5 Rules for Cooking with Wine

May 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

I read a sign the other day that made me laugh out loud. It said,

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

I laughed because it’s true.

Because even though I consider myself a decent cook, there are only a handful of dishes I know how to make with wine (which must be why I drink it 🙂 ). And those dishes I only know about because I watched my mom and Gram make them for years.

So I set out on a mission to learn a few cooking-with-wine basics I could share with you (and myself) today.

And here they are: 5 rules of thumb when cooking with wine:

1. Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink by the glass.

The alcohol in wine burns off when you heat it, but the basic flavors don’t. That said, you don’t need to spend big bucks to create bold flavor. Wine is just one of the many “seasonings” you’ll put into your dish. So don’t go off the deep end and spend $100 on a wine you’re going to dump in a casserole.

2. The amount of alcohol that burns off depends how long and at what temperature you cook it.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “duh.” But, this is one I learned the hard way. Sauteing a spicy stir-fry in a sweet white wine like the ’09 Sunset White will burn off all the alcohol, but putting wine, instead of water, in a rice cooker will not. You’ll end up eating alcohol by the fork-full. (Trust me; I know from experience.)

Side note: You CAN cook boil-in-a-bag rice in 2 parts chicken stock and 1 part wine (red or white depending on what you’re serving it with) to spice up plain white rice.

3. Choose the wine you cook with in the same way you’d pair a glass with a finished dish.

So for example, you should marinate your steak in dry red wine, like our ’08 Benevino Cab Franc and saute your scallops in a buttery white, like our ’08 Reserve Chardonnay. And the best way to bring our the flavors in your dish? Serve the wine you cooked with at dinner.

4. In general, don’t add wine right before serving; it will overpower your dish.

You should add wine earlier in the cooking process so you have time to mellow the bite. I have, however, found one exception to this rule: before serving risotto, make a well and pour in about a tablespoon of a dry but fruity red wine (like our ’08 Sunset Red), serve and let your guests mix it in. It makes for pretty presentation and adds a kick of flavor.

5. Wine adds acidity.

Next time you try your dish and think it’s “missing something,” think twice before you reach for the salt. More often than not, what you really need is acidity to balance out the dish. And a wine like our ’08 Unoaked Chardonnay will do just the trick.

And the best advice of all?

Experiment and have fun.

Happy cooking!


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§ One Response to 5 Rules for Cooking with Wine

  • Pat says:

    Love that comment about adding wine for acidity. Never heard that one before. I don’t usually cook w wine, but now i might make an exception. Thanks!!

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