Wine and food are practically inseparable in my life. Cooking with wine is essential if you want to make any of these traditional dishes, omitting the wine will produce a shallow image of the original dish.
Some folks believe you should cook with the cheapest wine you can put your hands on. I am not of that school; rather I believe that you should cook with what you drink. Keeping left over wine (yes, there is such a thing) in small batches in the freezer helps when you need just a bit of wine (use ice cube trays with lids, or Ziploc baggies).
To take the mystery out of which wines to use, I’ve chosen some readily available wines, here are my suggestions:
1. Boeuf Bourguignon
Translation: Beef with Burgundy. Over the years, I’ve made short cuts for this time consuming dish but finally settled in with Ina Gardner’s adaptation of Julia Child’s traditional recipe. The recipe includes bacon, but if you choose to omit it you’ll want to fill the void with a smokey, masculine Pinot Noir. Try Don & Son’s The Crusher, Pinot Noir *.
2. Beef Ragù
No; not from the jar. This is a long cooking dish, and many use the slow cooker to obtain the richness this dish exudes. I often use the recipe from Martha Stewart Living. Since it calls for about ½ bottle of dry red wine, pick your favorite Zinfandel or Primitivo, then you can sip the other ½ while the dish is cooking. Try Napa Cellars, Zinfandel * — it has a nice earthy feel that will complement this hearty dish.
Quite a distant relative from the hearty Beef Ragu, this is a light and fresh pasta sauce. Many Marinara recipes do not call for wine, but I add it to cut thru the acid of the tomatoes. You want to pick a fresh medium bodied wine like Casalino, Chianti Classico.
4. Greek Lamb Stew
Nigella Lawson’s Greek Lamb Stew is cooked with 1 bottle of white wine; it’s one of the most luscious stews I’ve ever had. Try to seek out a dry Greek white wine, but if you come up empty handed, go for a bone dry Riesling such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, Dry Riesling.
5. Shrimp Scampi
Emeril Lagasse’s recipe is spot on for this classic shrimp dish. I like to make this dish with white wines hailing from seafaring regions. The Northwest coast of Spain produces wonderful Albariño wines and are perfect for seafood dishes. Try Salneval Albariño from Rias Baixas, Spain.
6. Saffron Rice
My absolute favorite dish from “The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes” cookbook by Susann Geiskope-Hadler and Mindy Toomay. Much like making a Risotto, the wine is added to the rice and allowed to absorb. Keeping with the fresh feel this dish has, try Angeline Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley.
My favorite is Lidia Bastianich’s Truffle Risotto. Risotto is a dish that’s easy to screw up, but Lidia talks you thru the steps and makes it feel like she’s right there with you in the kitchen. This dish calls for dry white wine try Cline, Viognier,
8. Chicken with Port Wine
This is my Cousin Barbara’s recipe: take 1 chicken and pour a bottle of Port over it. Cook; baste if you feel like it. I’m sure there are other more elaborate versions of Barbara’s dish, but when you are in a rush there’s nothing like it. Try a Taylor Fladgate, Tawny Port; it won’t break the bank.
9. Coq au Vin
Translation: Chicken and Wine. There are so many versions of this classic French dish, the key things are to get the best chicken you can find and the freshest herbs. Try to seek out a red wine from Burgundy if you can, but I’ve also made this with Chilensis, Pinot Noir Maule Valley, Chile with stellar results.
10. Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Ina Gartner has a great recipe for this dish. As crazy as it may sound, the garlic isn’t overwhelming. Since this dish has a creamy texture and calls for a dry white wine, I generally make this with a creamy vanilla Chardonnay. Pick your favorite or try J Lohr Riverstone, Chardonnay.
11. Chicken Cacciatore
Hands down, Giada De Laurentis has this recipe all wrapped up. The addition of the capers gives it an added dimension of yummi-ness. She calls for about a cup of dry white wine; I use a bone dry Riesling. Try to find Rooster Hill Vineyards Medium Sweet Riesling*. The classification on the label has to do with sweetness levels at harvest not in the bottle. This is a dry Riesling with lemon aromas that will complement the freshness of the dish.
12. Peanut Butter and Jelly
Not the PB&J you send your kids off to school with, I use Merlot Jelly. I don’t have PB&J often, but every now and again, on the weekends, this hits the spot. Making the jelly isn’t all that complicated. The recipe is here at WineEveryday.net. I’ve used Merlot from Pacific Coast Vineyards, as well as blending left over bottles of Syrah, Malbec and Pinot Noir with remarkable results.
Most of these wines are under $15 a bottle, making “cooking in” a cost saving alternative to “dining out.” Experiment with your favorite dishes and see how switching up the wine makes a difference.
What are your favorite dishes and what wines do you reach for when you cook? I would love to know! Cheers!