I love how versatile wine is. It’s great by itself when you’re winding down with friends, you can pair it with a little fruit and cheese, or you can splash some into a dish to bring on the flavor! As an ingredient, wine really lets you be very experimental and creative in the kitchen.
But when added to a dish, wine has a personality all on its own, which is why some cooks find it a little intimidating to cook with. If you’re looking for ways to bring some flavor and zest to your dishes, here are my expert tips!
What wine brings to the table
Wine goes a long way to help strengthen the existing flavors of a dish. It’s a good way to make flavors bolder, without necessarily adding a lot of fats and oils. Plus, wines can also add acidity, which can help brighten the taste of your other ingredients.
Plus, the alcohol in the wine evaporates during the cooking process, leaving behind hints of the wine’s delicious flavor. But it’s important to remember that some of the wine’s more subtle fruity or aromatic notes often burn off and don’t shine through in the final dish, so you shouldn’t expect to get the full flavor in your meal. Add it slowly to allow flavors to develop and taste frequently as you go.
Expert tips when cooking with wine
In general, you’ll use wine in three different ways. You might use it to add moisture and flavor in a marinade, such as before roasting some hearty root vegetables. You might use it as a cooking liquid in a dish like a soup or stew. Or you might use it to add a dash of flavor in a finished dish, using a wine whose taste you really love.
And since we’re talking about taste, let’s talk about those “cooking” wines you’ve seen at the grocery. No matter which cooking method you’re using, you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, though bottom-shelf options are otherwise fine. Like I said before, if you’re cooking rather than finishing with wine, those delicious subtle flavors are just going to cook off anyway. But when the taste seriously matters — like when the wine is the main star of the dish — it’s time to invest in some high-quality wine instead!
As you cook, try to add the wine earlier if possible to allow flavors to develop, and don’t forget to taste frequently as you go. You might find through experimenting that you need more or less wine to taste.
If you’re new to cooking with wine, I definitely suggest jumping right in! You can always try something small, like adding a little full-bodied red wine to sauteed mushrooms or splashing some into a stew. The leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, depending on the type of wine — or served with the meal if you like. Now, go cook (and drink) responsibly!