Adding just a splash of white wine to a pan of littleneck clams being simmered in butter, garlic, shallots and cream. Shallow dof, focus on the wine and clams in the front.

Adding wine to your favorite recipe can add wonderful flavor—but too much or the wrong style wine can also ruin the taste of the dish. Wine contains sugars, acids and tannins and each of these tastes may be noticeable in your finished recipe.

A very dry wine has very few natural sugars remaining and is usually higher in alcohol. In contrast, the sweeter wines contain a larger amount of natural sugar from the grapes.

Acid is a term used to describe both red and white wines and it refers to the sharp bite in the wine (much like you would experience with lemon juice or vinegar). Acid can help bring out the natural flavors in a mild food, such as fish (this is why fish is often served with a wedge of lemon). To maintain a balance, check your recipe for acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar and cut back to make room for the acid in the wine.

Tannins are generally found in red wines and refers to the bitter element in the wine (similar to the bitterness you’ll find in a strong cup of tea). The tannins in red wine pair well with strongly flavored dishes and hearty foods, like steak.

Red or White?

Use the type of wine in the recipe that you would serve with the dish you are making. Unless you’re serving a rare or expensive wine, buy an extra bottle and use it in the recipe.

Generally, it’s thought that a light-flavored wine goes best with delicately flavored foods. It would follow that a bold-tasting wine might do well in a boldly flavored dish. For example, a dish heavily spiced usually needs a full-bodied red wine to stand up to it. One with a light or creamy sauce calls for a drier, light white wine.

When you’re making a red wine reduction sauce, watch out for the wine’s tannins, as they can become harsh in this type of recipe.

Read the bottle to find out what flavors are present in the wine, then you can be sure that it will work well with the same flavors in your recipe. The most important thing to remember is that if you like drinking it, you’ll like the flavor that it will add to your food. For deeper flavors, experiment with fortified wines like Port, Sherry, Madeira and Marsala.

Here are some recipes that use wine in a variety of ways.

Mussels in White Wine

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Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 pounds mussels, de-bearded, scrubbed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • Italian country-style bread (for serving)

Directions

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it begins to darken, about 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 1 minute.

Add mussels and 1/2 cup water to the pot, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mussels open (discard any that do not open), 10–12 minutes.

Ladle mussels and broth into shallow bowls and top with thyme; serve with bread.

Pasta all’Amatriciana

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces guanciale (salt-cured pork jowl), finely chopped
  • 4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound penne or other tube-shaped pasta
  • Finely grated Pecorino or Parmesan

Directions

Purée tomatoes with juices in a blender; set aside. Cook onion, guanciale, pancetta, oil, red pepper flakes and 1/2 cup water in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the water is evaporated and fat begins to render, 8–10 minutes.

Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring often, until reduced by half, 5–8 minutes.

Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover pan partially with a lid, reduce heat, and simmer until the meat is tender and flavors are melded, 40–45 minutes. Add sugar and season with salt and pepper.

When the sauce is almost done, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente; drain pasta.

Add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Serve topped with Pecorino.

Red Wine-Braised Brisket

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10–12 Servings

Ingredients

  • One 5-lb. untrimmed flat-cut brisket
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • One 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • One 750ml bottle full-bodied red wine
  • 8 carrots, peeled and cut in half

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Season brisket with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large ovenproof pot with a cover over medium-high. Cook brisket, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 8–10 minutes; transfer to a plate. Discard the fat in the pot.

Place onions, celery, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes, tomato paste and wine in the pot and stir to combine; season with salt and pepper. Place brisket on top, fat side up. Cover the pot and braise in the oven, spooning the braising liquid over the brisket every 30 minutes, until meat is fork-tender, 3–3 1/2 hours.

Uncover the pot and place the carrots around the brisket Return the pot to the oven uncovered and cook until the carrots are tender, the top of the brisket is browned and crisp, and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes. Skim fat from the surface of the sauce; discard. Remove brisket from the pot and slice against the grain, Serve with the braising sauce and carrots.

Chicken Thighs Cooked in White Wine

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4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-lidded pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.

Add shallots and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add thyme and white wine; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced, about 4 minutes.

Return chicken, skin side up, to the pot; add broth, bring to a simmer, cover, and transfer to the oven. Braise until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 20–25 minutes. Uncover; continue to cook in the oven until the skin begins to crisp, 8–10 minutes longer.

Braised Lamb Shanks

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8 servings

Ingredients

Lamb Shanks

  • 6 lbs. lamb shanks (6–8 shanks, depending on size), trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
  • 7 garlic cloves, 1 clove grated, 6 cloves minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups drained canned diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra if needed

Directions

Place lamb on a large rimmed baking sheet; season all over with 2 tablespoons salt and generously with pepper. Mix rosemary, fennel seeds and grated garlic in a small bowl; massage into the lamb. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour or, preferably, chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8–10 minutes.

Add minced garlic, flour, paprika and red pepper flakes. Stir vigorously to distribute flour. Cook, stirring often, until mixture becomes dry, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and wine. Simmer briskly, stirring often, until the juices thicken and the tomatoes begin to break down, about 10 minutes.

Gradually stir in the broth. Simmer until the flavors meld, 3–4 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add lamb shanks to the pot in a single layer, pushing them down into sauce (add additional broth if needed so that shanks are about ¾ submerged).

Roast, uncovered, until the tops of the shanks have browned, about 30 minutes. Using tongs, turn shanks over and roast for 30 minutes longer.

Cover and cook, turning shanks occasionally, until meat is fork-tender and almost falling off the bone, 45 minutes to 1½ hours (time will depend on size of shanks). Remove the pot from the oven and let the shanks rest in the liquid for 30 minutes.

Discard any fat from the surface of the lamb shank mixture and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer gently, occasionally turning shanks and stirring sauce, until heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve the shanks and sauce with polenta or couscous.

Pear Pie

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8 servings

Ingredients

  • Pie crust for a 9 inch double crust
  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1¾ cups dry red wine, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 pounds firm but ripe pears (such as Comice, Anjou, or Bartlett), peeled, cored, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions

Bring the ¾ cups granulated sugar, rosemary and 1½ cups of the wine to a boil; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 2/3 cup, 5–8 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Whisking constantly, gradually add butter and whisk until smooth. Set syrup aside.

Whisk cornstarch, cinnamon, the 5 teaspoons of flour and the remaining 1/4 cup wine in a small saucepan set over medium heat; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 1 minute. Slowly add reserved syrup, whisking until smooth, then stir in vanilla and salt. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375°F.

Mix pears and red wine syrup together in a large bowl.

Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9 inch pie dish. Pour filling into the crust and chill while the second crust is rolled.

Roll out the remaining disk of dough to about 10 inches and cut into twelve strips. Arrange 6 strips crosswise across the top of the pie. Arrange the remaining 6 strips lengthwise across the top of the pie, lifting crosswise strips and weaving lengthwise strips over and under to form a lattice.

Brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg and press ends of the strips and bottom crust together to seal. Trim strips to the same length as the bottom crust, then fold bottom crust over lattice strips; crimp edge. Brush crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with the granulated sugar.

Place pie on a rimmed baking sheet and bake 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F, rotate pie, and continue baking (tent with foil if the crust is browning too quickly) until juices are bubbling and the crust is golden brown, 60 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool at least 4 hours before slicing.

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