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)
- 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!
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.