Dry Red Wine for Cooking?
Not quite a pairing question, but a wine and food question, nonetheless: What type of red is the best to use when a recipe calls for dry red wine?
Any good chef will tell you that they don't cook with anything they wouldn't drink (quality ingredients are always best). There is also a school of thought on cooking with the same wine you are having with the meal. I guess this approach is ok but I'm guessing that most of us won't be very willing to pour 1/3 of a bottle of anything to expensive into a stew.
Here are some guidelines:
The problem with really cheap wine (sorry Dane) is that they lack varietal character (don't taste like they should). One problem with this is, that when these wines are cooked off or reduced, these uncharacteristic flavours will concentrate.
When choosing a wine for cooking, you want to enhance the flavours of the dish, not dominate them. This means that lighter to medium bodied wines which have decent acidity are best. For whites, stay away from anything oaked as this flavour profile has a way of being a little to obvious in food.
White Wine; Crisp acidic whites like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris/Grigio, dry Rieslings, and un-oaked Chardonnays. If in a pinch, dry white vermouth is an excellent standby and because it's fortified, it keeps! Just use about a third less as it’s higher in alcohol and has a stronger flavour.
Red Wine; Balance and acidity are your friend here. Top choices are Chiantis, Rioja, and Pinot Noir but this can be more dish/recipe dependant than white wines.
Some rich beef, veal, and lamb braised recipes benefit from the addition of a fortified red wine like Marsala or Madeira as the dish can take it. Just take into account the extra strength they have and you'll be fine.
In the end, let your common sense prevail. Adding wine is no different than adding salt except it's the acidity you're looking for. Adding wine is one of the best ways to balance the flavours of a dish not to mention, it’s a great way to deglaze sucs.
First of all, thanks for the detailed response Patrick. I fully agree with the fact that a dish will be better with better quality wine. However, I have to admit that many chefs, and professional restaurants for that matter, do not use expensive wines (many chefs might cringe here but I'm just telling it like it is from my 25 years of cooking experience). Even some of the high-end hotels use very inexpensive cooking wines or less expensive boxed wines. And to be even more honest, so do I on many occasions to save the good stuff for drinking. Wine in a dish adds acidity and flavor or course, but it is also incorporated with so many other ingredients that in the end, it's the desired acidity that shines through. For the cooking school lessons on braising and stewing, we experimented with many dishes and used inexpensive wines with outstanding results.
In short, if you don't have a lot of money, don't be turned away from using less expensive wines in a dish (it will be better than no wine). As for the type of wine, I defer and agree with Patrick - Solid advice.
Thanks for the tips. I've always wondered which wines to use in cooking. Surely the taste of the wine is important in the influence it gives to the recipe, so that's why I've always wondered WHICH wine to use. I know you're supposed to pick one you'd drink, but there are so many flavours and types to choose from. Being a novice chef and one who doesn't know much about wine, trying to pick one for a recipe is frustrating.
Regular sherry would be better. A great substitue would be beef broth, just like chicken stock or broth is a good substitute for white wine, as is vermouth. Cooking sherry has too much added sodium and is really not recommended by chefs, however if you are a home cook such as myself, go ahead and try it. If you don't like it, get rid of the cooking sherry.
My go-to red for cooking is usually a Rhone blend - you can get them inexpensively but they are still highly drinkable without ruining the taste of your food, because I, like Patrick O. will not cook with anything I wouldn't drink, and anybody that cooks with crappy wine doesn't have much of a tasting palate.
there are now some pretty decent boxed wines out there. Because of the airtight bag and spigot delivery you can use just as much as you need and the rest keeps perfectly for future use. I always have a box of Pinot Gris/Grigio in the fridge as we do more chicken and pork than beef.