Thursday, November 15, 2007

cooking with wine

Tonight's VeganMoFo is about wine- cooking with wine, that is. (I'm totally sober, I swear!) It's a little thing that can make a huge difference in the quality and taste of your cooking - it can make the difference between the mundane and the gourmet.

Daiku and I always make sure to save a little bit of wine out of any bottle we open. Just 1/2 cup or so is enough for cooking. As a bonus, even though wine, once opened, only stays drinkable for up to a week, it stays perfectly good for cooking for several weeks. For this reason, you should never buy "cooking wine" - the stuff is usually overpriced, and full of salt and preservatives. The only test of whether a wine is good enough to cook with is if it was good enough for you to drink!

Every time I add even a few drops of wine to something I'm cooking, I'm amazed at the wonderful scent and depth of body that it adds. This is especially good now with the colder weather, when we want hearty, savory foods.

The best way to cook with wine (and make sure that most of the alcohol evaporates) is to use it to deglaze. Deglazing is just the term for using a liquid to lift up the flavorful bits of food that stick to the bottom of a pan in the process of sautéing. So, say you're cooking soup. You would probably start out sautéing some onions and maybe garlic, plus some herbs and spices. Well, before you add your cooking liquid, throw some wine into the mix, and use a wooden spatula to scrape the tasty, caramelized, stuck-on stuff. (Bonus- if you accidentally begin getting too much heat and your veggies start burning, deglazing is a great way to cut down the heat and save your food!)

Here is just a partial list of dishes that are improved with the addition of a little wine- if it's savory, it's probably a good candidate!
  • beans and bean soups of any kind
  • lentil soups, and really all soups (if you're making a light colored or creamy soup, make sure to use white wine to avoid discoloring it)
  • chili
  • tomato, pasta, and pizza sauces (a hearty read is especially good for these)
  • braised and roasted vegetables
  • sauces, condiments, and reductions
  • cheezy sauces and fondues
  • as a general rule, I've found that any recipe that calls for breadcrumbs, garlic, Earth Balance, and lemon juice benefits from the addition of some white wine - these 5 things just seem designed to go together!

artichoke dipping sauce made of bread crumbs, garlic, Earth Balance, lemon juice, and white wine

So next time you open a bottle of wine, save the leftovers! And next time you're cooking, throw some wine in there- you will be amazed at the results you get for such little cost and effort.



Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

Looks like I'm on a roll (not bread) commenting first again! Cheers on cooking with wine -- and keeping a glass to sip.

Chances are high that we'll be in LA in January, but probably not December. I hope it works out that we can meet, Bazu! :)

textual bulldog said...

so glad you posted this! i always want to cook with wine, but i'm so intimidated by it... dunno why.

Ashasarala said...

I absolutely hate the taste of wine as a drink, but cooking with it always seemed like such a good idea. For me, it's just like bitter baking chocolate. Kinda gross by itself but utterly delicious cooked into something. Thanks for the tips. I've been making tons of soups and I always have that problem when sauteeing. I must try this!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I whole-heartedly agree. (and john does as well, he dumps red wine in everything he makes) Especially in pasta sauce, red wine makes all the difference...

Now here's a question for you, do you buy organic and certified vegan wines? I am probably not as careful as I should be when it comes to is so difficult to know what they are using as clarifiers. I've heard many people say that most wineries use synthetic clarifiers these days. I keep meaning to write to the companies of some of my favorites just to check. How do you handle this? Just curious :-)

bazu said...

Vicki, yay! Thanks for your comments, and I hope we can overlap in our CA visits so we can meet up!

TB and Ashasarala, try it, you really can't go wrong!

Vegan Noodle, that's a really good question. I find that it's much easier to pick vegan wines when you have a memorized arsenal of vegan wineries to choose from. Usually, a winery is either vegan or it isn't, so you don't have to worry about individual wines. And usually, organic wines tend to be vegan. I've emailed wine companies and have been SO happy with their quick responses. They all know what vegan means (yay!), and they've all given me quick, respectful answers. So, just go to their website and send them a quick email, they're really good at getting back to you. We have been happy to find that our favorite local wines (bully hill) are vegan.
All that having been said, I have to admit I'm not 100% careful about wines and beers being vegan, but I'm getting better!

SaraJane said...

What good timing... I have a ton of bottles of wine left over from Thanksgiving (beginning of October in Canada) and was thinking about cracking open a few to cook with. And hey - I really do need to have a glass while I'm cooking to make sure it's really good, right?

maybepigscanfly said...

Thanks for the reminder- I always forget that wine is excellent for cooking. I guess I just have to be disciplined and actually save some of the bottle (haha)! I really like the tips and will be using wine more often for cooking!

the little one said...

Wine left over? Hmmm. That doesn't happen too often! ;)

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I've been seeing more & more recipes with wine lately. I don't drink it, so I never have it on hand for cooking!

Sarah C. said...

I do the same - save old portions (or bottles that were not quite the tastiest for drinking) and use them to cook everything. My recent FAVORITE use for wine (red or white - but I LOVE red): marinating tempeh (with a splash of o.o., herbs - usually de provence - and a bit of broth)! I think the fact that tempeh and wine are both fermented makes them a super-licious combo!!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I'll definitely be sending some emails....that's much easier than writing letters! Thanks Bazu...