When flipping through cookbooks, scouring Pinterest, or browsing cooking blogs as you plan out meals, how many of you deliberately avoid recipes that involve wine, simply because you have no idea what type or brand to buy? Don’t be ashamed, it’s not like this is something we are taught growing up or even attributable to natural intuition. I learned how to cook through instruction and practice (heck, I’m still learning, and I love it), and the same goes with learning which wines work well to cook with. Except I am going to cut out some of the trial & error for you by giving you a solid recommendation! You no longer have to be intimidated by cooking with white wine (I’ll touch on red soon)… aren’t you excited? Keep reading….
Cardinal rule of cooking: the wine you cook with should be something you would want to drink. Do not cut corners by buying icky, cheap, vinegar-like wines… they will only ruin your dish. And also, I forbid you, NEVER buy the bottled cooking wines in the condiments section of the supermarket. Just don’t. Trust me, they’re abysmal. It would be better to just omit the wine entirely if you’re going to go that route. But you’re not, because you are a culinary god/goddess who wants to be an expert on cooking with wine! Read on!
When cooking with white wines, you’ll typically want to select dry whites, such as chardonnay, pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc. When you add white wine to a savory dish, the alcohol will cook off and the remaining flavors will complement and enhance your dish, imparting dimensions of rich taste that you wouldn’t get by leaving it out. The enzymes and other compounds in the alcohol are playing a role on the chemical level, too, breaking down the food as it is heated, but since I never had to take chemistry in high school (I opted for college-level anatomy & physiology instead, overachiever that I was), this is not my area of expertise. Since what you’re really after most of the time is just good flavor and the right acidic content, this wine has all the flavor you need at a price you’re willing to pay.
Columbia Crest Two Vines Sauvignon Blanc (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases) is my go-to bottle when I need a good, reliable dry white for cooking and accompanying the subsequent meal. Priced oh so reasonably at less than $10 a bottle, it’s the equivalent of keeping a good soy sauce or other quality condiment in your pantry. The flavors are good, but not so overpowering that they throw the balance off of your dish.
From the tasting notes: “This fresh, lively Sauvignon Blanc opens with aromas of lemon zest, honeydew melon, dried herbs and a hint of freshly cut grass which are typical notes of the variety. Juicy flavors of melon, gooseberry and kiwi end with a lengthy, bright citrus-like finish.” Now, doesn’t this sound like something you could sip on with dinner, or sample while you’re cooking?
I prefer cooking with Sauvignon Blancs or Pinot Grigios as opposed to Chardonnays, because with Chardonnays there are the more pronounced issues of “oak” (Chardonnay is fermented in steel or oak, and this will greatly affect the taste of the wine) and that can interfere with your recipe. You’ll have hardly any losses across the board with Sauvignon Blanc – chicken, fish, etc. all stand up well with this wine.
Just for fun, here is a recipe you can try that calls for a dry white wine such as this (shucks, whaddya know?). This is modified slightly from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats, (As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases) one of my favorite cookbooks that I used to teach myself “finer” cooking beyond basic things like spaghetti and scrambled eggs. Bon Appetit! 🙂
Sweet Sea Scallops in a Caper-Raisin Sauce
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh parsley (I use dried, it’s easier, though fresh will taste way better)
3 T capers, drained
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. golden raisins
16 sea scallops, drained and trimmed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T unsalted butter
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the shallots, cook for a minute or two, season with salt and pepper, then combine with the parsley and capers. Add the wine and golden raisins. Simmer until wine is reduced and the mixture is at the consistency of a thick, chunky sauce. Transfer the sauce to a bowl, reserve.
Wipe out the pan and return to the heat, raising to high. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, add a little olive oil to your skillet, add the scallops and sear them for two minutes on each side. Once cooked through, lower the heat a bit and add back the sauce to the pan, along with the lemon juice. Cook for a couple more minutes. Remove the scallops from the pan and arrange on a serving platter. Remove the pan from the stove, add the 2 T butter and melt it in the pan with the sauce, and then pour over the scallops.
Serve with crusty bread, a green salad, and a glass of Columbia Crest Two Vines Sauvignon Blanc!