Are homemade dinners lacking that special something to make them dishes to remember? Wine just may be the answer. (Because let’s be honest, wine is often the answer.) Wine wears many hats in the kitchen. It can deglaze a skillet after pan searing meat, dislodging the flavorful bits at the bottom of the pan. Reduce wine with broth or cream to make a rich sauce to accompany a filet. Steamed, poached or sautéed, wine adds acidity and depth to augment everything from pork tenderloin to fruit salad.
Wine’s best attributes also make it interesting to cook with. Alcohol can overwhelm other flavors of a dish, so it should be evaporated during the cooking process, but when cooked, a wine’s natural sugars and acidity become intensified. If heated long enough, wine can reduce to a syrup. The astringent tannins in a wine can be tamed by protein in meats, broth or cream. There is only one non-negotiable rule to cooking with wine — only use wine you’re willing to drink. Cooking wine only emphasizes its undesirable qualities, so I recommend avoiding “cooking wines” altogether.
In general, young, dry wines work best in the kitchen, but there are notable exceptions to this rule. Here’s how to accentuate almost any dish with wine:
- Steaming: Try a full-bodied white or rice wine to add a complex acidity while steaming vegetables or delicate fish.
- Roasting: Add a splash of Bordeaux to beef, lamb, beets or purple carrots prior to roasting. Opt for Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio when roasting chicken, parsnips or winter squash.
- Marinating: Wine makes a great base for a marinade. Boil the marinade to make a fruity sauce to accompany the dish. Try a dry Rosé or Riesling.
- Braising: Use port or sherry early on in the process, while browning the meat, adding more for the slow braise. Let the wine reduce before adding other cooking liquids.
- Deglazing: Set the meat or vegetables aside and sauté shallots or garlic in the same pan before pouring in your favorite wine. Use red for beef or lamb and white for white meat or vegetables. Finish the sauce with fresh herbs and a heaping tablespoon of butter.
- Baking: The bubbles in champagne or prosecco can help aerate cake and work well with many desserts. A Sauterne or Madeira work well in fruit dishes.
The uses for wine in cooking are as countless as the varietals on store shelves. Punch up marinades, stews, sauces and syrups with a generous splash of wine. Never let an open bottle of wine go to waste. We sure won’t.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
- 4 beef or veal shanks (.75lb each)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups dry white wine (recommend pinot grigio)
- 2 cups beef broth or stock
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
Preheat oven to 325°F. Let the shanks come to room temperature and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. Shake to remove excess flour. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large, deep-sided pan over medium heat. Brown each shank for 3 minutes on each side, then transfer to a clean plate.
Add butter to the same dutch oven. Once melted, add in celery, carrots and onion until tender, 7- 9 minutes. Add in garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste, wine and beef broth until combined. Add shanks back into the pan, top with fresh herbs and cover with an oven-safe lid.
Roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes, until fork tender. While the shanks are cooking, prepare the gremolata (recipe on photo description) and polenta (recipe on pg. 96).
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 4 cups chicken broth or stock
- 1 cup corn meal
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup parmigiana Reggiano
Bring chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly pour in corn meal while constantly stirring. Reduce heat to low and whisk frequently as it thickens. When the polenta has reached your desired consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in butter and cheese. Ladle polenta into a bowl and top with osso buco and gremolata.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
1 bottle sparkling or dry white wine
1 cup water
1 cup honey
3 whole cloves
1 vanilla pod
4 bosc pears, peeled
Combine wine, water, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla in a pot just big enough for the pears to fit snugly inside. Heat mixture to a simmer. Hold the pears by the stem and lower them, one at a time, into the wine mixture.
Simmer pears for an additional 20 minutes, until tender. Remove the pears from the liquid and increase to high heat. Reduce the liquid by half until it’s a syrupy consistency, another 20-30 minutes.
Place each pear in a small bowl and drizzle with syrup. Serve warm or chilled, according to your preference.