Cooking with wine can really help enhance the flavor of your recipes. You will not believe it until you try it! Whether you are adding wine to a sauce, vegetables, steak, pasta, or seafood, wine can amp up your dish.
Even a small splash will add strength, depth and sometimes even a touch of sweetness. Soon, wine will become one of your top ingredients to always have available in your kitchen.
What kind of wine?
The rule in my kitchen is simple: a glass for the cook and another one for the dish. Avoid cheap “cooking wine” and stick to the wines you drink. You want the wine to enhance the flavor not to destroy the recipe (the same rule applies to olive oils), so use it as a seasoning. I always keep leftovers in my refrigerator, even for several weeks. As long as your wine is a wine you like (at least $10).
Cooking with white wine or sparkling
I cook more with white wine than with red because it is more versatile. I always have some Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc or even a dry Riesling or Gewürztraminer will work. Avoid oaky wines (wines aged in oak) and Pinot Grigio as they may have too many or too few flavors for cooking. In most recipes, the most important thing to consider is the sweetness and/or the acidity and both will become more pronounced as you reduce the wine. I cook poultry, veggies, and anything from the ocean, with white wine. I love to use sparkling wine for pasta or risottos! Don’t ask me why, just try it.
Cooking with red wine
The best red wines to cook with are medium-bodied and not overly tannic, like Tempranillo and Merlot, although cooking with Malbec is now happening more often in my kitchen. You just have to be careful with the amount you use, sometimes high tannic wines can cause astringent flavors. On the other hand, avoid Pinot Noir, it is simply too light. We need some drama and Pinot Noir will not bring it to the scene.
Mushrooms work great with white or red wine but if you are cooking pork, meat, a poultry stew or anything braised, pouring red will be the best. The other day I added a splash of Chianti at the end of a sautéed pork loin chop and it was delicious. It doesn’t have to be a fancy recipe, just a splash will make a difference!
Of course, clams with Jerez wine or beer will be absolutely fantastic too. Also, a reduction of a Port or a Pedro Ximenez is great in a sweet sauce for a meaty dish or dessert and if you catch yourself not having “that bottle” available, a pinch of tequila or rum sometimes make it work for certain recipes. Let the imagination flow! Shrimp or lobster in a cilantro garlic sauce with a pinch of a good gold rum will be memorable.
Most of the alcohol evaporates when you let the wine boil. Some people also recommend boiling the wine for 20-30 seconds to reduce it before cooking with it. Though to be honest, I only do this if I am making a sauce and I want to intensify the flavor. If I am cooking with it, I add it directly to the recipe.