Valentine’s Day, perhaps the wine-y-est of holidays, is upon us. To celebrate, many of us will be splashing wine not only in our glasses, but also in our skillets, saucepans, and salad dressings.
Here, then, are a few tips for how to cook with wine.
1. Cook with red wine when a recipe calls for red, white wine when a recipe calls for white, dry (not sweet) wine when a recipe calls for dry, and sweet wine when a recipe calls for sweet. Beyond that, the particular type of, say, dry red wine that you use isn’t critical.
If you’re going for a perfect pairing of food and wine—and why wouldn’t you be???—it’s best if the wine in your food is the same variety as the wine in your glass—Merlot to drink, for example, and Merlot in the pan sauce—but not critical.
2. Don’t cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink. In other words, if you’re happy to drink inexpensive plonk, it’s fine for cooking. If you’re not, it’s not—that plonk’s not going to get any better by virtue of being whisked into a salad dressing.
On the other hand, unless you literally have money to flambé, using an expensive bottle also doesn’t make sense. So cook with something in between—whatever that means for you.
3. Know that when you add wine to a dish, essentially what you’re adding is a mild acid, which—as you know if you’ve been following along with the food and wine pairing story—will balance and possibly decrease your experience of acid and tannins in the wine you pair with it, while possibly increasing your experience of the wine’s fruit or sweetness. All good.
4. Perhaps most importantly, don’t worry about it too much. You’re eating. You’re drinking. It’s Valentine’s Day.
What’s not to love?
A few of my Valentine-appropriate recipes, on this site and elsewhere, made more delicious with wine:
Mushroom Sherry Soup
Herbed Pumpkin Risotto with Aged Balsamic
Shrimp Scampi with Green Onions and Orzo
Skillet-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Lavender and Red Wine-Butter Sauce
New York Steaks with Boursin and Merlot Sauce
Orange Creamsicle Floats with Sparkling Wine