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7 Secrets of Cooking With Wine

Raise a glass to this low-fat, high-flavor ingredient

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You know those bottles of wine you picked up because they were on sale, and now you're wondering what you are going to do with them? I've got your answer: Cook and bake with the wine. You probably wouldn't want to cook with a special bottle of wine but those wild-card bottles collecting dust in the pantry -- why not?

When I think of wine, I think of a great fat substitute in recipes. I'm probably unusual in this regard, but I actually use wine more often in cooking than I do as a beverage with dinner.

When you take some of the fat out of dishes, you usually need to add another ingredient to replace the lost moisture. Here are some examples of how wine can do just that:

  • Instead of sautéing veggies in heaps of butter or oil, you can sauté them in a smaller amount of oil plus some wine for flavor and moisture.
  • Instead of making a marinade with 1/2 cup of oil, decrease the oil to 1/4 cup and add 1/4 cup wine.
  • Instead of adding 3/4 cup of oil to a cake mix recipe, add 3/4 cup of white or dessert wine to the batter.

Here are my favorite ways to use wine in light cooking:

  • Wine helps cook and add flavor to fish. Deep-fried fish dipped in tartar sauce, albeit tasty, defeats the nutritional purpose of eating fish. One way to add flavor and moisture to fish without adding fat is to cook it with wine. You can add wine to the pan while the fish is simmering, poach the fish over a saucepan of boiling wine, or drizzle fish with a tablespoon or two of wine and bake it in a foil package.
  • Wine is a great ingredient in marinades. Wine is basically an acid ingredient (which helps tenderize the outside of the meat) and it has a lot of flavor. The wine-based marinade helps keep meat, poultry, or seafood moist while it cooks, too.
  • Wine can help cook and simmer foods. Add wine to dishes you're cooking in a skillet on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in the oven. Simmered along with the food, it adds flavor and moisture to whatever dish you're making.
  • Wine can be used in baking, too! For certain types of cakes, using wine or sherry in place of some of the fat not only lightens up the cake but adds complimentary flavors.

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7 Secrets of Cooking With Wine

Ready to start experimenting with wine cookery? Here are seven basics you should know.

1. Play off the subtle flavors in wine.

Here are some of the subtle food-like flavors that can come through in wine -- which you may want to capitalize on by adding some to dishes containing these foods:

  • White wine: melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olives, and mushrooms
  • Red wine: berries, peaches, currants, plums, cherries, oranges, chocolate, and coffee

2. Choosing dry vs. sweet

A very dry wine has very few natural sugars remaining, and is usually higher in alcohol. In contrast, the sweeter wines still contain a larger amount of natural sugar from the grapes. So choose the type of wine depending on the flavor you want in the dish you're making.

3. Tannins and acid

"Acid" is a term used to describe both red and white wines, and it refers to the sharp bite in the wine (much like you would experience with lemon juice or vinegar). Acid can help bring out the natural flavors in a mild food, such as fish (this is why fish is often served with an acidic wedge of lemon). Tannins are generally found in red wines; this word refers to the bitter element in the wine (similar to the bitterness you'll find in a strong cup of tea). The tannins in red wine pair well with strongly flavored dishes and hearty foods, like a nice juicy steak. "Tannins will act like palate cleansers when paired with foods high in protein, such as meat," says Marshall Rimann, host of The Wine Cellar, a radio show originating in Kansas City, Mo.

4. What type of wine should be used to cook which type of food?

Generally, it's thought that a light-flavored wine goes best with delicately flavored foods. It would follow that a bold-tasting wine might do well in a boldly flavored dish.

5. Red or white?

Don't be afraid to do your own thing, but generally, light-colored meats like chicken and fish, are paired with light-colored wines (white) while dark-colored meats, like beef, are paired with dark-colored wines (red). What about the "other white meat?" You can serve either red or white with pork, says Rimann. "Red dinner wines go well with hearty or highly seasoned foods, such as beef, pork, game, duck, goose, and pasta dishes, while white dinner wines tend to work with dishes containing chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, ham, and veal," he says.

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6. Consider the preparation

Rimann says it's important to consider not only the type of meat, but the way the meat is prepared when choosing a wine to use in cooking or serve at the table. For example, a dish heavy on the spices usually needs a full-bodied wine to stand up to it. One with a light or creamy sauce calls for a drier, light wine.

7. That last secret to cooking with wine: Have fun!

Feel free to experiment while cooking or baking with wine. Get creative, and try to invent new flavor combinations. And, after you've created something spectacular; don't forget to write down how you did it!

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Merlot & Onion Roast

Journal as: 1 serving "lean meat and moderate fat meat with 1 tsp. fat"

2 pounds beef top round roast, or similar (this roast is usually already trimmed of all visible fat)

Salt and pepper

8-10 garlic cloves

1 1/2 teaspoons canola or olive oil

3/4 cup French onion soup, condensed, from a can (such as Campbell's)

3/4 cup merlot (or other mellow red wine)

  • If your roast is the rolled-up type, remove mesh or ties from surface and unroll the roast. Arrange garlic cloves evenly on top, and then sprinkle freshly ground salt and pepper over the top. Roll the roast up (but don't put any mesh or ties back on).
  • Start heating the canola or olive oil in a medium nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the rolled-up roast to the pan and let the bottom brown for a couple of minutes. Flip and brown the other side (a couple minutes more). Carefully place browned roast in slow cooker so that it remains rolled up.
  • Pour onion soup concentrate and wine over the top. Cover and cook on LOW for about four hours.

Yield: 6 servings

Per serving: 240 calories, 33.5 g protein, 2 g carbohydrate, 7.9 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 3.5 g monounsaturated fat, 7 g polyunsaturated fat, 78 mg cholesterol, 0.2 g fiber, 285 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%.

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Chardonnay Spice Cake

Journal as: 1 portion sweet dessert OR 1 piece "small muffin, coffee cake, Danish, etc."

1 box (18.25 oz) white cake mix

1 package (5 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 cup fat-free sour cream

3/4 cup chardonnay (or other white wine)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup egg substitute

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the inside of a bundt pan with canola cooking spray, then dust with about 2 tablespoons of flour.
  • Add cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, and nutmeg to mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer on LOW speed to blend well.
  • Add the sour cream, wine, eggs, and egg substitute to mixing bowl and beat with mixer on medium speed for five minutes (scraping sides and bottom of bowl after a minute).
  • Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cake cool on rack in pan for 10 minutes. Invert pan on serving plate carefully to release the cake. Serve.

Yield: 12 servings

Per serving: 259 calories, 5 g protein, 48 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2.3 g monounsaturated fat, 1.9 g polyunsaturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 0.6 g fiber, 440 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 23%.

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Sources

SOURCE: Marshall Rimann, wine shop owner; host, The Wine Cellar, radio show dedicated to food and wine, Kansas City, Mo. Hormel Foods web site.

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