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Wine for Cooking


Jeffy Boy
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Anyone ever opened a bottle for cooking, had a glass then thought "That's going in me, not the Stew!"?

Yes! I have a friend who keeps giving us bottles of Two Buck Chuck to try. Snob that I am, I save them for stews. More than once we've opened it up, gingerly tested it to make sure it wasn't going to ruin a perfectly good piece of meat, and been pleasantly surprised enough to drink the rest.

Not always, though.

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Have never thought of buying inferior wine just to use for cooking. Why would you? We cook a lot with wine, just throwing it into the pot as if it were any other required ingredient. My modus operandi is usually to open the bottle, pour myself a glass, pour a glass or half the bottle (as required) into the cooking pot, enjoy another glass while it's cooking, then open a new bottle (either of the same wine or something complementary) to have with the meal.

Of course, there are those pretentiously named recipes such as coq au Chambertin. Mais oui, it sounds wonderful, but who in their right mind would use that magnificent wine to throw in with an old hen, some lardons fumés, a handful of baby oignons?

That said, I was in Alba the other week with a winemaker friend who's mother is a great cook. When she wants to make brasato al Barolo she sends Mario down into the wine cantina below the house to draw a jug of deep, foaming Barolo out of the large 250hl oak casks in which that magnificent wine ages. Does it make a difference to utilise such a fine wine to cook with? I'd say yes: Mario's mother's brasato al Barolo is definitely the best beef-in-wine stew that I've ever eaten anywhere (it helps, of course, that the dish is accompanied by more of that wonderful Barolo to drink).

MP

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I also like Julia Child's suggestion of using vermouth instead of white wine-it adds a nice taste to pan sauces.

I'd like to try using vermouth, but I don't think I've ever bought it, let alone cooked with it. Therefore some dumb questions:

1. What kind should I look for for cooking?

2. Can you use it as a 1:1 substitute for white wine?

3. Will it keep after opening (unrefrigerated)?

I use dry white vermouth, Martini and Rossi. It keeps forever in the cabinet.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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This is one of the bones of contention in our house, what wine is used for cooking. My general habit is to use what I've got open. Just the other day I deglased the pan in which I seared filets de rascasse with a simply beautiful Sylvanner, and the result was sublime. If I must purchase for a recipe, I choose by region of the recipe and make sure it's drinkable first. My husband winces from time to time when I do that but I stick to my guns. If I can't drink it, it does not corrupt our carefully chosen ingredients.

Vermouth. I keep a bottle of dry - not the sweet stuff, next to the stove for things to grab - in line with the salt and herbes de provence - and use it liberally in any and every vegetable I braise. As Marie-Louise mentioned earlier, I picked this up from Julia Child's lessons and have always enjoyed the results.

A few tablespoons of a fine chablis (the really good stuff at 35 bucks a bottle) finishes a simple pate made from simple chicken livers. This was a chance discovery but one I now live by, whenever we have leftover good chablis I'm at the butcher demanding what he's got of livers. It makes it beautiful. I add it after the livers are cooked with onion and when I am in the process of mashing.

We went though a stage early on here where we were buying a rather in-your-face Cote du Rhone direct from the vigneron in 5L boxes - it was perfectly OK table wine, and we were quite proud of ourselves. It averaged out to about 1€ a bottle. I took the opportunity to do everything with it from braise pears to Paula Wolfort's cuisses de canard to Julia's Beouf B. Later I did these dishes with wine local to the recipes and found that the cuisses gave much better results with a bordeaux, etc. If the wine plays a major role in the dish, I now tend to choose from the region the dish came from. They turn out much better that way.

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Well, restaurants receive a number a returned bottles and where do these go?

Into the stew? coq au vin? au jus? or something au currant?

I would guess that most average wine returns get cooked, and the best go to the staff...

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I've had strange experiences with vermouth, probably because I don't know a lot about it.  We drink vermouth only in martinis, and that very infrequently.  I've tried several, and my own favorite and that of my martini drinking friends is Boissiere Dry.  Makes a very nice vodka or gin martini.  But for some reason, it doesn't come through very well in cooking. 

I once favored Boissiere for martinis (which are made with gin and vermouth), but I agree that it's not as good in cooking. Because of that and the fact that it's not to be found just anywhere (at least around here), I rarely buy it any more. For both martinis and cooking duty, Noilly Prat is now my vermouth of choice.

I used to assume that Gallo vermouth from California, which is very cheap indeed, couldn't possibly be any good. Then a few years ago on one of Julia Childs's television programs she said something about a California vermouth that was just awful, but whose name she would not reveal. Well, she had to be talking about Gallo, so I felt my actually uninformed judgment had been validated. Who would know better than Julia?

