Now We're Cookin'! By Jimmy Quaile, Certified Sommelier
Let's start with a few ground rules: The first is to not use wine called "cooking wine"! If you don't want to drink it, you shouldn't cook with it. Secondly, you can add sweetness but can't take it out. So unless the recipe calls for sweet or fortified wine, stick with dry wine varietals. In the red wine category, good choices are Merlot and Pinot Noir. Stay away from highly tannic wines that can leave unpleasant bitterness in the dish. For whites, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay (unoaked) are good choices.
Now it's all in the timing. You can use wine early in the cooking process if you need a large quantity that will cook down, say for Beef Burgundy or Risotto. Deglazing comes at the end of the process when you need a small amount added to the pan of stuck on bits called Fond. It adds richness, acidity and depth of flavor. And don't forget sparkling wine! Although the obvious choice is to create a champagne vinaigrette or sorbet, it also makes a great beurre blanc sauce. The bubbles dissipate during cooking and you can even use the flat bottle you didn't finish last night. Speaking of leftover wine, once opened, a bottle of wine will last about 3 days. Fortified wines will last about a month. They have the added benefit of doubling as an aperitif. Useful Tip:
You can also freeze wine in ice cube trays, making it the perfect solution when you just don't have the right wine handy. Be sure to cover the tray with plastic wrap to stop ice crystals from forming. Another tip is to use the larger rubber trays made for Scotch because each cube usually equals one half cup. Fortified Wine
Marsala: Think outside the pan and use this classic fortified wine in dishes other than chicken or veal Marsala. It works in all kinds of braised meat preparations.
Sherry: Just a dash added to soups and cream sauces brings a layered dimension to the dish. It is also great for deglazing.
Madeira: There are several styles of this distinctive wine. Choose the dryer, lighter Sercial. It can also be used as a substitute for Sherry in any recipe.
Port: Try just a splash of Ruby style in your favorite spaghetti sauce. Or just reduce a little with a pad of butter and serve over steak, lamb or duck.
Stellina di Notte PInot Grigio $10.98 AVA Merlot $7.98 Dark Norse Sauvignon Blanc $7.98 Belle Ambiance Pinot Noir $7.98 Nieport Ruby Porto $13.99 Wine Guy Fact:
One fallacy is that the alcohol "cooks out". MOST of it does, but up to 5% stays in!