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Famous chefs like Dom DeLuise and Rachel Ray toss wine into their recipes with careless ease. But there are some rules of thumb you should know if you intend to mix food and wine on the stove. The first and most important rule of thumb is: cook only with a wine you would drink. Avoid so-called "cooking wine" located in the supermarket near the vinegar. Wine labeled "cooking wine" is a poor quality wine to which salt is added, either to prevent you from drinking it straight or to "help" in seasoning. Chefs say to avoid this wine, even if it means not cooking with wine at all. Here are some wines that are great to cook with: - If a recipe calls for dry white wine, the best all-around choice is a quality American Sauvignon Blanc. This wine will be very dry and offer a fresh light herbal tilt that will enhance nearly any dish. - Zinfandels have a berry or cherry character, which would be a nice background to a fruit sauce for duck. - A buttery Chardonnay is the perfect base for a beurre blanc. - A sweet Vermouth would be a great addition to a fruit dessert that has a hint of herbs in it. - Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Viognier all have dynamic fruity flavors and exotic floral aromas that counterbalance heavily spiced dishes. - If a recipe calls for a dry red wine, consider the heartiness of the dish. A long-simmered leg of lamb or beef roast calls for a correspondingly hearty wine, such as a Petite Syrah or a Zinfandel. A lighter dish might call for a less powerful red -- think Pinot Noir or Chianti. - Get to know Port, Sherry, Madeira, and Marsala. These are among the best wines good cooks can have on hand. They pack the most intense flavors and -- because they're fortified with a little more alcohol than table wine -- have the longest life on the pantry shelf. The more you learn about the characteristics of your favorite wines, the more creative you can be with how you cook with them.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|