Liven up the kitchen this month and add a little vino to that skillet. Cooking with wine is an easy way to improve and enhance the flavor of any dish. It also is a good way to use up bottle leftovers. Should you have any.
Most recipes give instructions on how to cook with wine, but if you're free-styling, here are a few FAQ:
Red or White? Usually red wines are added to red meat dishes and tomato based sauces. Pork, the white meat formerly known as red, can go either way, as can chicken and hearty seafood, though delicate white fish works best with white.
Sweet or Dry? Dry is definitely more common. The acidity of wine is one of the things that make it such a useful ingredient and while both sweet and dry wines have acidity, it is more pronounced in dry. Basically, the thing to remember is that wine's flavors will intensify as it evaporates, so if the dish needs a little brightening, choose a dry wine, like Morande Sauvignon Blanc or Canal Cabernet Sauvignon. If you want a touch of sweetness or a mellowing effect, try a fortified wine such as Marsala or an off dry one like Selbach Riesling. (This, by the way, makes a great sauce for pork tenderloin.)
Cooking wine or something more expensive? Avoid cooking wine, it has a ton of salt and tastes strange. You don't need spend a lot, but choose a wine you would enjoy drinking. If it is terrible in the glass it won't be better on the plate. That said, the subtle nuances of a very fine wine are lost on the stove, which is why it's okay to use something that has been open for a while, as long as it's not vinegar.
What about the alcohol, does it burn off? Water boils at 212F, alcohol burns off at 178F. Anywhere from 40-100 % of the alcohol will burn off depending on how long you let it cook, how much you add and when you add it. If you include it at the beginning of the process and let it reduce down, then virtually all alcohol will burn off. This is typical in deglazing. In Chicken Marsala, (see recipe below) you sauté the meat, remove it from the pan and add wine to melt all the crystallized bits and begin a sauce. In hearty stews such as Beef Burgundy, up to an entire bottle of Pinot Noir is used as both a marinade and cooking liquid. The wine's alcohol and acidity tenderize the meat overnight, while its fruit flavors meld with the other ingredients to create the basis of a wonderful stew. After the beef is browned, it simmers in the wine marinade and broth for hours; most of the alcohol evaporates. Finally, finishing a dish, or adding few tablespoons of wine at the end can give it an extra boost. Make sure to allow about 5-10 minutes to fully incorporate the flavors, and expect some alcohol to remain. Since such a small amount is used, when portioned out, it is not very much per person. Another bonus, sulfites vaporize even faster than alcohol, thus most dishes are sulfite-free.
Should I serve the same wine I've used in the dish? It is great place to start, but not the only choice. Better to use it for the chef's glass. That's the short pour the cook gets to savor while some one else sets the table.