We often find ourselves with leftover wine sitting in the fridge, pantry or customised homemade cellars; the stuff that’s too good to waste but no longer terrific for drinking. Instead of letting those stoppered bottles go to waste, you could include them to the various spices and ingredients in your kitchen.
What happens to wine when you cook it?
One of the main reasons to cook with wine is to add that subtle acidity which brings out the hidden flavors in a dish. Most people prefer splashing wine at the end of the cooking session, usually results in an unpleasant raw-wine taste.
The majority of alcohol in wine burns off during the cooking process. The amount that remains in the dish depends on the cooking method and amount of cooking time.
Learning how to handle wine and heat, as well as which wines work best in cooking, opens up limitless new cooking possibilities. Although some traces of alcohol may remain in the recipes, they won’t be in a quantity that is harmful especially to children. If you’re cooking for a child under the age of two, leave the alcohol out or replace it with a low-salt stock or unsweetened fruit juice.
There are some meals that require just a tiny splash of wine used only for its flavor profile while others are specially made with a full wine embodiment. For instance, Coq au vin is a unique French cuisine with red Burgundy wine as its main ingredient.
What about wine vinegar?
The vinegars we all know are made by ‘simply’ fermenting a carbohydrate source into alcohol. To make red wine vinegar, the source (also called the ‘mother’) is added to red wine and the resulting fermentation process converts the alcohol into acetic acid, which gives vinegars their strong aromas. It’s known for its distinctive tangy flavor and is a staple ingredient in Mediterranean cooking.
Livingstrong describes the differences between cooking with red wine versus red wine vinegar as being worlds apart especially when it comes to flavor. Red wine vinegar is sometimes used in marinades for highly-flavored grilled meats, such as fajitas, but it makes a poor substitute for red wine to roast beef.
Red wine vinegar lacks the depth and sweetness of red wine, and leaves a lingering acidic taste in the mouth.
White wine vinegar tends to be a bit lighter and more delicate in flavor, which means it won’t pair as well with the likes of red meat. This vinegar is essencially white wine that has been fermented and oxidised into an acid with a lightly fruity flavor. We shall surely cover these two in greater detail in another article but feel free to explore different cooking techniques with them.
Now let us cook
When choosing the wine, white or red, there is a guiding cardinal rule – If you wouldn’t drink it, do not cook with it. Avoid the high-end wines (unless your a baller and money is not a problem) or the very cheap ones. A bottle around Ksh 1,200 mark should be just fine.
Try this white wine dish
One great meal you could try is Risotto, an Italian rice dish made with white wine as an ingredient. Wines that are dry, crisp, and not aged in oak work best and the chef should mostly consider the level of sweetness and acidity he or she wants to achieve. Pinot Grigio is versatile, so is Sauvignon Blanc and they both make excellent choices when cooking. You see, as you cook off the alcohol and reduce the wine, both will become more pronounced, so you’re best off sticking to dry whites, with a reasonable amount of acidity.
Check out this exciting recipe of Risotto here (allrecipes.com).
Try this red wine dish
Another delicacy for the foodies out there is Short Ribs – Mushroom & Spring Vegies. In this particular dish, it is recommended to marinate the short ribs and vegetables in red wine overnight to make them tender and use the marinade in the braise later on.
The best reds to cook with are medium-bodied but not overly tannic, like Merlot. The tannins in wine become more concentrated as you cook them, so a tannic wine may dry out the dish or cause astringent flavours. Other wines you could consider are fortified wines, such as Sherry and Marsala.
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