A reader called over the weekend with two questions related to cooking with wine.
The first was about trying to find sherry vinegar. It can be tricky to locate locally. If you can’t find it, here are the best substitutes (in order of preference):
1. Rice wine vinegar (available in the Asian foods section of many area supermarket)
2. Champagne vinegar
3. White wine vinegar
4. Red wine vinegar
The second question was a bit more complicated. The caller said she is not a wine drinker and when a recipe calls for a sweet white or a dry red, she doesn’t know what to look for in the store. My best advice is to look at the label. Often, it will offer a brief explanation of the wine and sometimes even show a scale of 1 to 10 sweetness/dryness.
A piece of advice: Avoid buying or cooking with anything labeled “cooking wine or sherry,” which are sold in the supermarket, typically found by the vinegars. These are made of a thin, cheap base wine to which salt and food coloring have been added so they are basically undrinkable and can be sold as non-alcoholic and avoid a tax stamp.
Another piece of advice: If you don’t drink wine and need some for a recipe, look at the store for the smallest bottle you can buy. Sometimes you will be able to find one-serving sizes. Also, you can freeze wine for later use in cooking if you have to buy a big bottle.
As best as I can explain, and this is a very generic and somewhat incomplete list, sweet whites typically are Riesling, Sauterne, sherry and Moscato (not a cooking wine). Each has a different sweetness level.
Sweet reds could include the light Zinfindel, Germany’s Dornfelder and Gewurztraminer; Italy’s Lambrusco, as well as port, Madeira and Marsala.
Dry whites for cooking: Best choice is a Sauvignon Blanc, followed by a Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.
Dry red for cooking: Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz/Syrah, Petite Syrah, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Chianti.
Here’s a classic French recipe that uses wine made simple from Realsimple.com.
Quick Beef Bourguignon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and pepper
10-ounce package sliced mushrooms
16-ounce package frozen pearl onions
2 cups red wine, preferably Burgundy or Pinot Noir
1 can golden mushroom soup
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
Season the steak with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the mushrooms and onions to the pan and cook until the liquid has evaporated.
Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, 5 to 6 minutes.
Stir in the soup and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil.
Add the steak and the juices from the bowl and simmer, 2 minutes. Divide into individual bowls and sprinkle with the parsley, if using. Serves 4.
Often served over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.
One of the popular soups at St. Louis Bread Co. is the Broccoli Cheddar. So popular that copycat recipes for it abound. Here’s one from Allrecipes.com.
Copycat Panera Broccoli
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped broccoli florets
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion in hot butter until translucent, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Whisk 1/4 cup melted butter and flour together in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; cook until flour loses it's granular texture, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk if necessary to keep the flour from burning, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Gradually pour milk into flour mixture while whisking constantly. Stir chicken stock into milk mixture. Bring to a simmer; cook until flour taste is gone and mixture is thickened, about 20 minutes. Add broccoli, carrots, sauteed onion, and celery; simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Stir Cheddar cheese into vegetable mixture until cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Makes 8 servings.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, 618-239-2664 or follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.