I realized it was time to get back in the Entertaining Saddle as soon as the Red Sox lost the ALCS. Football is great, don't get me wrong, but we're only talking about 2 days of Go Time each week. And with my favorite cooking magazine, Eating Well, bursting with fall/harvest/pre-holiday recipes for easy entertaining, the only thing left for me to do was call up some friends. Saturday night I laid out a feast. My guests were delighted with the Aged Mahon cheese (drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with thyme), sliced, marinated salami and mixed olives I set out to wet their appetites; they were equally intrigued by and happy with the Lambrusco I paired accordingly (sweet and salty are always a safe bet!). Meanwhile, I was putting the final touches on the main course in the kitchen - pork loin with roasted grape sauce. I'm not one of those entertainer types who has to know a recipe before I introduce it to my guests. I just give it a shot and see how it goes, pairing the wine I think best. Fortunately my friends are of a similar mind and so happy 'guinea pigs'.
But when it comes to cooking with wine, sometimes recipes can be difficult to discern. The recipe for the grape sauce called for either Madeira or dry, white wine. Madeira is a fortified wine, with varying levels of sweetness and nutty characteristics. Dry, white wine is the exact opposite. Since I wasn't exactly sure what the grape sauce would turn out like - a lighter but flavorful sauce or a rich gravy - making the decision was that much harder. I consulted with my fellow wine buyer. And he made a brilliant recommendation: use an old, dry white wine. Because old white wines develop a kind of richer, nuttier almost dessert-like quality due to excessive oxidation, I would essentially split the difference of the wine recommendations in the recipe. I unearthed a bottle of 2002 Sauvignon Blanc from a case of wine that had gotten lost in the bowels of the shop. And it was perfect!
While I extrapolated from the recipe to find a good answer, I still stand by the most important rule of thumb when it comes to cooking with wine. ONLY cook with wine you would be happy to drink, too. (In fact, I have a fabulous Birthday card on my fridge that reiterates the point perfectly. It says "I love cooking with wine...sometimes I even put it in the food!". ) Did I taste the wine before I poured it into my sauce? Absolutely. Old wine won't hurt you. And in the case of white wine, it just tastes sweet as it ages. Could I have had a glass? Sure! It was reminiscent of creme brulee, in fact. But we had my homemade apple crumble pie on hand for dessert so I passed this time....
What wine cooking conundrums have you encountered? How have you solved them?