Cooking with wine

Cooking with wine is certainly a fun way of spending time in the kitchen preparing a meal; just don’t forget to keep some wine for the actual cooking.  Just kidding, but let’s get started.
Beef Bourguignon, as example, is one of my favorite dishes and properly known by most people from either watching Julia Child in the earlier years on television or because of the recent movie called Julia and Juliet.  But that is not the only use for wine in cooking.  And as my 5 year old daughter would say – “I know that”, you are properly thinking the same.  Anyways, I use red wine often to either marinate pork tenderloins or skirt steaks
with it, deglazing the bottom of the roasting pan with a bit of wine is also a great starter to a good sauce.  But why are we doing all this in the first place?  I will tell you in just a minute, but please remember the following rule of thumb whenever cooking with wine! 
DO NOT use wine for cooking if you wouldn’t drink it yourself, but also don’t use the wine that you have cellared for years and are really looking forward to enjoy.
But what does wine to the food?  Why do we love to cook with it? 
Wine adds flavor!  Deep flavors!  That is certainly one important factor, but the truth is that wine has several benefits and serves multiple purposes when used for cooking.  Wine is acidic and complex; however this is where quality, grape varietal et cetera plays a big role.  You can’t expect a great extraction out of something that is bad to begin with.  The wine enhances other ingredients and unfolds its own flavors better when added to food during the cooking process.  Hence the beef bourguignon or the white wine that we add to our fish stock to make a nice and tasty bouillabaisse.
Do to wines natural acidity, it changes the chemistry in a dish as it tones down the fatty flavors.  It furthermore functions as a tenderizer when used to marinate meats.
Alright, so for a quick recap thus far – adding wine changes the dish due to its acidity and it offers great flavors to a dish.  A good quality wine is also important, but what exactly should I be cooking with?
One thing for sure, that stuff called cooking wine on the grocery store shelf ain’t it!  That stuff is so awful; I wouldn’t even offer that to my mother in law.  Letti, I really would not do that to you!  I promise. 
So, as I mentioned above, don’t cheap out, but don’t go crazy neither.  Place of origin is important and so is the right grape.  As example, when I cook a coq au vin or the beef bourguignon, I use Louis Jadot Bourgogne Pinot Noir.   That wine has is from France, is a Pinot Noir and at medium quality. 
Some people say it has to be really good quality wine and how they can tell the difference, but I remain very skeptic about that and nobody has proven me otherwise.  So don’t them fool you neither; if you want to try a trick of mine, keep an empty bottle of nice, expensive wine near the kitchen counter when your friends come over for dinner and hide the one you actually used for cooking.  They will say, “Wow, what a difference.  Must be that very expensive wine you cooked with.  At that point, it is up to you – Either call them out on it and have fun with it or let them believe and smile inside out.
One more thing that I want to send you on the way is what kind of varietal for what kind of cooking.
Use a chardonnay if your goal is to have a rich, buttery sauce or so, but use Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio/Gris for steamed mussels and other lighter dishes that ask for white wine.
For the red wines, I use the following guidelines.  If the dish is big, use a big wine such as Zinfandel, if it is origin specific, stick with that origin, just as I mentioned about the pinot noir and the beef bourguignon!

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