Monday, July 11, 2005

Cooking with Wine (part 1)

Choosing a wine to cook with is just as important and the wine you choose to accompany your meal. Wine is commonly used to add a subtle flavoring or a powerful zest to a dish.

To cook with wine wisely and effectively, here are a few basic things to keep in mind.
While water boils at 212° Fahrenheit, alcohol evaporates at only 175°. If you pour wine into a hot pan, more alcohol will evaporate than water. But as the amount of alcohol decreases in proportion to the water, less alcohol evaporates. The percent of alcohol left in the pan depends on how long you let the wine heat. Baked or simmered for 15 minutes, 40 percent of the initial alcohol in the wine remains. After one hour, 20 percent remains; after two-and-a-half hours, only 5 percent is left. If the wine is reduced to a syrupy glaze, then all of the alcohol has evaporated. What you are left with in all of these cases is the sweet, bitter or acidic flavors of the wine you used.

Therefore, the alcohol in the wine does not become more concentrated after cooking, but the other flavors in the wine do. This fact debunks the myth that you can actually get drunk by eating chicken marsala. The amount of time spent reducing the wine usually depends on the color of the wine. White wine should be cooked for a short amount of time to burn off the alcohol, but red wine needs to be reduced until almost all of the alcohol is evaporated. If it is cooked for longer, the initial purple color of a red wine turns to a rich red that will blend well with the brown colors of meat. There are several uses for wine during the cooking process. First, you can deglaze a saute' pan with wine as a base for a sauce. You can also use it as a marinade to tenderize meat before cooking to soften the meat's fibers. Use fortified wines as a splash of flavor at the end of the cooking process. In this case, you can taste the alcoholic flavors of the wine because the wine is not cooked for enough time to be reduced.

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