Does the alcohol add any thing to the flavour of the sauce or meat? Or is there another reason?
Depends on when you add it to the recipe. Most times, the alcohol cooks off leaving the flavors behind. I use beer in my chili, for example, because I find its flavors “bind” the other flavors together so much better than water. Beer-boiled shrimp is the same way. OTOH, I have several recipes for “hard” sauces that still have the alcohol in them at serving.
Alcohol adds tons of flavor to many dishes. As most of the alcohol will cook off during the cooking process, pretty much all one is left with is flavor, which is why most chefs will intone “Don’t cook with something you wouldn’t drink”. Different dishes call for different alcohols. I found that my best risotto ever came one New Years Day, when we had leftover champagne from the night before, so I used that instead of white wine.
Often, broth or apple cider can be substituted for those who cannot have any alcohol (recovering alcoholics or those who believe alcohol is eeeeevvvvvveeeeeelllllll). It’s not the same.
I use it primarily to deglaze a pan – it helps dissolve the browned bits on the bottom of a pan a little better than water or stock.
But, as it reduces, the flavors that are in the alcohol become more concentrated and can flavor a sauce. The alcohol can cook off, but there are a lot of flavors in whiskey or wine or beer that aren’t the alcohol.
Here is a bunch on the subject.
Alcohol releases flavors that are otherwise insoluable in water. Tomatoes, for instance, get a whole lot a flavor from wine. Always add some to your marinara sauce. And vodka is great in Italian white sauces. It intensifies the flavors.
Adding brandy to almost any rich and savory dish adds a whole new dimension.
Remember, of course, to take the pan off of the flame before adding alcohol. And pour it from a glass, not the bottle. There’s nothing culinarily desirable about third degree burns.
Bah, I say. I call the wife and kid in to truly appreciate my skillz by igniting that puppy. Put on a show! Do keep a lid and fire extiguisher at hand.
Igniting is ok, but you should always kill the flame, add alcohol, reignite flame then ignite, or move the pan off the flame while you add the booze, then move it back on and tilt it towards the burner or use an external flame source. Much safer.
Remember a show called Food 911? A woman called in because she was having problems making coq au vin. Part of the problem was that she nearly set her house on fire. The recipe called for a cup of brandy. She didn’t seem to realize that there is a difference between a cup and a tumbler. And she added it to a pot still on the burner. Big, big flames.
Which is kind of dubious, I think. The way I understand it, with something like wine, the very volatile aroma components will be driven off by much heating, and therefore using a drinking-quality wine for cooking is probably putting more money into it than necessary. The same thing applies with olive oil- you don’t generally cook with the expensive stuff, because the heat drives off the aromatic stuff. Save the expensive stuff for salad dressings, etc… where the olive aroma is more important.
I think the reason that the chefs say to cook with something you’d drink is to get people to avoid using cooking wine, which is sub-standard wine that’s salted like crazy. You’re likely to come out with a dish that tastes off relative to one made with normal table wine.
But… I doubt you’ll notice much difference in marinara sauce between a $6 bottle of cheapo Chianti and a $25 bottle of Chianti Classico.
I rarely use alcohol except for in stew. And oddly Ichiban japanese beer I find I like much more than Guiness or Heinkken.
I drink $6 Chianti, so you’d be right with me. But the general prohibition has more to do with the concentration of off-balance flavors these days than it does cheap “cooking” wine. That garp has so much salt in it anyway that it’s deadly to any dish with flavor. But yeah, in a tomato sauce, use the cheaper plonk, then drink the good stuff.
So a cheap beer, whiskey or wine will do just as well as the expensive brands?
Also,Why is white wine served with fish/chicken and red is served with red meat?
Same with beer?
Well, I drink the stuff between those two (most of my wine drinking is from stuff in the $10-$17 dollar range), so I’ll open the bottle to use a cup or two with my red gravy, and by the end of the day it will be history.
Agreed, cooking wines are horrible, and the manufacturers of cooking wines should be punished to the fullest extent of the law (which I will get around to writing shortly).
I believe traditionally the more robust, rich red wines complemented richer bolder meats like steak while lighter white wine wouldn’t overwhelm the more delicate taste of fish or chicken. There are roses and blush wines that are somewhere in between.
And you don’t have to follow the traditional pattern.
Here’s a good simple overview.
It depends on what you are doing with them, as outlined above.
The white/light, red/heavy system is just a guideline. It breaks down completely when you start tossing different flavors around. But as a general guideline, you want wines that won’t crush a delicate dish, or get lost in a powerful stew. Reds tend to go better with red meat. But it is all up to you and your tastebuds. If you like Chardonnay with your steak, go for it. But I’ll have a Zin, if you have any.
OTOH, beer goes with everything! Guinness and ice cream is a wonderful combination.
In a cooked dish, then anything that is cheap but not cheapest possible is usually fine. If you would use the drink as a mixer it should be good for cooking. Problems come only from those extremely cheap options that have bad aftertastes, as cooking will increase the aftertaste effect.
In non cooked dishes then the quality of the alcohol is much more important. Then don’t use something you wouldn’t be happy drinking neat. For instance Chinese stir fry is great with using cooking rice wine, but if you make drunken chicken where the chicken is first cooked and then marinaded in rice wine for a day and served cold, then decent Sake is worth using.
The red wine into tomato sauce thing can be kicked up a bit with the use of sweet vermouth, which positively causes a flavor explosion when added to even store bought tomato sauce (however in much smaller quantities than straight red wine). Don’t even get me started on my sweet vermouth sauce pizza with caramelized crust……Seriously killer stuff.
Amaretto and ice cream is great!
I don’t think this is true. The link references a peer-reviewed study showing that if, for example, you add the alcohol to the sauce and simmer it for 15 minutes, you only cook off 60% of the alcohol; you have to simmer it for two hours or so to get 90% of the alcohol to cook off.
It’s usually not a problem, but something to keep in mind if you’re cooking for a teetotaller, especially if they’re a recovering alcoholic.
I always knew that some remained, but I wasn’t aware the percentages were that high. If you are knowingly cooking for a recovering alcoholic or devout Muslim, then you shouldn’t use any liquor in cooking. As I can’t see myself in any situation where I’m willingly cooking for a proselytizing Bible-thumper who forswears liquor, that’s still open game.