I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food. (W. C. Fields)
I've always been a fan of W. C. Fields.
I've always been a fan of cooking with wine – in both senses.
If you don't regularly use wine in cooking, and even if you do, here is some info you might find interesting.
First: Allow me to address the 'alcohol evaporation' myth.
If you add alcohol to a boiling liquid, then remove it from heat, you retain 85% of the alcohol.
An example is adding a bit of sherry to finish a cream soup or sauce.
If you flame the alcohol you retain 75%.
An example would be Cherries Jubilee.
For braising, simmering, and slow-cooking the amount of alcohol retained depends on cooking time:
15 minutes 40% retained
30 minutes 35% retained
60 minutes 25% retained
90 minutes 20% retained
2 hours 10% retained
2 1/2 hours 5% retained
For de-glazing a pan the amount retained depends both on how hot the pan is and how much you reduce the wine, but, generally, you are using a small amount of wine in a hot pan with a large surface, so even though it's cooked for a short time, the alcohol retention would be at the low end.
Second: Why cook with wine?
Wine is a great marinade. It's acidic, so it helps to tenderize the tough fibers in meats.
Wine adds flavor.
That last statement is the important one.
It's the reason I cook with wine.
The flavor added is as subtle or bold or light or complex as the wine you choose to cook with.
Ah, you say…. And what wine would that be?
Absolutely anything you're willing to drink.
Never, ever, ever use cooking wine – it has salt added for one thing, and it tastes bad for another.
I keep dry sherry on hand for adding to stir-fries, finishing soups and cream sauces; and it's the perfect liquid to add to the peanut dipping sauce for samosas.
I use white vermouth a lot in the summer in marinades for chicken and pork before grilling.
Red vermouth, sweet sherry or port add a lovely touch to a fruit dessert.
The only thing to remember is that the flavor of the wine will come through in the finished dish. After that it's up to you to taste and experiment.
If you love merlot and hate Zinfandel, use merlot, even if the dish calls for the Zinfandel.
If you don't like oaky Chardonnay don't use it to make the sauce for your poached sole. Use a Riesling if that's what you like.
There are, of course, other rules, just like there are for drinking:
White wine with light meats – fish, chicken.
Red wine with dark meats – beef, game.
Let me correct that earlier statement – they are not rules but very flexible guidelines.
Chicken Braised in White Wine is lovely…
Boeuf Bourguignon has a different flavor then Beef Braised in Barolo, or Beef Braised in Chianti or Beef Braised in White Wine.
Unless it's Sausage, Mushroom and Red Wine Risotto.
Eggs Poached in Red Wine? This is so utterly, fantastically, delicious – it's a D.O. (digestive org*sm)
And, of course, those Samosas with Peanut Sauce
And a stir-fry – Pork Amandine
So uncork a bottle of your favorite, pour yourself a glass, and in the immortal words of Julia Child 'add a good glug or two' to whatever is in the pan.