Many of us like to try a new recipe or attempt to dazzle our dinner party friends with a new dish but when it comes to adding wine, we’re a little less confident. Fact is, wine can add a new flavour dimension so here are some tips that may encourage a few more cooks to take the plunge.
Adding wine to cooking all begins when you’re out shopping. If you’re going to pick up a bottle or two of wine for dinner, and if you need more than a splash for the dish, grab another bottle to cook with. Not that it has to be exactly the same wine, but something of the same grape variety is preferable (don’t worry about having a little wine left over, did you know you can freeze it and save it for another day?)
So how exactly does wine work its magic? They say that the alcohol in wine helps release flavour molecules in food as well as help dissolve the fats. Add wine early enough in the cooking process to give it time to reduce and concentrate the flavour.
Imagine you are preparing a Coq au Vin which calls for a bottle of red Burgundy (although with Burgundy prices what they are, not many of us want to tip a bottle into the cooking! Just go for Pinot Noir, which is the same grape variety). Then for your guests, open a good New Zealand Pinot Noir (Lawson’s Dry Hills Reserve springs to mind!) to serve with it.
There are other ways of using wine to great advantage when cooking. The best gravies are those made in the pan that the meat has been roasted in. It’s very simple – remove the meat for it to rest, spoon off some of the fat is there is a lot – you need to leave just a tablespoon or two. Keep a medium heat under the pan and add a tablespoon of flour, stirring well to absorb all of the fat. Cook it for a minute or two, always stirring. Next add hot stock – keep stirring until it boils to avoid it going lumpy. Once simmering, add a cup or two of wine – white for chicken dishes and red for lamb and beef ideally, and a good grinding of black pepper. Allow to simmer gently for 20 minutes or so, stirring every now and then.
Another idea is to match the region with the produce by using, for example, a crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris to steam the local green-lipped mussels. Delicious!
If searing a piece of meat, such as steak, once it is cooked, remove and add red wine to the hot pan – it’ll sizzle and reduce as you stir to get all the flavoursome bits off the bottom. Add a few herbs, some salt and pepper and a knob of butter and there’s your red wine sauce.
For barbecues, using wine in marinades helps to tenderise the meat and adds another dimension to the flavour. When grilling or basting, marinades help retain moisture in the dish while it’s in the oven.