Today is National Drink Wine Day, a day celebrated with drinking a glass or two of a favourite wine.  But what else can you do with that bottle of wine that you bought on impulse and now decide that you aren’t really that keen on?  Is there more life to it than simply going down the sink?  The answer is simple – why not cook with it instead?

Using wine in cooking

Most of us will have encountered basic dishes such as a white wine sauce with chicken or adding a touch of red wine to a red meat gravy.  There are actually a lot of occasions that wine can be used in cooking, most commonly where you are taking the fat out of a dish and need to add something to bring liquid to the dish.

wine-908179_960_720Basic examples of this include sautéing vegetables in a touch of oil and wine rather than butter or lots of oil or making a marinade with half oil and half wine rather than just oil.  You can even use it in making where the recipe calls for oil, using the same amount of a white or a dessert wine in its place.

Wine can enhance the flavour of a dish, with fish being one of those that benefits from it.  Deep fried fish can be substituted for the oil in the deep frying, poaching the fish in a simmering pan of wine to cook it or even drizzle a few spoonsful of wine on the fish before wrapping it in foil and cooking in the oven.  Similarly, you can simmer food in a pan or even cook it in the oven with wine, adding flavour and keeping the meat or fish moist.

Choosing a wine

So this means that the bottle of wine you bought and don’t enjoy that much can be reinvented in a dish to serve the next evening.  But what if you want to buy some wine specifically for cooking?  Are there any ideas to keep in mind?

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For starters, look at whether you want a dry or a sweet wine.  Dry wines have very little sugar left in them and are usually stronger in alcohol content.  Sweeter wines obviously have more sugar in them and this will carry over when they are heated so will make the sauce or marinade they are added to correspondingly sweeter.

The acidity of wine is a term that applies to both red and white and is the sharpness, the bite of the wine – this is why some wines are referred to as like vinegar.  When working in cooking, this acid can be great for bringing out the flavour of mild foods, in a similar manner to lemon does when served with fish.  Another factor are the tannins found most often in red wine.  These substances act as a palate cleaner when they are used with high protein foods such as meat.  This means that they work well with steak and other meats that have a strong flavour of their own.

You can even look at the flavours of the wine to help guide your choices.  All wines will tell you a little about the flavours in them and certain ones are really helpful in making your dishes taste best.  For example, melon, apple, pear, vanilla, citrus fruits and even caramel flavours in white wines are great for cooking while in reds look for plums, cherries, oranges, coffee and even chocolate.

Chicken Marsala

A simple and tasty dish to start experimenting with cooking with wine is Chicken Marsala.  The dish uses marsala wine, a specialist wine made in Marsala in Sicily that is available in both dry and sweet varieties.

Chicken MarsalaIngredients:

  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts, halves and pounded to around ¼ inch thickness
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup Marsala wine
  • ¼ cup cooking sherry
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
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Take a bowl and mix together the flour and oregano along with salt and black pepper as you prefer.  Drop the chicken pieces into the mixture and toss to cover.

In a large skillet, melt the butter and oil over a medium heat before adding the chicken and browning lightly.  Add the mushrooms then pour in the wine and sherry.  Cover the skillet and simmer for around 10 minutes, turning occasionally until the chicken is properly cooked and any juices are running clear.

It can then be served with new potatoes and a medley of fresh greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli.

For this and more recipes check out the Cooking with Wine section on www.allrecipes.com

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