For even the most experienced home cooks, a love of wine doesn’t always translate directly to mastery of cooking with wine. It can be difficult to know which are the best wines to cook with, and when it’s preferable to reserve wine for your glass, rather than the pan. There are so many tempting recipes featuring red and white wines, that it’s definitely worth figuring it out. While there’s no real downside to culinary experiments, it’s always helpful to follow recipes for cooking with wine along with recommendations of the best wines to cook with from professional chefs. The most often-repeated piece of advice is to only cook with wines you would also be happy to drink.
The following are just a few classic recipes for cooking with wine that are worth opening a decent bottle for. (Did you even need a reason?)
The classic French dish of slow-cooked beef in a rich, red wine-based sauce was made famous in the United States by Julia Child. Along with the beef bourguignon recipe in her cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” Julia demonstrated its preparation on the first-ever episode of her television show. It might just be the quintessential recipe showcasing the art of cooking with wine. Here is an overview of the technique:
- Render the fat from a generous amount of bacon.
- Use that fat to brown cubes of beef and soften the vegetables.
- Add some flour to create a roux.
- Next comes the wine, almost a full bottle (saving a small glass for the chef), plus beef stock and the remaining ingredients.
- Allow a good 3 to 4 hours in the oven for the wine to reduce, meld with the aromatics and yield fork-tender meat in a rich, flavorful sauce.
You might modernize this class with short ribs or try Ina Garten’s quicker-cooking version of Child’s recipe. “Bourguignon” refers to Burgundy wine, which is named for the region of France but made from the Pinot Noir grape. Therefore, any good Pinot Noir such as Sweet Oaks’ Never a Dull Moment Pinot Noir with its crisp fruity notes, works perfectly for this recipe.
“Piccata” in the name of this Italian recipe doesn’t refer to wine; it means “pounded flat.” But white wine is a key ingredient, creating a light, delicate, yet punchy sauce along with capers and lemon. Here’s how:
- Butterfly and flatten the chicken breasts. Doing so tenderizes them while the uniform thickness ensures quick, even cooking.
- Dredge the chicken in seasoned flour.
- Brown the chicken in liberal amounts of butter, olive oil, or a blend of the two.
- Transfer the browned chicken to a plate while you create the quick-yet-delectable pan sauce.
- Add white wine, along with garlic and capers, to the pan juices, deglazing to scrape all the flavorful, buttery stuck bits into the sauce.
- Return the chicken to the pan to meet the sauce, and finish with more butter, fresh lemon juice and parsley.
While some recipes call for stock, there’s no better time to open a crisp, dry white wine, as featured in Chris Morocco’s recipe. A Pinot Grigio is one of the best wines to cook with chicken prepared in this way.
Perfect Pan Sauce
The perfect pan sauce is less of a recipe and more of an essential technique for cooking with wine that you can customize with consistently delicious results. Any time you have seared a quick-cooking cut of meat in a pan, whether it’s a steak, pork chop, duck breast, or piece of fish, you have the beginnings of a pan sauce at the ready. All you need is one of the best wines to cook with that particular meat or fish, which could be red or white, plus a few aromatics and pantry staples. (Tip: The method also works with seared mushrooms and vegetables.)
Gordon Ramsay describes the essential steps for making a wine-based pan sauce as follows:
- Transfer the seared food to a plate, leaving all the stuck bits (“fond”) on the pan.
- Spoon or pour out all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan.
- Saute aromatics (diced onions or shallots and garlic) in the remaining fat. Optionally add dried herbs and spices.
- With the heat medium-high, pour in a glass or two of dry red or white wine.
- Stir and simmer the liquid until it’s reduced by half, scraping up the fond.
- Optionally stir in a little butter or cream with the heat turned low.
Consider other flavorful add-ins like a spoonful of mustard, fresh herbs, Worcestershire sauce, citrus juice, soy sauce or balsamic vinegar.
Red Wine BBQ Sauce
Lest you think cooking with wine always means fancy European cuisine, here’s an incredible recipe for BBQ sauce boosted by red wine from Food & Wine’s Justin Chapple. In this all-American creation, the sharpness from Dijon mustard, smoky heat from chipotle chili in adobo sauce, and sweetness from ketchup and brown sugar are all balanced by the crisp acidity of dry red wine. Pinot Noir, one of the best wines to cook with whenever a recipe calls for red, is Chapple’s recommended choice. A crisp Sangiovese would be a great alternative.
Here’s how to prepare the sauce:
- Sautee minced shallots and garlic in olive oil until softened.
- Add red wine, ketchup, mustard, sugar and chipotle.
- Simmer over a low heat for about 15 minutes, or until thickened.
- Puree the sauce in a blender, or use an immersion blender.
The chef roasts chicken drumsticks and thighs in the rich, sticky sauce, but it would surely be just as excellent over pork chops, ribs, shrimp, or even a slab of firm tofu.
Want to Do More Cooking With Wine?
A worthy endeavor! If your love of wine extends to the kitchen, finding more recipes for cooking with wine and discovering the best wines to cook with can be so rewarding. Find your next favorite wine (for drinking or cooking) from Redneck Vineyards or schedule your next tasting with us today.