I’ve rarely met a cook who doesn’t love to throw some wine in their favorite recipes, and even if the dish doesn’t call for any booze there’s often a glass of something delicious close at hand as a bit of a treat for the chef – just to help the process along, you know?
Cooking with wine often seems like a kind of advanced concept, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
Some informal rules and helpful tips that might help:
- When experts say that you should cook with a wine you’d drink they’re absolutely right; the flavors of wine concentrate once cooked, so if you start with a questionable one you’ll end up with something dire. That doesn’t mean you have to toss your Montrachet into your sauce pot, though. All our suggestions below are $20 and under.
- Keep wine away from cast-iron pans. You and your taste buds won’t like the disgustingly metallic result.
- All jokes aside, there is such a thing as leftover wine. Wine won’t keep indefinitely once opened (you can slow down the oxidation by firmly replacing the cork and putting the wine in your fried). Toss the last bit of a bottle into an ice cube tray and you’ll have ready-to-go portions perfect for deglazing a pan or enrichening stock.
- If a wine-based sauce comes out a bit harsh (usually because it’s an inferior wine or has over-reduced) a bit of fat from a knob of butter or dollop of milk/heavy cream can go a long way towards smoothing things out.
- The alcohol in wine will cook out but you can also use your wine “raw”. Sauternes over ice cream and grilled peaches is insanely delicious and you don’t have to get the booze itself anywhere near a flame.
- Enjoy a glass of whatever you’re cooking with as you’re cooking it. Always. Major pro move.
Now, onto the fun stuff and a few of my favorites:
Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue
Flashback to the ‘70s in terms of style but in terms of flavor this Classic Swiss Cheese Fondue is a timeless hit. The richness and slightly bitter aspects of the cheese, the floral tang of the wine, the aromatics from the garlic, the surprising undertone of sweetness from the kirsch – it works together in a swirling mass of deliciousness. Serve it with crusty chunks of French bread and pumpernickel, apple slices, raw vegetables, and, of course, plenty of wine.
Our Wine Pick: Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, 2015 – $8.99
Red Wine-Braised Brisket
This recipe for Red Wine-Braised Brisket calls for an entire bottle of wine but it also turns out enough grub to feed an entire dinner party so it seems like a pretty sound investment to me. The savory mishmash of fatty beef, vegetables, garlic, tomatoes, and herbs gives you plenty of leeway in terms of wine (a Bordeaux blend would work nicely if you’re not afraid of a beautifully rich and hearty sauce) but the zesty results you’ll get with a nice Zin will be unforgettable.
Our Wine Pick: Four Vines Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, 2014 – $11.99
Linguine with Red Wine Bolognese Sauce
In other words, really good spaghetti and meat sauce. Don’t be afraid of the milk – it really works – and choose a dry red wine that isn’t overly acidic so you’re not amping up the acid already contributed by the tomatoes. A Vino Nobile di Montepulciano would be beautiful in this but they’re not always easy to find when the mood for pasta suddenly strikes, so feel free to grab a nice Chianti in a pinch.
Classic Moules Frites
Moules Frites, or mussels and fries, is one of those meals that comes together quickly but seems complex and impressive. It’s a good dish to make for yourself on a weeknight when you need a little extra love or you can make big batches for friends and family and everyone can munch and slurp at will. It may seem like too many carbs, but I like to serve this with a loaf of crusty French bread to soak up the uber-fragrant broth – leave the fries on the side so they stay crispy. But that’s just me.
Our Wine Pick: Chateau de Montfort Vouvray, 2011 – $16.99
Coq Au Vin
Traditionally, coq au vin was a French dish made using an older rooster simmered with bacon, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and some local wine. This wine was typically Burgundy, but many people are surprised to learn that some regions use white wine – in particular Alsace, where Riesling is king. The low-and-slow cooking method and the addition of the wine helped to break down the tough bird, but these days we don’t run across many ancient chickens so this is basically a simple braise dish that tastes phenomenal.
Our Wine Pick: Bouchard Aine & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir, 2013 – $19.99
Champagne-Poached Pears with Almond Whipped Cream
What would this list be without a dessert? Champagne-Poached Pears take on a whole new dimension when slowly steeped in a bottle of bubbly. An ideal holiday dessert, this recipe looks more difficult than it is but presents beautifully. There are also versions of this dish that use red wine for jewel-toned results that also feature a very different flavor profile. I like both the lightness of this Champagne-infused take – it’s a nice finish to a heavy meal. And no, you don’t have to actually use Champagne and an almond-infused one certainly isn’t necessary.
Our Wine Pick: Menage a Trois Prosecco – $12.99
What’s your favorite wine-infused recipe?