Wine and food can go together so perfectly, so why not cook WITH wine! Read on and discover the ins and outs of cooking with wine.
It’s no mystery that food and wine are two of our favorite things, but actually cooking WITH wine can take your dishes to a whole new level. There’s just something about watching someone use a few splashes of wine to deglaze a pan or simmer wine until it reduces into a sweet, syrupy sauce that gets you excited to cook. Is anyone else hungry now, or is that just us?
When done correctly, cooking with wine will bring out the flavors in your dish. And while it may look like something you should leave to the professionals, it really only takes a few tips to cook with wine like a pro. So, if you’re looking to enhance your culinary skills or just looking for a new way to enjoy wine, keep reading!
The Basics of Cooking with Wine
While it may not happen all that often, cooking with wine is a great option if you still have a bit leftover from your last wine tasting party. It’s also great when your wine is no longer great for drinking, but it’s just too good to waste. Luckily, many of the cooking processes can bring some of those wilted flavors back to life while creating a mouthwatering meal.
There are so many great ways you can cook with wine, but it’s one of those skills that takes a delicate hand. Too much wine will overpower a dish, and too little won’t infuse it with enough flavor. So, here are a few general tips to help you get started:
Only cook with wine you actually like
That doesn’t mean you should only cook with your favorite expensive bottle of wine. However, it does mean you shouldn’t cook with the cheap wine your cousin left at your house after no one wanted a second glass. Remember, cooking enhances the flavors of a wine, including any undesirable flavors.
Cook out the alcohol
One of the many reasons people suggest adding wine earlier in the cooking process is to give it enough time for the alcohol to burn off. If you add it too late, you might get an unpleasant raw-wine taste, and the heat will enhance the acidity and alcohol too much.
Young, dry, fruit-forward wines tend to work best
Whether you want to cook with a red, white, or rosé, wines that are fruit-forward tend to impart the best flavor. Crisp whites are pretty versatile and are considered a staple in the kitchen. However, avoid fuller white wines with lower acidity to avoid unpleasant bitter flavors.
A dry red wine with moderate tannins will add depth and acidity, but be wary of full-bodied reds. When reduced, full-bodied reds with lots of tannins can sometimes create an unpleasant chalky taste.
If the recipe tells you to add wine near the end, use a nicer wine
If the wine has less time to cook down, you’ll taste the wine more prominently. So, make sure to have a wine you really enjoy for recipes that ask you to add a splash right at the end.
Avoid anything labeled “Cooking Wine”
These are usually poor quality, often contain salt, and aren’t that much less expensive than something much more drinkable. If wine is going to be one of your cooking ingredients, select an ingredient you enjoy!
Cooking with Wine
So, now you know the basics, you’ve found an appropriate bottle of wine to cook with, and you’re ready to go! Before pouring in that entire bottle, here are just a few more tips specifically designed to help you with particular recipes.
Cooking Pan Sauces With Wine
If you’ve never drizzled a silky red wine reduction over a piece of perfectly seared meat, you’re seriously missing out. Plus, today we’re going to give you a key piece of advice for perfectly browning your meat. Skip the non-stick pans! We know they make clean-up a breeze, but for the perfect pan sauce, you need those crispy brown bits that actually stick to the pan. Instead, select stainless steel or cast iron.
Once your meat is cooked, set it aside. While it’s resting, you can get to work on the perfect pan sauce. If you want to remove the excess fat, go for it! A little definitely won’t hurt, however, and can help balance out the acidity from the wine. Make sure your heat is lowered to a medium, add your desired herbs and spices, and even add a pat of butter if that’s your thing.
Let everything cook down a bit (if you added shallots or garlic make sure their flavor has really bloomed). Then it’s time to add your wine! To serve roughly four people, a half cup of wine should do. Let it simmer for about five minutes or so and make sure you’re scraping up those tasty bits leftover from your meat.
From here you can get as creative as you like. Most recipes call for additional liquids in the form of broth or cream, so once the wine is adequately reduced, you’ll want to add that. Add some lemon zest, more butter for a creamier consistency, dijon mustard, whatever! Once you’re happy, serve your sauce on the side or drizzled over your sliced meat. Voila!
Cooking Stews, Braises, or Long-Simmering Sauces With Wine
If you’re planning a dish that involves simmering or even low-heat for a long time, you’ll want to add your wine early on. We’re imagining a wine-braised beef with mushrooms or a classic Bolognese sauce. Yum! Plus, these dishes are great if your cooking style is more about being able to “set it and forget it.” Just don’t forget to set your timer!
Similar to how you prepared pan sauces, let your meat brown and remove it before beginning on your sauce. If your recipe calls for a more gravy-like consistency to your sauce, make sure you stir in a spoonful or two of flour before adding the wine. Let it reduce (or cook down) for a bit before adding your other liquids. This gives it enough time to concentrate those gorgeous flavors.
For slow-simmering tomato sauces, you can get a bit adventurous by adding a splash of wine right at the very end. However, make sure it’s a wine you absolutely love since you’ll be tasting its raw, un-reduced flavors more prominently.
Cooking Risotto With Wine
If you’re in the mood for a creamy Italian recipe that goes with pretty much anything, look no further than a bowl of risotto. Combine that with wine and you have the ultimate comfort food! While it may be intimidating at first, once you crack this technique you’ll be getting requests for this dish at every dinner party. And luckily, adding wine to this recipe is shockingly easy.
Simmer your broth in a separate pan while you prepare your herbs and rice. Using a large saucepan, heat your butter then add your desired herbs (generally garlic and shallots) until they’re translucent. Toss your arborio rice in the mixture until thoroughly coated and toast for a few minutes. Add white wine and simmer the mixture until the wine is almost evaporated.
One cup at a time, add your broth. Make sure that you allow each cup of broth to absorb almost fully before adding another one though. Once you’re done, get creative with additional flavorings! Take into consideration the flavor of the wine that you used to really enhance the flavors of the dish. Perhaps some parmesan, a dash of salt, or even paprika. Serve warm and enjoy every mouthful.
No Matter What, Cooking Should Be Fun
And there’s nothing more fun than cooking with wine! There are so many ways to enjoy wine. You can drink wine by itself, create the perfect wine pairing, and you can even add wine to your foods to enhance their flavor and create entirely new experiences. Is there anything better?
If you enjoyed learning some basics about cooking with wine, stay tuned! We’ll keep rolling out our SECCO Wine Club approved recipes to help you practice your cooking and wine pairing skills. We’re imagining wine-seared scallops or even a wine-infused dessert.