Get the idea: Cooking with wine
I am often asked what sort of wine should be used in cooking. As a rule of thumb, white wine goes into fish and chicken dishes and red wine into red meat dishes. (But not always. The French do an egg “en meurette” dish which has a red wine sauce, and red wine sauces are used on some freshwater fish in France; the Italians do a Ligurian fish stew with red wine also.)
As to the quality of the wine to be used, it doesn’t have to be the best wine in the world but it should be drinkable. You wouldn’t put an inedible or unpleasant ingredient in your cooking — the same goes for wine. The quality does matter more if the wine is to be used unheated, in a fruit salad for example.
If it is going to be simmered and reduced in a cooked dish or used to deglaze a hot pan and cooked into a sauce then drinkable is enough. But remember when wine is cooked the flavour intensifies, so bad wine gets worse, not better. I know from the questions I am asked at cooking demonstrations that there are still teetotallers who think cooked dishes using wine contain alcohol.
Heating and boiling the wine makes all the alcohol evaporate. If you are making a filling for a savoury pie that includes wine, make sure it is cooked before enclosing it in pastry.
When adding wine to a pan to deglaze it, (dissolving the caramelised meat or vegetable juices off the pan) as the first step to making a quick sauce or as part of the procedure for a stew, it is important to give the wine time to cook, otherwise the dish can have a lingering flavour of uncooked wine, which is unpleasant. Cooking with wine is easy and will become second nature once you have followed a few recipes that use it.
Here are some more ideas...
1 Slow-fry chopped onions in extra virgin olive oil with chopped bacon, garlic, a diced carrot, sliced celery, lots of button mushrooms, a bay leaf and a big sprig of thyme. Add a chicken that has been browned in hot oil, a bottle ofred wine and a cup of beef stock. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer one hour or until the chicken is tender and almost falling off the bones. Lightly thicken the liquid with a little flour dissolved in cold water, taste and season. Let stand 10 minutes then serve with mashed potato and a green vegetable.
2 Dust whole flounder with flour and fry in extra virgin olive oil until browned. Remove, place side by side on a baking paper-lined oven tray and put in a 190C oven to cook through. Meanwhile wipe the oil from the frying pan and place over high heat. Add a large splash of white wine and boil for 30 seconds. Add a large squeeze of lemon juice, a small handful of capers, a handful of wild rocket leaves and a couple of tablespoons of butter and boil until creamy. Taste, season and serve over the fish.
3 Pan-fry your favourite steak, remove from the pan and keep the steak warm. Pour the fat from the pan and add a splash of red wine, a tablespoon of wholegrain mustard and 250ml beef jus, boil until slightly syrupy, taste and season. Pour over the steak and serve with watercress and crunchy roasted agria potatoes.
4 Thinly slice an extravagant amount (they cook down) of onions and slow-fry in extra virgin olive oil with garlic, lemon zest and sage leaves until the onions are soft and well browned. Stir in a tablespoon of flour then a cup of red wine and boil, stirring continually. Add beef stock and simmer until creamy. Taste and season. Serve over barbecued sausages with spicy chutney and mashed potatoes.
5 Brown flour-dusted 3cm cubes of stewing beef in hot extra virgin olive oil. Remove and reserve. Add sliced onion and celery, plenty of diced carrot, garlic, and oregano and slow-fry until the onion is soft. Add a dollop of tomato paste, the reserved beef and 2 cups of red wine. Bring to the boil, mix well, then add enough beef stock to well cover everything. Mix well and simmer 1-1 ½ hours or until the beef can be eaten with a spoon.
6 Place skinned, boned chicken thighs side by side in a shallow oven dish. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, the finely diced peel of ½ a preserved lemon, dried wild oregano, salt and pepper. Douse liberally with white wine and a plenty of cream. Place in a 200C oven for an hour and serve with rice and salad.
7 Toss big Australian peeled prawns in extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Fry over high heat in a large frying pan until just cooked through. Remove and keep warm. Place the pan back on the heat and add a big splash of white wine. Boil 30 seconds then add lemon zest, lemon juice, chopped chives, wilted baby spinach leaves and cream. Serve tossed through short pasta — no cheese.
8 Slow-fry chopped onion, bacon, a sliced chilli, a diced carrot and a sliced stick of celery in a deep wide saucepan. Add white wine and bring to the boil. Add lots of scrubbed live mussels and boil until they open. Place mussels in a large serving bowl. Add cooked peeled potatoes cut into 3cm chunks, sliced spring onion and lots of chopped parsley to the mussel cooking liquid, mix well and simmer to get the potatoes hot. Serve with crusty bread.
9 Empty a bottle of red or rosé wine into a saucepan. Sweeten well with sugar and add a cinnamon stick and the zest of a lemon. Bring to the boil. Add peeled whole pears with stalks and enough water to cover then simmer 2-3 hours until the pears are very tender. Remove the pears, boil the liquid until slightly syrupy and pour over the pears. Chill and serve with mascarpone.
Wine inspired recipes from Warren Elwin