Then a couple of years ago, Cook's Illustrated did a blind test of vermouths in cooking (I think they might also have tasted the stuff as is), and surprisingly the two winners were Noilly Prat and Gallo, with M & R and Boissiere down at the bottom of list. So one day when I was in an inferior supermarket in rural Virginia needing some vermouth and all they had was Gallo, I bought a bottle. It's very good! A nice clean taste with the appropriate floral notes, no off flavors at all, and it's good for cooking and martinis. And as I say, it's cheap even for vermouth.

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I love using vermouth instead of white, simply because it does keep, and gives a less acid taste- a nice change. I actually prefer it now for steamed mussels.

For the same reason, I will use marsala instead of red wine.

In terms of cooking w/ wine, only if it is a less expensive bottle. I do believe that if you can't drink it, you shouldn't be putting it in your food. Luckily, I am quite happy drinking the cheap and cheerful options, as well as the more spectacular bottles.

Ann

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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  • 1 month later...

Do people think it's really worth using decent wine for cooking. There's an adage that you shouldn't cook with wine you wouldn't drink. Well certainly, I wouln't use corked wine for cooking.

But is it worth using decent plonk. After all there are plenty of cheap wines which, in certain contexts, I happily enjoy drinking, and it seems to make more sense to cook with them than with burgundy.

Although a society woman in Paris that I met via work told me you should only use good wine in coq au vin, preferably more expensive than you are planning to drink with the meal. Can this really be so?

And how do different styles of wine lead to different wine-based sauces?

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I've had strange experiences with vermouth, probably because I don't know a lot about it.  We drink vermouth only in martinis, and that very infrequently.  I've tried several, and my own favorite and that of my martini drinking friends is Boissiere Dry.  Makes a very nice vodka or gin martini.  But for some reason, it doesn't come through very well in cooking. 

I once favored Boissiere for martinis (which are made with gin and vermouth), but I agree that it's not as good in cooking. Because of that and the fact that it's not to be found just anywhere (at least around here), I rarely buy it any more. For both martinis and cooking duty, Noilly Prat is now my vermouth of choice.

I used to assume that Gallo vermouth from California, which is very cheap indeed, couldn't possibly be any good. Then a few years ago on one of Julia Childs's television programs she said something about a California vermouth that was just awful, but whose name she would not reveal. Well, she had to be talking about Gallo, so I felt my actually uninformed judgment had been validated. Who would know better than Julia?

Then a couple of years ago, Cook's Illustrated did a blind test of vermouths in cooking (I think they might also have tasted the stuff as is), and surprisingly the two winners were Noilly Prat and Gallo, with M & R and Boissiere down at the bottom of list. So one day when I was in an inferior supermarket in rural Virginia needing some vermouth and all they had was Gallo, I bought a bottle. It's very good! A nice clean taste with the appropriate floral notes, no off flavors at all, and it's good for cooking and martinis. And as I say, it's cheap even for vermouth.

I've found Gallo jug wines ok for most of my cooking.

Bode

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After reading this thread, I guess I realize how lucky I am. I live in Sonoma county California and always cook with what I drink. We get very good wines at very good prices around here....but I only wanted to add that one shouldn't skimp on the quality of the wines one cooks with because in most cases the wine flavor is concentrated during cooking....who would want to concentrate a not-so-good taste?

Mark

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Well,  restaurants receive a number a returned bottles and where do these go?

Into the stew? coq au vin? au jus?  or something au currant?

I would guess that most average wine returns get cooked, and the best go to the staff...

Goodness, I hope not! When bottles are returned upon tasting in a restaurant, it should be (if the guest knows what he or she is doing) because the bottle is tainted or corked. Now, drinking corked wine is pretty unpleasant, and I certainly wouldn't cook with it.

On the other hand, if the guest only thinks he knows what he's doing, and he returns a perfectly good bottle simply because he chose unwisely from the wine list and picked something he didn't like, then that bottle goes back to the bar. If it's a bottle that's normally poured by the glass, it's no issue at all. If it's a bottle not normally poured by the glass, you offer a "special" on glasses from that bottle to select customers who might like to try it, but since they usually dine alone, they don't get much opportunity to order a bottle.

Please don't read that last line to indicate that I'd think ill of anyone who ordered a bottle of wine to drink all by himself. :biggrin:

For my own purposes, I do something similar to what many good restaurant kitchens do, along the lines of buying a box of Franzia for cooking. I don't usually need a whole box of wine for cooking at home, but I occasionally buy a bottle of an overly-marketed white from California, like a Beringer or Vendange. That's the sort of wine that I don't want to put out for my guests because, to me, the bottle says "I choose what wines to drink based on television commercials." The wines I actually like to drink are only 2 or 3 dollars more, usually, but I like to use a little more imagination when pairing wine with my food, and when I find a really good one, I don't like to waste it in the pan.

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