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Many recipes require you to cook with wine, but, for new chefs, this may be a little bit of a difficult process. You may say "Oh, well, I can just buy a cheap cooking wine, pour it in my food, and there we go. That's it."
No. None of that.
Let me pour a cup of reality on you: you need to be careful when cooking with wine. You need to do it right, or else you will ruin your meal. You need to cook with wine correctly if you want to maximize the flavor of all your food.
Use Good Wine
Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.
Many people buy cooking wines for recipes that require wine. They figure, because of its cheapness, they wouldn't waste money buying a cabernet or merlot that they're just going to end up going into their food.
But hold on a tick. Cooking wines are often excessively salty and include lots of additives. If wine is a key ingredient in a recipe, why include a wine you wouldn't drink? The flavors you don't like will be prominent in the meal. If those flavors are going to stand out, why would you want gross flavors in your food?
Add in the wines you like to drink. If you like the wine's flavors on their own, then you'd like those flavors in your food.
Add Wine Gradually
When you cook with wine, add wine gradually. One of the big issues with adding wine is that, if you add too much, you can't get rid of it. The wine taste will become overpowering – overwhelming.
The solution? Add wine slowly. Gradually pour – don't just dump a whole bottle into your recipe. See how the food tastes. Need more wine? Add more wine. It's truly that simple.
Resist the temptation to just pour wine all over your food. As with most seasonings, too much is too much.
Replace Water with Wine
A good way to experiment with wine in your recipes is to substitute water in your recipes with wine. When you cook with wine instead of water, the wine adds a whole new dimension of flavor to your food. It adds an incredible new layer that leaves you truly immersed in a world of flavor.
Also worth noting: when rinsing off veggies or marinating your meats or basting turkey, use wine instead of water or any other mild fluids you would have used otherwise. It truly will enhance the flavors of your food by adding a new layer of flavor to it all. Really, many mild liquids can be replaced with wine to add new dimensions of taste to your food.
An Easy Experiment
A good experiment for when you start to cook with wine is to make some gravy or sauce. Preferably, one with a tomato base. Add in a tablespoon of wine or two to the mix. Stir it in, and see if it brings out more flavor in the sauce.
The good thing about this is that, if you don't like the way the wine changes the flavor, it's only sauce. You can still eat the rest of the food without having to worry about that flavor. But if the wine enhances the meal, then experiment with how much you put in. Maybe it needs more. Maybe it needs less.
Either way, you'll be well on your way to cooking with wine soon enough.