Not only for drinking

Introduce wine into your home cooking and you’ll be surprised with the results.

Introduce wine into your home cooking 311 (photo credit: MCT)
Introduce wine into your home cooking 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Wine is regularly used in the kitchen by professional chefs. It acts as a catalyst for flavor, in the same way that salt does. It tenderizes meat, adds both color and moisture and increases the length of flavor. Cooking with wine is immortalized in dishes like coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon, where it has become part of the name. However its uses are varied and wine may be used for flambéing, glazing, deglazing, macerating, marinating, or poaching.
Wine is an ingredient like any other used for cooking. You would not cook with poor ingredients, so don’t cook with bad wine or with sour left-overs. Indeed any wine that you would not be prepared to drink should be discarded. Cooking concentrates a wine’s flavor, so a wine that is acidic, vinegary, moldy or corky will only be worse when cooked.
However, never use an expensive wine in cooking. To do so is extravagant and quite frankly, less than sensible. I would never use a Burgundy for either Coq au Vin or Boeuf Bourguignon, even though this is what the traditional recipes demand. Burgundy would be too expensive and I am not convinced that a Pinot Noir is the best cooking wine for either dish. In any case, once it is cooked, a wine loses its alcohol and changes its taste. A wine of great quality and expense, will not be apparent in the taste of the final dish. Believe me, no wine expert will be able to identify the quality of a wine used, after it has been cooked. The wines will not even be recognizable, apart from perhaps sweet wines like port or Madeira or very aromatic ones like Gewurztraminer.
Big, fruity, spicy red wines, with not too much tannin, make the best cooking partners.
Avoid wines that are too oaky, where the effect of aging in oak barrels is more dominant than the fruit. Wine is an important coloring agent, so you also need a wine with a deep, bold red color as opposed to a light, insipid young red.
Wine also adds acidity to a dish, but acidity can be magnified, so white wines should not have an acidity that is too pronounced.
Wine is perfect for a reduction or quick cooked sauce, prepared just before serving.
For the most pronounced wine flavor, reduce the wine separately, then whisk it into your sauce. For a more integrated result, use the wine to degrease a sauté or roasting pan, heat it gently but be careful not to overboil, so it does not taste flat.
Including the bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, this will make a wonderful, impromptu sauce.
Wine is classic for marinades and is a wonderful tenderizer of meat. The great chef Raymond Blanc, from Le Manoir à Quatre Saisons in England, recommends gently boiling off the alcohol and then letting the wine cool to about 40°C, before adding to the meat. He believes the exchange of flavors is better at this temperature.
If too hot it will cook the food but if too cold, the wine’s flavors will not be transferred to the meat successfully.
Wine can be the perfect poaching liquid for fish or chicken. Cooking fish in a microwave with a little white or sparkling wine, olive oil and a few Mediterranean herbs can be the easiest way to enjoy fresh fish, without it drying out. You can then use the liquid as the accompanying sauce. Wine may be also used for poaching fruit. Pears poached in red wine, is a well-known recipe.
To receive more wine flavor, add the wine later on in the cooking process. If you want the flavors more integrated, then cook everything together. If you want to use wine for flaming food, it is recommended to warm the wine before igniting it.
The most stylish thing to do at a dinner party is to cook with a wine that you later use to partner the meal. This may create good conversation, but remember the wine in the glass will bear little resemblance to the wine in the casserole. My compromise, if relating to wines from my own company, would be to cook with Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon, if I was to drink Kayoumi Cabernet Sauvignon with the meal. (Or cook with Selected Merlot and enjoy Appellation Merlot with the meal.) I would certainly not use a so-called cooking wine, or the cheapest wine possible. I would insist on using a quality wine, but would draw the line at an expensive one.
Left-over wine should be left in cool place or ideally in a refrigerator. Put remains into a small plastic empty water bottle and squeeze out the air as you fill it.
Alternatively, boil the alcohol out of a wine, then put it in the plastic containers for ice cubes, freeze it (and it will freeze without alcohol), and you have readymade cubes of flavor to use in cooking when you want.
If you are concerned about cooking with wine for children or those who don’t drink alcohol, don’t worry. The alcohol will disappear during the cooking process. Alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than water.
The function of wine is to enhance and intensify flavor. It should not be overused, as is the case with all seasonings. Although wine in itself does not make a bad dish into a good one, wine is an ingredient, no less important than butter, flour, salt, pepper, eggs or olive oil.
Beer Lovers Delight
The Israeli beer scene is now undergoing the same boom that Israeli wine went through in the last 20 years.
Along with the two big boys, Tempo Beer Industries and Carlsberg Israel, there are hundreds of small boutique and domestic breweries which have started up in recent years.
Now there will be an opportunity to taste and sample what is available in the first-ever beer exhibition in Israel.
“Beers Israel 2011” will take place on January 13 at the Nokia Center, Tel Aviv, from 5 to 11 p.m. Registration is possible via The organizer is Studio Ben Ami, which also organizes the Sommelier Wine Exhibition each November. Well worth a visit for the thirsty!
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery and regularly writes about wine for both Israeli and international publications.