Cooking with Wine

Everyday Food, Volume 32 May 2006

Whether the sauce is meant for meat, fish, poultry, or pasta, a splash of wine can enhance its flavor.

The characteristic flavor of a wine is intensified during cooking. A wine that tastes rich and smooth will taste even more so after cooking, as will the food it's cooked with. Similarly, a wine that is unpleasant to begin with will not impart a pleasant flavor to the food. So select a mid-priced wine you would enjoy drinking on its own. Avoid bottles labeled "cooking wine" from the supermarket; they contain salt, among other ingredients.

Alcohol evaporates at 178 degrees, well below the 212 degrees boiling point of water. By the time the sauce or dish is done, most of the alcohol will have evaporated, and only the flavor of the wine will remain.

You can make simple wine sauces by "deglazing" and "reducing."

Deglazing
You make a sauce by scraping up the flavorful browned bits of food remaining in the pan by adding liquid and heating. First brown the meat, poultry, or fish; remove from pan, and set aside. Discard excess fat from pan; add wine (according to recipe), and heat, as directed, stirring and scraping to loosen the browned bits. Before serving, taste, and season, if desired, with salt, herbs, and butter.

Reducing
This technique thickens liquid through evaporation. Bring liquid (wine with broth or water) to a boil, and simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Add seasoning at the very end to keep those flavors from becoming too strong.

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