What’s Cooking?

Wine can be the finest ingredient

Does quality matter when using wine to cook? The answer is yes and no. For dishes in which wine is heavily reduced, or cooked down, the quality doesn’t make much of a difference. For those dishes in which the wine retains some of its alcohol, or if the alcohol is cooked off, you should consider using a nicer bottle. Most of the time, these are braises in which meat and vegetables are cooked for a long time with wine and stock.

And should you drink the same wine you’re cooking with? I’m a big proponent of it. Here are some classic recipes to try. 

French Onion Soup and Lustau Amontillado Sherry “Los Arcos,” $17

I prefer French onion soup made with sherry and cognac, which give an additional caramel note to the broth. The Lustau sherry is off-dry with a lovely walnutty note.

Brasato al Barolo and Seghesio “Old Vine” Zinfandel, Sonoma County, 2009, $38

This is beef short ribs braised with Barolo red wine from Italy. Since real Barolo is prohibitively expensive, substitute Zinfandel and enjoy the dish with one of the richest Zins on the market.

Muscat Poached Pears with Durban Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, 2009, $16

Muscat adds a floral, peachy note to the pears in this classic. Enjoy with sour cream. The Durban is the rare dessert wine that’s affordable—and still tastes
like wine!  

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

Read more Off the Vine columns here

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