Veraison - Grapes are ripening !!

Veraison -  Grapes are ripening !!

Friday, April 19, 2013

When Wine Is In The Food

That wine is the classic food complement is without question. While it originally may have been produced and consumed for the buzz, that gentle, spirit-lifting euphoria, it was only a matter of time before chefs began to experiment with wine in food. How else to explain Oeufs Poché Meurette—eggs poached in red wine? That and numerous other culinary explorations have long confirmed that wine is food.

At the Barras household, wine fulfills a variety of responsibilities as a food item. First, virtually every night wine will accompany whatever we’re having for dinner. Water, beer or other beverages simply don’t elicit the same level of emotional and sensual satisfaction. Second, when it comes to summertime grilling, most of our marinades are made from scratch, and quite often wine is one of the key ingredients. Third, when autumn or wintertime braises or stews are bubbling in the oven, a healthy dose of dry wine, red or white, is frequently part of the recipe. Fourth, for anytime of the year, our roasting pans are typically deglazed to yield a palate-pleasing savory, finishing sauce.

Other than the ubiquitous spicy, tomato-based marinades, most others seem to be cloyingly sweet, fruit-like concoctions or sugary, soy sauced equivalents. If you want to give your palate a break from those, then consider the following: whisk together some dry red wine (any one of the bolder red varieties will work adequately), with a splash of mustard, a few grinds of black pepper, a pinch of fresh or dried herbs (thyme, savory, oregano, rosemary), some minced fresh garlic, and a little olive oil. Pour that emulsified mixture over the scored red meat you’ll be grilling, and let it work its flavoring magic for a couple hours.

Alternately, if you’re grilling chicken or pork then substitute a dry white wine for the red and proceed accordingly. Dry white vermouth, a bottle of which always resides in my fridge, is my “go to” cooking white wine. With aromatic herbs and spices as part of its profile, it brings an interesting flavor nuance to many dishes. Realistically, though, any aromatic, dry white wine will do the deed. Sauvignon blanc, Viognier and Albariño are all good options, since their underlying qualities will show up nicely on the meat. Gewürztraminer and Riesling are good choices if you want fruity “spice box” nuances.

When it comes to the lengthy stewing of meats with wine, look no further than Julia Child’s classic, soul-satisfying Beef Bourgignon—that deep, dark, savory masterpiece that exploits red wine’s aromatic and flavor qualities as the primary recipe ingredient. As for braising recipes, Coq au Vin Rouge is a long time, family favorite with its smoky bacon accents, teasingly sweet onions, and savory shitakes that round out that umami-laden experience. We tend to favor chicken thighs over breasts for this recipe, since breasts tend to dry out even when braised. Which red wines to use for stews and braises? Any young, full bodied, fruit-forward red should perform quite well. However, don’t sacrifice any of your well-aged collectibles—save them for serious swirling and sniffing.

As for deglazing roasting pans—that largely misunderstood and underutilized culinary finishing touch— nothing is simpler than pouring or dabbing off the accumulated fats from the bottom of the roasting pan, adding some broth and a splash of wine and then scraping up the caramelized bits while you simmer and thicken it all with a tablespoon or two of a corn starch and water solution. You will be amazed by the depth of the flavors that come off the bottom of that roasting pan! This works for virtually any item that is dry, oven-roasted that yields caramelized drippings—chicken, beef or lamb. This routine is worth researching and learning. It pays big dividends.

Lastly, the above examples are offered to remind you that wine is a food item that offers many modes of gastronomic enjoyment. If nothing else, they also demonstrate how to deal with that periodic, but very minor dining issue: what to do with last night’s unfinished bottle of wine? Re-cork it, place it in the fridge, and put it to use in subsequent dinners.

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