When you first start learning how to taste wine, the food pairings get all of the attention after the sniff, swirl and sip lessons. But cooking with wine is an art that deserves as much of the spotlight as food pairings. Wine serves as a replacement for fattier ingredients, adds flavour and can be a nice acidic touch in a recipe.
Moist and low-fat
Replacing oil or butter in a recipe with wine is a health-conscious way to add moisture without adding fat, especially for lighter meats like fish.
Tender, flaky meat
The acidity in wine tenderizes the outside of meat like beef, poultry and seafood. When used to replace lemon juice or vinegar, it brings out the natural flavours in mildly flavoured ingredients.
The tannins in red wine (the substance in wine that makes it bitter) acts as a palate cleanser in high flavour dishes, especially those with red meat as a base.
Hint of flavour
Wine, when used correctly in cooking, adds subtle, food-like flavours to the dish. Though the specific flavours depend on the blend or varietal of wine, in general white wine adds melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olive and mushroom flavours; red wine adds berries, peaches, currants, plums, cherries, oranges, chocolate and coffee.
When you’ve got a recipe that calls for a wine, it usually specifies which type (red, white, rosé) but not always which blend or varietal.
The general rule of thumb to deciding is the same general rule of thumb for pairing food with wine – light wines (whites or soft reds) should be used when cooking dishes that are light in flavour (think chicken or fish). The mild flavours of the dish are supported and enhanced by the wine.
Bold wines (think heavy or spicy reds) should be used when cooking dishes that have bold flavours (hearty, highly seasons meats and sauces). The tannins in reds will help prepare the palate for the flavours in the dish. The spicy, hearty wine will also be able to stand up to the spices and flavours of the dish, in a way that a light wine can’t.
Honey Lemon Chicken
This recipe was provided by Tom de Larzac and first appeared in the May – June 2014 issue of Quench
- 4 chicken legs, split into drumstick and thighs
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, whole
- 6 sprigs of thyme
- 1/4 cup white wine (vinegar or balsamic would work too)
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp raw sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place large oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and thyme to pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
- Place half the chicken in the pan and sear on both sides (approximately 2 minutes a side). Remove onto waiting plate. Repeat with second half of the chicken.
- With all chicken removed, add wine, honey, sugar and water. When sugar is dissolved add back all the chicken, turning once to coat in sauce. Arrange the chicken into one even layer in the pan.
- Place lemon slices evenly over the chicken. Place in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Reserve sauce, and pour over chicken.
Deglazing is the process by which chefs remove the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. These brown bits, called “fond”, contain loads of flavour that can be used in sauces or gravy to complement the main dish.
The deglazing process, put simply, is putting cold liquid into a hot pan. The cold liquid can be water, soup stock, wine or really any edible liquid. Here is a quick guide to help you in your culinary experiments:
- Check to make sure that the bits on the bottom of your pan are brown and not burned.
- Pour out most of the fat from the pan
- Turn the heat on the burner to high
- Add the cold liquid to the hot pan – the liquid will come to a boil very quickly
- Using a spoon or spatula, scrape up the fond as the liquid boils
- Turn down the heat when all of the fond is off the bottom of the pan
Scallops with Herb-butter pan sauce
This recipe was provided by Nancy Johnson and first appeared in the October 2014 issue of Quench.
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 450 g sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
- 1 large shallot, finely minced
- ¼ cup Pinot Grigio
- ¼ cup fresh parsley and basil, minced
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oven to 250°F.
- Heat butter and oil in large skillet until melted and hot. Add scallops in one layer. Cook 2 to 4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Transfer scallops to a baking sheet and keep warm in oven.
- In same skillet, melt 1 piece butter. Add minced shallot and cook until softened. Deglaze pan with wine, stirring to loosen browned bits.
- Cook until wine is reduced by one-half, about 1 minute. Add herbs and lemon juice. Whisk in remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide scallops among 4 plates. Spoon sauce over scallops.
Reduction is the process of thickening and intensifying the flavour of a liquid through rapid boiling. In the case of wine, it distills the mixture, causing most of the alcohol to burn away and leaving only the essential flavours. It is used most often in the preparation of sauces, gravies and syrups.
Both of these recipes first appeared in Duncan Holmes’s article “Wine Rules” in the September issue of Quench.
Creamy Dijon Chicken
- 250 g chicken breast (more if you have more people)
Sauce (enough for 4 breasts)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp finely-chopped onions
- 1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
- 125 ml dry white wine
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp finely chopped chives
- Melt the butter in a frying pan and stir in the onion and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute on high-ish heat.
- Add the wine, stir and cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat, add the cream and cook until reduced and thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the mustard. Maintain the sauce at about 140˚F until ready to serve.
- The chicken breasts can be baked in a 350˚F oven until cooked and golden, but are much better done on the barbecue. Butterfly them if you wish.
- Ladle on the sauce and sprinkle with chives. Serve with roast potato and vegetables.
Oyster Gratin with Champagne and Chives
- 16 oysters, removed from the shell (reserved in their liquor)
- 1 tsp shallot, chopped
- 100 ml champagne
- 4 tsp brunoise of leek/carrot/fennel
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Salt and ground white pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp Hollandaise sauce
- 2 tsp chives
- Poach the oysters lightly in the champagne with the chopped shallots and then remove them, set aside.
- Reduce the champagne cooking liquid over moderate heat by half. Add the brunoise of vegetable and whipping cream, reduce again by half. Season with salt and white pepper. Add a squeeze of lemon juice for freshness.
- Remove the reduction from the heat. Fold in the Hollandaise sauce and chives.
- Divide the oysters into 4 soup plates. Spoon the sauce over and then place the plates under the broiler to gratinée.
Gordon Ramsay Prepares Brill
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