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Old 05-27-2010, 10:50 AM   #1
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Cooking with wine

My husband found some Italian recipes he is wanting to try and since I am up for any type of cooking I can't wait to dive right in. My only problem is that although I have cooked a variety of dishes I haven't cooked anything dealing with wine since I took a gourmet cooking class while in High School and that was way over 13 years ago.

My question is do I have to use wine? What type of wine is the best? Can I use cooking wine instead? The recipe calls for white wine but the only white wine I deal with is a Peach Chardonnay and I don't believe that this wine would make a great addition to a wine sauce.

Thanks so much.

Shawna

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Old 05-27-2010, 10:58 AM   #2
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no do not use "cooking wines" They are salted, (thus not tasty and drinkable, so they can be sold in grocery stores even in states that require alcohol to be sold in state or specialty liquor stores).

For white wine cooking use a dry vermouth which keeps well (it is fortified), unless a specific type is mentioned in the recipe. A dry sherry is good for recipes calling for sherry. It also is fortified and keeps well. For red wine cooking use a cabernet sauvignon, burgundy or merlot. They will keep a while for cooking purposes if sealed, but I wouldn't buy a jug for occasional cooking purposes.

It is possible to find small bottles for the occasional cooking need. Ask.

remember, wine needs to cook through a food, so give it a chance to blend and enhance flavors.
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:14 AM   #3
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Thanks so much. I now have to find a store that sells this type of wine and buy it. My husband and I just started drinking wine on a daily basis for our health. We usually have a glass in the evening after the kids are in bed and have tried all kinds of red wines but haven't found one we like yet. Branching out into Italian cooking will help me learn about the different wines and where they can be used.
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:28 AM   #4
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Some flavor compounds are soluble in water, some in fats, and others in alcohol. Tomatoes are a great example of an ingredient which is only unlocked to it's fullest when cooked with water, fat, and alcohol.

First off, as posted above - avoid "cooking wine" like the plague! It is heavily salted, and doesn't taste like anything you would want to consume.

While most dishes benefit from particular wines, many recipes will call for "Red" or "White". In these instances, I would advise you to choose a wine that doesn't stand firm at the head of any particular profile.

For "White", find a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
For "Red", find a Burgundy/Pinot Noir, or a blend of Cab/Merlot/Shiraz (avoid a pure Cab though).

I would disagree with the Vermouth advice above, as Vermouth is usually infused with all sorts of herbal flavors/essences that you might not want in your sauce. Try to stick with a wine at first that isn't complex, then move towards matching as you taste and learn. Soon you will be buying heavily oaked Chardonnay for butter sauces, Sangiovese for your braised Tuscan fowl, and Gewürztraminer for upscale Choucroute Garnis.

I almost always have a $7 bottle of Pinot Grigio and $13 bottle of Chianti in the fridge'. I also keep a $5 bottle of Sake for many Japanese/Chinese recipes in my rotation.
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Old 05-27-2010, 11:37 AM   #5
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Thank you Nick. My husband and I are new to wines but, your advice has been extremely helpful. The sauce I am attempting is a Lemon Basil sauce and it calls for white wine. I will look in my local wine store for a good Pinot or Sauvignon Blanc. I am sure that the store has some experts that will be able to help me.
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Old 05-27-2010, 12:03 PM   #6
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You have already gotten great advice on which wines to use and to NOT use, except.... for red wine. In my extensive experience, any tannic wine is going to reduce to a puckery mess in your food. Avoid Cabernet Sauvignon like the plague. and many Syrahs have sadly been oaked to death, and pass that along in a reduction which is not good. Cotes du Rhone, Beaujolais or any Gamay, Pinot Noir are the better choices for red wines to cook with. Have also had great success with Malbec from Concha y Toro (available in many grocery stores for a modest sum).

Heavily oaked wines, whether white or red, are not good to cook with for the same reduction reasons as tannins.

Dry white Vermouth (Noilly-Prat, specifically) is an item I always keep on hand and use whenever white wine is called for in a recipe. Julia Child advised this years ago, and it's a great boon to having on hand, as Vermouth is almost impossible to spoil before you use it up.

Interesting, Nick, that you don't like the herbs in the Vermouth. That's just what Julia loved most about it -- and me, too. Great seasoning power.
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Old 05-27-2010, 02:11 PM   #7
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ChefJune - I suppose everyone has their own tastes and opinions, but I'm the type of person that aims for multi-tasking ingredients when I can't have one of everything. Similarly, for a pair of standard cooking wines (and table wines in my case) I aim for what one would consider "Stereotypical" reds and whites that can pair with almost any dish.

Introducing specific flavors and aromas to your base ingredients limits their scope of application (unless you just blindly put it in everything). For example, if you opened an ice cream parlor and could only have one flavor to work with, vanilla would be the best choice. You could cut it with chocolate, strawberry preserves, maple syrup and walnuts, etc. If you bought chocolate as your base, everything you served would be chocolate. Call it the least common denominator amongst all possibilities.

I view Vermouth in a similar fashion. If I want Vermouth, then of course Vermouth is the bottle to buy. But if I'm looking for the primary white characteristics without the herbal perfume I'll go with a clean, slightly acidic Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.

As for tannic reds, I think they also have their place - but certainly not as a "Standard" table/cooking wine. A great Bordelaise or Marchand De Vins will seem to my mouth as anemic without those tannins to balance the demi and fat of the steaks they're often served with.

I would make a similar argument for oaked Chardonnay. It's not my standard bottle, but an oaky Californian Chardonnay reduction makes for the ideal base for most any Beurre Blanc.

All of the above is largely opinion - just thought I'd share my reasoning.
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Old 05-27-2010, 03:42 PM   #8
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I dont think you ever have to use wine, if you dont want to.

You can use cooking wine, but the better the wine, the better the finished dish tastes. I use cooking wine, unless we have opened a bottle of wine to drink. If we are drinking wine, I add a splash of it to the cooking.

Mel
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Old 05-27-2010, 04:50 PM   #9
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Mel, you should read all the posts (here and in other threads on the subject) that advise against cooking wine for several reasons:
1. Cooking wine is always very poor quality wine that was not acceptable to be marketed in a wine store in the first place.
2. Cooking wine always has lots of salt added to it.
3. Cooking wine costs way more than wines of infinitely better quality.

It is possible to purchase four-packs of decent drinking wines in quarter-size bottles. This eliminates the need to open a "whole bottle of wine" for a few tablespoons in a recipe.
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Old 05-27-2010, 05:24 PM   #10
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The only thing I would add to all of the above, (as you learn which wines you like and which you don't care for,) is to use a wine that you like to drink. I highly recommend Duplin wines. They are made in NC (I try to support the local economies as much as I can), they have a decent variety and they are pleasant to drink.
I use their scuppernong wines in a variety of dishes and have no complaints. They are also reasonably priced...$7-8 for a bottle.
I hope that you will have an extraordinarily good time as you explore the world of wine.
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