Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Dan Berger: Wine for Cooking

 The phrase "cooking wine" conjures up horrid images from an era when such liquids were so bad that cooks wouldn't drink them.

But when a recipe calls for a cup of dry wine, what wine is best? Recipes almost never say. Will this lead to a good result in the food? Or make for flavors you might dislike?

Few cookbooks tell us anything about what kinds of wines to cook with. We can still find bottles that say "cooking wine," but are they a good idea? Such wines may contain salt, a practice that goes back decades to when mansions had cooks, and owners wanted to make certain cooks didn't take unauthorized swigs.

Moreover, most "cooking wines" are so poor that they wouldn't add desirable flavors.

The best wines to cook with are those you could drink, but for one reason or another, won't. I often find that when I'm cooking, I'm also sipping something. And that's often the wine I'll splash into the stew, especially if it's the right color.

So, pasta sauces calling for tomatoes won't be helped by adding white wines. I use a simple red. And when I'm stir-frying vegetables with ginger and soy sauce, a slightly sweet riesling seems perfect.

Recipes that call for deglazing a pan that has sauteed onions might call for a white wine, such as a light sauvignon blanc, but chardonnay with oak works less well. 

One basic rule says you can always cook with a wine that was opened the day before and remains sound. If a wine begins to taste oxidized or vinegary, don't risk ruining the food by cooking with it.

And don't take cookbooks literally. Some older cookbooks that call for "a cup of sauterne" might be referring to a (SET ITAL) dry (END ITAL) white wine. (There is no such thing as "sauterne." Real French Sauternes, with a capital first s and a final s, is a sweet dessert wine from France. But decades ago, "sauterne" was used here to mean "dry white.")

One key fact: in recipes calling for wine, check the cooking time! If a dish calls for the addition of wine that also has a long simmering time, reducing the liquid over hours, a modest wine is fine. However, if a dish is to be cooked only a few minutes after adding the wine, use a better-quality wine.

This was discovered 40 years ago by William Rice, the then food editor of the Washington Post. Rice staged a dinner party in which each of the four dishes called for wine to be used.

To test whether the quality of a wine was an issue, Rice prepared each dish three different ways (!), varying only one ingredient: the wine. In the first preparation, he used a cheap wine, the second had a moderately priced wine and the last a superb, world-class wine.

Rice discovered that in the dishes calling for long cooking, the kind of wine used was virtually immaterial. But dishes cooked for a short time needed excellent wines!

Adding wine to a recipe too late, allowing less time for it to cook down, might leave too winey a flavor. And using too much wine in a dish that calls for only a small amount could lead to the same result.

Finally, when cooking with any wine that has residual sugar, factor sweetness into the dish, especially if the recipe calls for dry wine. Sugar can be a nice addition to some foods, but it could also add an undesirable element that's hard to repair later.

Wine of the Week: 2020 J.Lohr Pinot Noir, Monterey County, "Falcons Perch" ($16): Plums, black grapes and blueberry aromas with a soft entry and mid-palate, and rich fruit without much tannin. Best consumed slightly chilled. 

To find out more about Dan Berger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.



Anonymous said...

Like me some J lohr!

Anonymous said...

This is helpful information. I usually use either a cabernet sauvignon or pinot grigio. As Julia Child famously said, I like to cook with wine and sometimes even put it in the food.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am not expecting Oz Clarke here on JJ, but is accuracy, at least on wine, too much to ask? Salt in "cooking wine" has nothing to do with mansions and the help. It is there so it isn't drinkable (at least by sane people) and can be sold without running afoul of the myriad state and federal restrictions on consumable wine.

A better rule for beginners is if you won't drink it for whatever reason, don't cook with it in anything (but see below). Once you learn a bit more, you'll be able to tell whether or not a wine that is drinkable but _you_ just don't fancy drinking it, again for whatever reason, is OK for particular cooking uses.

One exception to the basic beginner's rule above is sherry. Unless you cannot abide sherry at all, I suggest keeping a bottle of inexpensive but drinkable sherry (the "jug" stuff is fine) - even if you aren't interested in drinking any - in the pantry. For example, just about any cream or cheese sauce is a good candidate in which to try a little sherry. Take a small portion, add a few drops of sherry, and taste. If you feel it adds something, add a bit at a time until you find your personal taste, keeping in mind that the flavor will mellow and change with additional cooking. Like everything else in cooking, it is easy to add a little or a lot more but impossible to remove any at all.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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