Great ideas for cooking with wine

May 8, 2013 

There is an old axiom that goes along the lines of "I love cooking with wine and sometimes I even add it to the dish that I am making." While many people use wine in their recipes, not everyone uses the same quality of wine. When cooking with wine, there are choices that have to be made -- the first of which is what type of wine to choose. The major consideration is choosing a wine to cook with is how it will enhance your recipe.

Available in any grocery store is a product that is generally labeled "cooking wine." I recently perused the shelves of a local store to determine exactly what is in cooking wine only to learn that in addition to the wine, two tablespoons of this product contains 190 milligrams of sodium. On the other hand, there is an insignificant amount of sodium found in red and white table wines, with a 6-ounce serving of either containing approximately 8 mg. From a health standpoint, too much sodium is not good for you.

Sauvignon Blanc is a varietal that I have found to be quite useful for cooking purposes, particularly with scallops and other shellfish. In cooking scallops, I like to start by melting some butter in a skillet and then sauté some finely chopped onions or shallots until they are translucent. Next, I add a cup of the wine and simmer until at least half of it evaporates. I add heavy cream and, once it begins to thicken, add a pound of sea scallops. When the scallops are done, season with salt and pepper and serve.

On a cold winter day, there is nothing better than a pot roast made in a slow-cooker. I prefer to use a sirloin tip

roast, which I brown in oil before placing it in the cooker. Then add chopped onions, celery, garlic, mushrooms and red potatoes ­-- along with a whole bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon and let it cook on low for eigh hours. Merlot or Shiraz could be substituted in place of the Cabernet if you prefer either of those varietals better.

Chicken Marsala is a dish that is named after a fortified wine produced in the Sicily region of Italy and this dish is quite easy to make. Start by dredging chicken breasts that have been pounded very thin in flour that has been seasoned with garlic powder and oregano. Then heat oil and butter in a skillet and cook the chicken breasts on medium to high heat until brown on both sides. Remove the chicken and add sliced mushrooms, cooking until they begin to release their liquids. The next step is to add Marsala wine and boil until the wine is reduced almost in half. I then add chicken broth and let it cook for a couple of minutes before returning the chicken breasts to the skillet to allow them to cook until done. Serve with the Marsala sauce spooned over the chicken.

While you don't have to break the bank with the wine that you choose to cook with, it is important that you use a wine you are willing to drink and serve your dinner guests. A wine that is poor in quality can impart flavors into the finished dish that make it distasteful. In addition to the flavors that wine adds to the recipes, my favorite benefit is the aroma that it creates throughout the kitchen as well as the entire house.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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