Cooking With Wine 101

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wine_cooking_nashvilleDid you know that wine can enhance your food in other ways aside from a good pairing? You can use wine in your recipes to add another element of flavor, and it doesn’t have to be super expensive or complicated. Adding wine to your food can add sweetness, acidity and other tasting notes depending on the wine you use.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT WINE

White wine, red wine, sherry and Marsala (not to be confused with the Indian spice known as masala) are frequently used in cooking. They are sometimes used in quick recipes to deglaze pans and create a rich sauce (butter is also usually involved), and sometimes for braising meats in longer-cooking recipes.

When you’re just getting started cooking with wine, it’s a good idea to follow a recipe so you can get to know how the wine flavors work together with the other ingredients. The recipe will specify the type of wine that works best. Be sure to follow the recommendations closely because choosing a sweet white wine when you’re supposed to use a dry one may ruin your recipe.

GENERAL GUIDELINES FROM COOKING LIGHT:
  • Aromatic whites, like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, go well with bold and spicy flavors
  • Choose bolder reds to go with bolder dishes (such as Zinfandel for a beef roast), and lighter ones for lighter dishes
  • Port works well in meat-based casseroles
  • Sherry is great for soups and stews
  • Madeira is great with sautéed mushrooms

DON’T COOK WITH A WINE YOU WOULDN’T DRINK

One important rule to keep in mind: never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, because, in the words of legendary chefs like Julia Child and Alton Brown, cooking with bad wine can “spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.” The wine doesn’t have to be fancy by any means, but avoid purchasing ones labeled as ‘cooking wine’ because those are barely even wine at all. But don’t be afraid to use a nice wine that’s been sitting on your counter for a few days too long… it will still work nicely in your cooking.

DON’T BE AFRAID OF A LITTLE ALCOHOL

What about the alcohol content? Don’t worry–your kids aren’t going to get a buzz after eating your Marsala chicken. Most of the alcohol burns off during cooking, and if any sticks around, it’s not enough to be concerned about.