We all love to drink wine. We love to break out a new stemware set and pour out an aged bottle of Merlot for a gaggle of special guests. It’s an easy method of entertainment; wine provides a medium for good conversation, deep laughter, and memorable evenings, but what if it could provide a memorable meal too? Along with serving it in a glass, there are several ways that wine can be incorporated with the food it accompanies.
In order to better utilize wine into all aspects of your next soirée, Italian chef and restaurateur, Adam Cacciotti—owner and operator of Sergio’s Italian Restaurant in Zephyrhills, Florida—provides insight into how to effectively cook with wine. Through his extensive training in the culinary arts, Cacciotti offers simple techniques that anyone can use to become a master in the kitchen, and a hit among guests.
From his impressive career of cooking for several restaurants in Italy, such as Chia Laguna and Villa Crespi Relais et Chateaux, Cacciotti confirms that the use of wine in food “has to be subtle.” The best way to implement a subtle approach is through a process called deglazing.
“This happens when you’re sautéing anything, like shrimp and mussels with some olive oil and garlic,” Cacciotti explains. “You wait until the pan gets nice and hot, and then you add in your wine to bring out the flavors of the main components.”
Basically, the heat needs to be raised to a high temperature so that the liquid inside the pan starts to boil. Once this happens, it’s important to then stir the contents regularly and scrape up any bits that remain at the bottom. This process allows the proteins in the dish to permeate with the wine and makes for an unbelievable array of flavors.
“Depending on how much wine you like to use (Cacciotti recommends half of a cup to one cup), the liquid will turn into a sauce, but you want to be careful so that the wine taste isn’t too powerful,” says Cacciotti. “Wine can be a very pungent, strong addition to a dish, so it’s important to reduce it so that it becomes well-balanced.”
Working side-by-side with the process of Deglazing, reduction is a method of solidifying the liquid of a dish; fortifying its flavors by boiling and simmering it down.
“To create a better consistency with your liquids in the pan, it’s better to take your proteins out while you’re reducing,” Cacciotti suggests. “Meats can get in the way of a reduction by consuming too much heat in the pan and soaking up the sauce, so if you’re looking to go for a sauce to accompany the meats, then do your reduction without them. Although if you want the proteins to have a juicy and lush taste, then leave them in, but be ready to reduce for a longer period.”
A way to counter a congested pan is to use a sauce pan with a large surface area. With more room to cook, components can have the ability to move around while still allowing space for the liquids to thicken in a proper heat.
“It’s crucial to remember that if you’re cooking in a huge pan, it’ll eat up a lot of time during the reduction. Using a shallow pan is always better to transfer the heat as quickly as possible.”
Typically, Marasala Wine is most commonly used for cooking. It’s a good choice because it is versatile enough to be used for dishes that are either sweet or dry, but it’s necessary to use the right kind in order to produce the desired effects.
“Usually there are dry and sweet Marasalas,” says Cacciotti. “You would use a dry Marsala for tangier dishes as a way to counter-balance, and you would use a sweet Marsala for thick sauces.”
Marsala wine comes in three different colors; Oro (Gold), Ambra (Amber), and Rubino. Oro is the driest of the three, ambra is in the middle, and rubino is the sweetest.
“Marsala is nice because it offers a sort of meter to gauge the level of flavors in your food,” Cacciotti reinforces. “But I even like to use a nice Chianti wine because it’s a little sweet while still being on the drier side of selections.”
More than anything, Cacciotti reminds everyone that it really all depends on the preference of the chef. “If you’re looking for a sweeter texture, use a Marsala. If you need a drier sauce, use a Chianti. Some people like a sweeter taste, so it’s really up to the palate of the guests and the chef’s plan for the meal.
“With white wines, it’s more about bringing out the other flavors in the dish, rather than infusing them with a new ingredient,” says Cacciotti.
White wines are common for seafood dishes, whereas red wines are used for red meats, such as steak, veal, lamb, and pork. Cacciotti recommends Pinot Grigio or Chablis as the best white wines to incorporate for seafood dishes because of their ability to “compliment the other components without overpowering them. The two wines are basically the same thing; not much sweetness, but a good, original flavor enhancer.”
In addition to Cacciotti’s recommendations, other white wines, like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, are commonly used in many kinds of cuisine, but it’s critical to choose the right one to match with flavors. Much like a Marsala wine, white wines have the capability to be sweet or dry. “Pinot Grigio is definitely the mildest of the three,” Cacciotti describes. “Sauvignon Blanc tends to be a bit more unique, and Chardonnay is by far the fruitiest.”
Once again, depending on what dish you’re preparing, make sure to use a wine that reflects the flavor profile; keeping suit alongside the wine being served with the meal.
“Something to always keep in mind, too, is that each wine has a different alcohol content,” says Cacciotti. “Remember to choose a wine with an average percentage (10-15%) of alcohol. Wines with too much alcohol won’t reduce as fast, and your dish can end up a watery mess.”
This article was originally posted on Winecoolerdirect.com