There are blogs and newsletters aplenty about food and wine pairings and what wine goes with a holiday turkey, etc. Fairplex has its own wine e-newsletter called Uncorked, the official e-newsletter of the Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits Competition. It’s filled with ideas about wine and recipes, design tips and award-winners from each year’s Los Angeles International Wine & Spirits and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competitions held in May and June.
But what putting wine in the dishes you prepare? Chefs agree that a judicious application of your favorite wine can deepen the flavor of a dish, adding a dimension that’s sometimes subtle and sometimes intense.
First, forget “cooking wine.” That was in your grandmother’s day. The rule is to only put into food a wine that you would enjoy drinking. Depending on the sophistication of your palate, this actually gives you quite a lot of wiggle room. Most recipes that incorporate wine into the ingredients list use only a cup or so, so you’ll want to be sure the remainder of the bottle is suitable for sipping. . . maybe while you’re cooking.
Things to remember: Wine, by nature, is a complex blend of flavors that come from the type of grape, where it was grown and how the vintner made it into wine. You don’t have to understand the implications of each of those components to choose a suitable wine for your recipe, however. If you want to be creative, you can study up on a wine’s particulars so that you can choose a wine that compliments the flavors in the dish you’re cooking. To a greater or lesser extent depending on when the wine is added and at what temperature, the alcohol in wine tends to evaporate during cooking. If it’s a concern to you, you should know that in most cases, some alcohol remains in the dish. What’s more important is that as the alcohol cooks off, the flavors of the wine become more intense. For a very good primer on cooking with wine, go to The Global Gourmet and look for The Nuances of Cooking with Wine by Dr. Joe LaVilla.
The traditional favorite wine-infused dish is Coq au Vin, which originally called for a rooster (coq is rooster
in French), according to Chef Jeff here at Fairplex. The wine was added as flavor and to tenderize the rooster. The rooster has been replaced by your standard grocery store chicken now, but the dish is still a favorite among chefs and gourmands who appreciate its flavor complexities. Note: This recipe completely debunks the theory that you only need a cup or so of wine. Coq au vin frequently calls for a bottle or two.
Here’s a 5-star (out of five) brisket recipe that uses a modest amount of wine and a lot of garlic from Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, a writer and food service industry professional, who says: “Don’t be afraid of the garlic. This may well be the best brisket you’ve ever tasted. Roasted whole garlic cloves have a delicious mild nutty taste with just a hint of garlic flavor. This brisket is moist and tender.”
Beef Brisket with 40 Cloves of Garlic
Don’t be afraid of the garlic. This may well be the best brisket you’ve ever tasted. Roasted whole garlic cloves have a delicious mild nutty taste with just a hint of garlic flavor. This brisket is moist and tender.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 (5 to 6 pounds) beef brisket, rinsed and patted dry
• Kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper
• 40 large cloves garlic, peeled (about 3 to 4 heads of garlic – see Notes)
• 1 large sweet onion, sliced and separated into rings
• 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
• 2 to 3 cups beef or chicken broth
• 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Season brisket liberally on both sides with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy, deep-sided, oven-proof skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to coat the bottom. Sear both sides of brisket, beginning with fat-side down, until golden brown. Remove to a platter.
Add garlic cloves and sweet onion rings to the remaining oil in the pan. Cook and stir until garlic begins to turn golden and sweet onions are limp.
Add red wine or balsamic vinegar and deglaze the pan, stirring for 1 minute while scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add beef or chicken broth, oregano, and basil. Bring back to a simmer, then turn off heat. Move garlic and onions to the side and return brisket to the Dutch oven or skillet. Spoon garlic and onions over the top of the brisket, cover tightly, and place in the oven.
Bake for 1 hour at 325 F. Reduce heat to 300 and bake an additional 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until brisket is fork-tender. Remove brisket to a platter and cover to keep warm. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Remove half of of garlic cloves and most of onions to a bowl. Skim off excess oil from the pan gravy and discard. Blend pan gravy and garlic until smooth. You can add a flour or cornstarch slurry to thicken gravy, if you wish. Return reserved whole garlic cloves and onions to the gravy.
Slice brisket diagonally across the grain. Serve with pan gravy.
Notes: Peeling such a large amount of garlic can be time-consuming. You can cut preparation time by using a garlic peeler tube. If you don’t mind paying for convenience, some markets sell peeled garlic in sealed containers in the produce section. Yield: 8 to 10 servings