flavor. Just like when you’re having a glass, your wine needs to “open up” before you consume it. Best practice? Let the wine breathe before you pour it into your dish or pan – whether you are sautéing with it or making a sauce. Use a wine aerator to help the wine open up further before cooking or drinking it.
- Simple cooking is best. The more you cook with wine, the better you will become. Don’t overthink it or cook beyond your skill level – that’s just a waste of good wine! A simple dish can be easily elevated to a great one if you impart wines flavors into it.
- Don’t add wine to your dish too early! On the flip side, don’t add your wine too late either. Keep your eye out for the “Goldilocks zone” which is where the wine will underline the most essential flavor at the right time. This is usually around 65% of your way through most recipes.
- Simmering wine for a short time on low heat will highlight different flavors of than that of the same wine simmered at high heat for an extended period of time.
- Beware! Champagne should rarely if ever be used in cooking.
- Don’t include wine in your ingreditants lineup if you’re cooking in a cast iron or aluminum skillet. The heat from these pans can draw out a few of your wine’s more tenacious acids, which can prove problematic for your food and tasting…be careful!
- A simple “rule of thumb” formula for pairing wine with cooking is:
|Young, robust, full-bodied red wine||Red Meat, or red sauced dishes where red meat is the star|
|Earthy red full bodied||Soups, stews, lighter meats like lamb|
|Dry white wine/fortified wine||Shellfish, light seafood, poultry, pork, light cream sauces|
|Crisp, acidic white wines||Seafood Soups and sautéing|
|Sweet white wine/Sweet fortified wine||Deserts, spicy food|
|Pinot Noir||Pork, Turkey, Lamb, Salmon|
Most importantly, the best rule of thumb when trying to figure out if a wine pairs with a certain cuisine is the age-old saying in the wine business:
“If it GROWS with it, it GOES with it”
Meaning: that bottle of Chianti from Italy you have been holding onto will likely pair perfectly with your Tuscan pasta or meat dish!