“Always remember to burn the alcohol off,” said Dominick Lee, the executive chef at Poitin. “If you don’t you’ll end up with a boozy dish, and you don’t want that unless that’s what you’re going for.”
When the alcohol evaporates, only the flavor of the wine remains.
Lee said the purpose of cooking with wine isn’t about the alcohol content; it’s about the flavor of the wine elevating your dish. It’s also not meant to completely change the flavor of what you’re cooking; rather it fortifies it.
Wine can be compared with any cooking seasoning. Add too little and it’s insignificant. Add too much and it’s overwhelming.
When cooking you should let the wine simmer with the food, or sauce, to let the wine integrate with the food.
When picking a wine for cooking, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s usually a good idea to pick out a wine you enjoy. If you don’t like a wine by itself, you may not like it in your food either.
There’s a lot more to wine than grapes. The components in wine will become more intense when cooking. Wine contains sugars, tannins and acids, and each wine has a different composition of these elements. If you pick out a wine with more acids, take a look at your recipe and reduce other acids that may be included, such as lemon juice. And if you’re cooking vegetables, like onions or carrots, it’s a safer bet to stay away from sweeter wines.
“If I was making an Italian dish, like ragu, I would use a red wine because it would enhance the flavor of the tomatoes,” Lee said. “Red wine and tomatoes typically go well together.”
But the type of wine Lee uses to cook with also depends of the type of protein. On that same dish, if he was serving it with chicken or rabbit, he would use white wine. Beef and pork normally pair well with red wine.
White wine also pairs well with melon, citrus, olives, mushrooms and asparagus, while red wine pairs well with peaches, pears, plums, cherries, chocolate and berries.
Using wine while you cook is more than splashing it into a pan. You can make a marinade, use it to baste food, make a pan sauce and add it to stews. It can also be used as a partial substitute for the liquid in a baking recipe.
So, if your recipe is falling flat, adding wine just might be what lifts it up.