Cooking with Wine

I haven't met too many dishes that I prepare that I don't think are better after I add wine. The question is, when the recipe says: "And add wine"......what kind of wine do you add? Is it OK to just grab whatever is open in the fridge?

If all else fails, follow the one golden rule: "If you wouldn't drink it.....don't cook with it".

Now assuming you don't keep wine around that you wouldn't drink, let's talk about which wines are better for cooking.

Domestic Chardonnay

Probably the one white wine most Americans drink and probably the worst wine to cook with. The intense oaky flavor of these wines rarely will add to the flavor of food. So even if you like drinking the stuff, I would not recommend cooking with it.

Pinot Grigio

Next to chardonnay, pinot grigio is the most popular white wine consumed in America. The wine is so light in taste that it doesn't hurt to cook with it but, in my opinion, it doesn't add anything either.

Sauvignon Blanc

This popular white is produced world-wide and has a pleasing citrusy taste. Non-oakie it does not change the taste of food like the domestic chards but does have a distinct taste unlike the pinot grigio. So of the "big three" I give the nod to savignon blanc with one major proviso: I wouldn't cook with the popular savignon blanc wines from New Zealand. They have a much stronger "grassy" taste then their cousins from France or from the U.S.

What about red wines?

Reds don't seem to have the same differing effect on food as do whites. But because of the strength of the taste, be careful as to how much you use.

What about other wines?

I suggest you try something different from whites or reds such as sherry, port and even champagne.  I have found champagne is a zippy alternative to white wines.....must be the bubbles. Try it and I think you will like it.

Port and sherry are fortified wines that have very rich flavors. They can both add a lot to food but can also overwhelm food. If you use sherry, use a medium bodied sherry like an Oloroso. Stay away from the sweet stuff.

Here are some suggestions for cooking with wine.

Try this with chicken:
Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in a sauce pan and add a package of chicken tenders. Cook over medium/high heat until browned and cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan. Add a half of a thinly sliced onion and saute until starting to brown. The bottom of the pan should be dark brown from the chicken and the onions. Once the onions are browned, had a cup of white wine to the pan stirring and scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine is reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in one tablespoon of cold butter. This will thicken the sauce and give it a velvety texture. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

There are a number of variations to this basic sauce. Sometimes I will use champagne. Sometimes I'll add flour, make a roux, and add chicken broth and cook it down to make a rich gravy. Sometimes I'll use sherry. The Oloroso I mentioned earlier can give the sauce a pleasant nutty taste.

Oh yeah.....here is another idea. Brown some butter in a sauce pan (be careful not to burn it). In a separate pan poach a fillet of fish like flounder or tilapia in champagne (see my post about bubbles for non-champagne ideas). Spoon the butter over the fish and serve with lemon wedges and capers. It will eat.

What would I pour with that?

Any bold tasting white will overpower the fish. A white Bordeaux will go nicely or try one of the white Burgundies from Macon. They are inexpensive and no oak.

Leave a comment