Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized ~ Andre Simon.
So true a quote!!
Ever wondered why Italian cuisines are so delicious and classy? The secret behind the unique taste is the use of wine in preparing delicacies. Wine has an extensive use in culinary activities because the alcohol contained in it helps in releasing the original flavor of the added ingredients in the recipes. Cooking with wine is a little tricky because if you know not when to add and how much to add, then the food can end up tasting disastrous. On the contrary, the food would be intensely delectable only when you have the willingness to experiment with wine and attain perfection on a trial and error basis. Here we give you some tips regarding using wine for cooking.
Always follow this old cooking adage: Never cook with wine you wouldn't drink. An undrinkable vintage won't magically transform into a delicious red wine sauce or white wine marinade. Instead, an inferior wine will add bitterness and/or a sour taste to the meal.
Cooking with Wine: An Overview
When to Use Wine
Some of the best non-veg dishes are prepared with wine. You can prepare the marinade of the meat with wine for the purpose of tenderizing. It's a great replacement of tartar sauce. Cook the ingredients in wine and simmer them for sometime till you get a dry consistency. The amount of oil used for cooking vegetables and meat is greatly minimized when you use wine as a substitute. Wine is also added to the batter while preparing cakes and pies. You shall come to know the exact quantity while studying the recipes over the Internet or in cookbooks. In short, wine is used mainly in baking, marinading, sautéing and simmering.
The wine reduction process or simmering holds a significant position while making wine sauces and other types of dishes. You should cook the food in non reactive utensils, preferably made up of stainless steel. Avoid using copper or any substances that are vulnerable to reacting with the acid present in the wine.
Choice of Wine
The choice of wine depends on the type of the recipe and flavor you want to add. Port, marsala and madeira wines are fortified with brandies. They are extensively used in cooking because they are flavored with roots, spices and herbs. Cooking with port wine becomes a task easy for you when you know the exact process of using it. Port wine sauce could be combined with balsamic vinegar for preparing marinades or different types of beef and mushroom recipes. The bitter alcohol flavor lingers if you fail to simmer off the wine completely. You should simmer it completely under low heat till a concentrated solution is left behind.
Marsala chicken is a vintage Italian dish where the typical flavor is a result of adding marsala wine. Onions, herbs, mushrooms and shallots are seasoned in the syrup, the consistency of which is achieved by reducing the wine. The vintage flavor is developed from two types of berry grapes, viz, white skin and dark red skin. You need to dip the sliced mushrooms in the wine and cook till the wine turns into syrup. Then you dip the fried chicken breasts followed by other ingredients. Risotto rice is another dish that is cooked in marsala wine.
Rice wine is supremely used in authentic Chinese cuisines like dumplings, noodles, drunken chicken and Chinese fried rice. Common names for rice wines are yellow Wine, Shao Xing and Shao Hsing. As the name suggests, the sweet flavoring wine is a fermented product of rice. Cooking beef and chicken in rice wine is largely popular in Japan and China. The process of cooking with rice wine is the same, where you need to simmer the wine blended with other ingredients.
The caramel and fruity flavor of Mediterranean cuisines comes from the unique concoction of madeira wine. The lush wine has a toffee caramel flavor that transforms the taste of different types of dishes to heavenly. Madeira is a Portugal wine and its use in preparing sweet dishes is vast. Instead of discarding the left over old stocks, you can experiment cooking with old wine. Madeira is one such variety that could be used even after 150 years of storage. Sherry wine of Oloroso and Amontillado styles have a characteristic nutty flavor that is utilized mostly in making stews and soups.
Know the Flavor and Texture
Although cooking with wine needs practice and experimentation, possessing a sound knowledge regarding the flavor and type of wine always has an added advantage. Marshall Rimann, the host of The Wine Cellar says, tannins will act like palate cleansers when paired with foods high in protein, such as meat. A young and fresh red wine contains high percentage of tannins, that mimics the taste of astringents. Red wines prepared from thick skinned grapes, seeds and stems are high in tannins that are mostly conjugated with steaks, grills and fries. Acidity in wine describes the sharp characteristic bite present in both red and white wine. Merlot has a low acid content that is used for cooking acidic foods like tomatoes. Sauces, gravies and heavy foods are usually paired with acidic wines like Sangiovese-based wines.
Pairing wines is a skill that you need to master while cooking. Wines having a dominant flavor pair well with similar foods. To make this statement clear, I cite an example. If you are cooking a dish of mushrooms, then you must prefer a wine that also has a mushroom flavor. Sea food like shrimp and herring concoct well with butter and cream flavored wines (Chardonnay), while Zinfandel blends well with burgers, pizzas and hot dogs. Understanding the process of wine pairing is further simplified by Marshall Rimann's statement, a dish heavy on the spices (bold flavors) usually needs a full-bodied wine (strong wine) to stand up to it. One with a light or creamy sauce (delicate flavors) calls for a drier, light wine (soft wine).
Similarly the choice of dry and sweet wine also depends on the nature of the recipe you are preparing. The stimulating acidity of dry wine makes it one of the essential ingredients for preparing shrimp, beef, lobster and fish recipes. Vegetables are usually prepared in white wine while meat based products taste utterly delicious when cooked in red wine. Also, never compromise the quality of cooking wine with its price.
The more deeply you know the characteristic properties of different varieties of wines and their right usage, the more sooner you would become a pioneer in using wine for culinary purposes. Start experimenting and enjoy it!