The Ottumwa Courier

December 23, 2010

IOWA WINERIES: Cooking with wine is a simple affair

A toast to Iowa wineries

MATT MILNER
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — You’ve made the leap into drinking wines and you have a couple of favorites. Why not try cooking with them?

Using wine as an ingredient doesn’t have to be difficult, and it’s a good way to introduce flavors you might miss otherwise. Experts have one major rule, though: Don’t use something you would not drink on its own.

“Don’t buy cooking sherry. Don’t buy cooking anything,” said Chef Gordon Rader, lead instructor at Indian Hills Community College’s culinary program.

Rader offered a couple of basic concepts for people who want to bring wine into the kitchen. The simplest is using it as a marinade. Take a piece of beef, season it lightly and put it into a plastic bag. Then pour a good red wine over the beef and let it sit for a full day.

The time gives the wine a chance to work its way into the beef, adding moisture and flavor as it does. After 24 hours, the beef can be cooked in virtually any style, including over the grill. The alcohol in the wine will evaporate as the meat cooks.

Red wine also works well for adding body and depth to things like a beef stew. White wines work with lighter meat, like fish or chicken.

If you start with the ingredients in a pan, there’s an opportunity there as well. Rader cited chicken as an example. Take chicken breasts with the skin on, season them with flour, salt and pepper before putting them in the pan. Let them cook it through.

When you take the chicken out, there should be little brown bits left in the pan. That’s called the fond, and it’s a good sign. Fond has a lot of flavor that can be brought back into the dish by deglazing the pan.

To do that, take some white wine and pour it in, scraping at the bottom of the pan to loosen everything. Add a little bit of dijon mustard and a quarter-cup of heavy cream for a sauce and let it cook down a bit.

The resulting sauce will enhance the chicken flavor. It’s an easy technique, but it will impress people.

Rader suggests taking a look through bookstores and the cooking section as well. He’s particularly fond of the book “What to Drink With What You Eat,” by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page. It’s not what most people think of when they think wine and food pairings.

“He’s even got a section where, if you’ve got a Big Mac, here’s what to pair it with,” Rader said.