"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food." ~ W. C. Fields
Wine adds flavor and aroma to a wide variety of foods, from tender asparagus to crisp roast chicken. When cooking with wine, you can make dishes taste sweeter or more acidic. You can even add a French or Spanish twist to simple vegetable medleys. Here are the first steps to your next culinary masterpiece:
Decide What You Want to Cook with Wine
Wine can be used to marinate food in place of another liquid such as water, or it can be heated until it is a reduction. First, decide what you want to cook. This allows you to match the wine to your dish. White wine is the right choice for chicken, turkey, seafood and vegetables. It also tastes good in sauces that feature herbs, lemon or cream. Red wine is best for beef, duck, lamb and bison, as well as the sauces that complement them. Reds or whites work for vegetarian foods like tofu and tempeh and for neutral vegetables and grains, such as mushrooms and quinoa. Dessert wines are best for sweet concoctions, including fruit dishes, custards, cakes and puddings. Avoid cooking wines with a high amount of salt and other additives that can negatively impact flavor.
How to Use the Wine
You can add wine to a marinade, soak dried fruit or nuts in it to mix with meat or rice, pour a bit into a soup or broth, or use it to replace water in a soup. There are a lot of options. If you use wine and a little bit of oil in a vegetable dish, you can cut the fat you would otherwise be adding through additional oil or butter. Wine can also tenderize the outside of meat or seafood without added salt. Make sure you take the quality of the wine into account. You can use high-quality wine to cook, but it's not necessary. Save the best wine for finishing a dish. You can use lower-quality wine when you are cooking food for a longer period.
What Happens to Wine When It Cooks
You should reduce wine slowly over low heat. When wine is reduced, the alcohol burns off. The sugars become concentrated, and the remaining liquid is sweeter than the uncooked wine -- sweet wines can get close to syrupy. Experiment before you cook by reducing 1 cup of wine until it is a quarter cup of liquid. The process of reduction also makes wine more acidic. If a wine is tart when it is just opened, it will become even tarter after it is reduced. Cut back on lemon and vinegar when cooking with whites. Cooked reds can become harsh and bitter because of the tannins they contain. They can still be used in meat and dairy dishes because the proteins in milk and meat counteract the harshness. If you plan to cook a meal with wine and use the same one to drink with it at mealtime, be aware that the cooked wine will taste different from the uncooked wine.
Why It Is Important to Choose a Non-Oaked Wine
A non-oaked wine is one that has not been aged in an oak barrel -- it is typically aged in steel and tastes much like the grapes from which it came. Non-oaked wine usually has a brighter, fresher, crisper taste than oaked wine. It also evokes a lighter mouthfeel. Contrarily, oaked wine has a mix of flavors and gives the mouth a fuller sensation. One of the prominent flavors in an oaked wine is usually vanilla because oak barrels contain vanillin -- a compound that tastes like vanilla -- and they transfer it to the wines they store. Oak storage also enhances the tastes of caramel, honey, mocha and toffee in wines. Oaked wines are not best for cooking because they become bitter when reduced.
Some Common Cooking With Wine Mistakes and How to Fix Them
If you do not cook wine long enough before you add another liquid, the wine will taste raw. This can ruin a dish and is not a mistake you can fix easily. Avoid adding wine and water, stock or a dairy product at the same time. If you have added too much wine to a dish, the food may taste too tart, sweet or bitter. However, you can fix this by adding an ingredient to offset the effect of the wine. Butter or olive oil adds richness, while pureed onions or apples add neutrality. If you are using wine that is in the process of turning to vinegar, your dish should turn out well. You can even turn leftover wine into vinegar to use in future recipes if you choose to do so.
If you're using leftover or old wine to cook, make sure to pour a glass and examine the liquid first. Check that the cork has not started to fall apart and contaminate the wine. The wine should not contain flakes of bitter organic material. If it does, you can sieve these out and reduce the wine.
How to Use Wine in Frozen Desserts
Alcohol has a low freezing point, so frozen desserts made with alcohol are softer and easier to scoop. You can make wine ice cream, gelato and sorbets by adding the wine straight to the fruit or dairy mixture or reducing the wine first. Reduced wine contains less alcohol and has a less intoxicating effect than uncooked wine.