I recently browsed through a copy of Food and Wine magazine in awe of how many wines there are and how experts seem to know how to match any cuisine to the perfect wine. It got me thinking about how just one simple ingredient can propel a meal from good to great, from excellent to outstanding.
Wine, when used as an ingredient, can do just that.
If you’d like to begin cooking with wine but don’t know where to start, here are a few pointers to help you get started:
For cooking, be sure to use a wine that you would personally drink. Simply meaning, bottled “cooking wines” aren’t necessarily the best to choose. A reasonably priced, good quality wine from last night’s dinner will do nicely. We always have good recommendations on our wine page, too.
Begin with well-known wines such as chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc for white, and Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chianti for red.
As a very general rule, use white wine to complement chicken, turkey and seafood and light, simple sauces such as lemon butter, herb and light-colored cream sauces. Use red wine for sauces served with beef, duck, lamb and bison, as well as many wild game meats.
As you get more comfortable, experiment with an assortment of wines, perhaps a Riesling, Rose or Zinfandel for dessert or a Beaujolais or Merlot to deglaze your pan for the sauce to accompany the beef or lamb dish.
Bear in mind that some wine, especially the heavier, “oak-aged” varieties may leave an unwelcomed, bitter after-taste.
While there has been a common belief that cooking dissipates the alcohol content in your dish, the USDA put this to the test. They measured the alcohol content of several foods before and after cooking, showing that alcohol content diminished the longer it was cooked, but some alcohol does remain.
Now, let’s get cooking. Here are some ways to add wine to your recipes:
Replace some of the water, vinegar, broth or fruit juice with wine in a recipe.
Use a splash (just a tablespoon or two) of red wine in brown gravy.
Add to marinades.
Use a splash to flavor soups, stews and grain dishes.
Poach fresh or dried fruit in wine. Add spices and nuts for variety and flavor.
Mix with oil and spices for basting meats, hearty vegetables, tofu or tempeh in the oven or on the grill.
Braise or poach meats and vegetables in wine.
Try some of our recipes that call for red wine:
Citrus Cranberry Red Wine Sauce (For a more seasonal dish, substitute cherries for cranberries)
And here’s a selection of our recipes featuring white wine:
Want to dive deeper into your wine selections? Our Wine Primer helps you figure it out. Remember, the main goal is to have fun and enjoy your food.
Do you cook with wine? Got an idea or favorite recipe? Let me know.