Wondering what to do with the bottles of wine collecting dust in your pantry? I’ve got your answer – aside from drinking it, of course – cook with it! Wine is the perfect fat substitute in most recipes; it acts as a low-calorie and high-flavor ingredient that works in almost all dinner dishes.
Before I begin with some important facts about cooking with wine, here is one that you must absolutely remember – never cook with wine you won’t drink! If you do not like the taste of a particular wine, chances are you most definitely will not like its flavor in your food. It’s not necessary to use expensive wine, but don’t use very cheap ones either. It won’t bring out the best characteristics of your dish! As the legendary Julia Child once said “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”
Wine Adds Moisture to Your Dish
Wine is usually used to replace a fatty ingredient from your dish. Rule of thumb: when fat is taken out of a dish, another ingredient to restore some moisture must be added. Here is how wine can do exactly that:
- Vegetables are usually sauteed in lots of butter or oil. Instead of this, you can saute your vegetables in significantly much less oil if you add some wine to increase the flavor and moisture.
- Marinades for meat and vegetables require half a cup of oil. Instead, add a quarter cup of oil and a quarter cup of wine.
- You can replace the three-quarter cup of oil required for a cake mix recipe with a three-quarter cup of white or dessert wine added into the batter.
Using Wine in Light Cooking
- Fish – even though we all love it, the nutritional reason behind eating fish is totally lost when it’s deep-fried. Wine adds flavor as well as moisture to fish without the added fat. Try this by adding wine to the pan when the fish is sizzling, or poach the fish over a pot of boiling wine, or drizzle wine over fish and wrap it in foil to further bake.
- Marination – not only does it add flavor but wine tenderizes the outside of the meat as it is an acid ingredient. It also keeps chicken, seafood and meat moist during its cooking time.
- Aid in cooking – adding wine to any dish, whether it’s being cooked in a pan, slow cooker, stove or an oven, helps to cook it. It simmers alongside the food, and adds flavor and moisture to every dish.
- Baking – wine or sherry is used to substitute fat in a few types of cake. This not only lightens the cake but also adds flavor.
6 Basics You Need to Know About Wine
- Subtle flavors – play off the flavors in wine which come through in some foods. You can enhance a particular flavor of a food by adding wine to it! Pair white wine with melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olives, and mushrooms; whereas red wine goes with berries, peaches, currants, plums, cherries, oranges, chocolate and coffee.
- Dry vs. sweet wine – dry wines usually have a high alcohol content with very little natural sugars in them. On the other hand, sweet wines have a lot of natural sugar remaining from the grapes. It is important to choose the correct wine between the two types depending on what kind of dish you’re cooking.
- Acid and tannins – both red and white wine are generally described as acidic. This is used to describe the sharp stinging bite in the wine, which is usually compared to the experience of having lemon or vinegar. Acid brings out the natural flavors of mild food like fish, which is why fish is usually served with a wedge of lemon. Tannins on the other hand are usually present in red wines, this is what creates the bitter taste in the wine and usually complements strong flavors in foods like steak.
- Type of wine for different kinds of food – this usually depends on person to person and is subjective to taste. It is widely believed that a light-flavored wine pairs well with light flavored food, for example, white wine goes with light-colored meat like chicken and fish. Similarly, a bold wine goes best with flavorful dishes, for example, red wine goes well with beef. But there is no rule that dictates this. So, don’t be scared to try things out for yourself!
- Prep work – it is important to take into consideration not only the kind of meat but also, the way the meat is prepared when picking a wine to cook with or to drink with the meal. A dish rich in spices may require a full-bodied strong wine, where as a creamy sauce dish may work best with a dry, light wine.
- Experiment and enjoy – feel free to explore the wide range of tastes and flavors while cooking or baking with wine. Be creative and invent away!