Spirited Fare

Food flavored with wine is often bubbling with good taste

May 17, 2000|By Kathy Casey | Kathy Casey,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Certain foods -- such as wine -- impart an incomparable flavor and bouquet to a dish. Yes, wine is considered by many as a food, and it is not only pleasant to drink but also to cook with.

Whether used for cooking or drinking, it should be a good-quality wine, the rule being if you wouldn't drink it, then don't cook with it, for the flavor of the wine is the flavor that is imparted to the dish you're preparing.

Wine can appear in almost any type of dish, such as Bolognese Meat Sauce With Chianti. This sauce is slowly simmered at least two hours until it is so rich and delicious that you might want to forget the pasta and just eat the sauce. Or how about a "new" method for vinaigrette? The recipe for Merlot Double-Red-Wine Vinaigrette calls for cooking down red wine and red-wine vinegar to maximize the wine flavor. It is delicious just tossed with fresh organic greens.

I'm not a cook who always conforms to the rules, but in the recipe for Chardonnay Braised Chicken, I yield for flavor's sake to the white wine pairing with chicken. It is almost a textbook pairing, yet the chicken and wine are beautiful together when slowly oven-braised with toasted fennel seed, mushrooms, peppers, carrot, celery, onion and fresh thyme. Rich and perfumed with chardonnay, this preparation is finished with a little cream and fresh parsley and chives.

But if you are feeling a little rebellious and want to switch to red, prepare the dish another time with a petit sirah or Cote du Rhone.

So, that mutinous tip brings us to fish and wine, and the misconception that you must drink white wine with fish. I don't always live by that old rule. And I feel the same way about cooking fish with red wine, too. Try new things. Of course, white will work and be quite delicious in a butter sauce, but sometime try a nice merlot reduction for a beurre rouge.

A dry Gewurztraminer sets off the recipe for Gewurztraminer Poached Fruit. Easy, and even better made the day before, this is a refreshing light dessert. It is also very beautiful. Chunks of red- and green-skinned apple and pear, dried apricots, ruby tart cherries and ebony figs nestle against each other in the vanilla bean-flecked wine broth. Served in a flat, oversized bowl with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream, it's just the right ending to a "spirited" meal with friends.

Bolognese Meat Sauce With Chianti

Makes 12 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound pork butt, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 pound beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 cup small-diced onion

3/4 cup small-diced celery

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

3/4 cup small-diced carrot

1/2 cup small-diced green peppers

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes

1/4 teaspoon dried whole-leaf rosemary, crushed

1 teaspoon dried whole-leaf oregano

1 teaspoon dried leaf basil

1/2 teaspoon dried whole-leaf thyme

1 1/2 cups Chianti

2 cups beef broth

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

2 (1-pound, 12-ounce) cans pear tomatoes in juice

3/4 cup whole milk

salt

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add meat cubes and cook, browning on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove meat to plate and set aside.

Add onion to pot and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add celery, mushrooms, carrot and green peppers and cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Add garlic and chili flakes and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme and Chianti. Bring to boil and cook until slightly reduced, 2 minutes.

Add reserved browned meat, broth and tomato paste. Pour in juice from canned tomatoes. Add cut-up pear tomatoes to pot.

Bring to slow boil, then reduce heat to medium-low to low to keep at a constant slow simmer. Cook, stirring often, until meat is very tender and falling apart and sauce is very thick, about 2 hours. Stir in milk.

Remove from heat and stir sauce well, breaking apart meat and incorporating into sauce. Taste sauce for salt, and season as needed. (Extra sauce can be frozen for up to three months.)

Merlot Double-Red-Wine Vinaigrette With Simple Seasonal Greens

Makes 1 1/2 cups vinaigrette

1/2 cup merlot red wine

1/2 cup red-wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 tablespoon finely minced shallots

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

mixed seasonal greens, as needed

In small noncorrosive saucepan, combine wine and wine vinegar.

Bring to boil over high heat.

Continue boiling until liquid is reduced by half to measure 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Place cooled wine reduction into medium bowl.

Add mustard, garlic, shallots, salt and pepper and whisk together.

Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking continuously. (Mixture should be nicely emulsified.)

Refrigerate until needed, whisking well again before serving.

To serve, in large bowl, place about 1 tablespoon vinaigrette for every packed, heaping cup of greens.

Dressing is big-flavored, so not much is needed.

Toss well until each leaf is coated. Add more dressing or greens to taste.

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