Archive for April, 2010

If flavor matters, then the flavor *matters*

April 15th, 2010

Everyone has heard the adage, “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink”. The logic is that you shouldn’t add poor quality ingredients into your food because the flavors of that wine will affect the flavor of your meal.

So…if the flavor of your wine matters, then the flavor of your wine *matters*, right? Pinot Noir tastes very different from Cabernet, which tastes very different from Merlot. And when you cook with wine, the water and alcohol evaporate, concentrating these differences and making them more pronounced. Even if you knew the varietal you like, the problem isn’t solved. Take Chardonnay, for example. It can be oaky, or buttery, or green apple-like, or acidic. And each of these Chardonnay “types” will have a different flavor in your meal.

You can’t simply cook with a generic “dry red wine” or “dry white wine” for your meal (or rather, you probably shouldn’t) any more than you can add “spice” to your recipe. As with any ingredient, you want consistency and appropriateness of flavor.

ACADÉMIE wines are authentic dry wines perfectly blended and balanced for your cooking. We source wines from Napa, Lodi & Sonoma and blend them according to profiles we’ve developed with chefs. Each wine is unique and distinct, and does very targeted things in your everyday gourmet cooking.

Don’t forget to taste our wines before you cook with them (Buyer beware: they are very tasty. Try not to drink the whole bottle). Think about the flavors they will impart to your cooking.

Because after all, if flavor matters, then flavor matters, right?

Make time with thyme: The fastest sauce

April 10th, 2010

Grilled chicken breastWe’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: In the age of XYZ Corp’s Plastic Bottle Sauce (with loads of sodium), it’s easy to forget that you don’t have to be a master chef to create a sauce that is healthy and *very* fast to make (around 5-10 minutes).

The following sauce is an all time favorite of mine – and it’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever cooked: Wine reduction + butter + thyme.

First: What’s a wine reduction?

A reduction is the result of simmering your wine and letting the water and alcohol evaporate – which amplifies the flavors in your final “reduction” (all the goodness left in the sauce pan).

Second: Which wine?

For this reduction, we’ve chosen our Blend #1, a dry red wine blend (with a large Pinot Noir component) because it’s earthy, oaky nature is very complimentary to the only spice we use in the sauce: Thyme. As the sauce reduces, the spice notes of the wine itself get stronger and sharper. This harmonizes perfectly with the earthy and grassy components of the Thyme.

Lastly: Let’s get cooking!

  • Pour 1/3 cup of our Blend #1 into a sauce pan and crank up the heat.
  • Throw your chicken breast fillets on the grill (I love the George Foreman Grill because it’s so darned fast and easy to clean up).
  • You may want to start some rice too, to serve as a side.
  • The wine should be simmering now. You’ll want it to simmer until about half of it has evaporated. If in doubt, you can *carefully* pour the liquid into a measuring cup to see how much has evaporated so far.
  • Once there, toss in 3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter. Most butter sticks have a little measuring guide on the wrapper. Simply cut according to the measured out lines. Add to wine. Stir until thoroughly melted.
  • Now sprinkle in some thyme to taste and you’re there, baby!

Your chicken breasts should be done now. Pop them on a plate, spoon over your wine sauce and BAM!

So easy, yeah?

Seriously, it doesn’t get much easier than this for a gourmet meal. And you get all the health benefits of wine (and the flavor benefits of *right* wine, at that). Also, you boiled out the alcohol in the wine as you simmered it, so there’s no problems there (alcohol boils at around 175F and water boils at 212F).

There you have it, chef. Nice work. Bon appetit!

Five classic ‘tastes’ in your cooking

April 1st, 2010

Tasting soupGenerally, the qualities of your individual dishes will have a predominant taste and will fall into one of the five main taste categories: sour, salty, bitter, sweet, and umami. You may find that some ingredients have qualities from more than one category (mustard, for instance, can be sour and salty). Occasionally you can find a synergy between two categories that you wouldn’t think might go together (a great example is salted taffy).

Here are a few ingredients from each category to illustrate the four categories:

Sour:

vinegar, dry wine, sour cream, yogurt, tamarind, mustard, pickles, lemon juice, lemongrass, mustard

Great butter/beurre blanc sauce:
ACADÉMIE Wine Blend #2 + lemon juice + butter + salt. Butter balances out the sourness of the sauce and adds volume and body.

Salty:

fish sauce, soy sauce, mustard, capers, olives, anchovies, bacon, prosciutto, aged cheeses

Awesome teriyaki sauce:
ACADÉMIE Wine Blend #3 + soy sauce + garlic. Saltiness of the soy sauce is balanced by savory components of reduced wine and garlic.

Bitter:

cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, grapefruit, coffee, oaked wine, watercress, radicchio, endive, mustard greens, black pepper, walnuts, dark chocolate

Excellent reduction sauce for chicken breast:
ACADÉMIE Wine Blend #1 + thyme + butter. Earthiness of thyme is balanced by bitter oak and fruit components of the wine. Butter adds volume and melds flavors together.

Sweet:

sugar, chocolate, ketchup, roasted bell peppers, caramelized onions, molasses, melon, fruit juice, sweet wine, honey

Great fish or pork marinade:
ACADÉMIE Wine Blend #4 + cane sugar + coriander + ginger + dill weed. Sweetness of wine/sugar balanced by fruited aromatics and fresh summer spices.

Umami:

portabello, shiitake, porcini, and morel mushrooms, corn, smoked or cured fish, shellfish, soy sauce, miso

Tasty mushroom finishing sauce:
ACADÉMIE Wine Blend #3 + brown sugar + paprika + portabello mushrooms. Sticky sweet components balanced by umami from mushrooms.

Conclusion:

By keeping in mind like flavors, you can craft recipes (or build upon existing recipes) in a harmonious way.

One of the interesting things about cooking with wine is that it can easily support and add something special to ingredients in each of these different categories. Experiment. Have fun. Enjoy the fruits of your labor with your loved ones!

Sources:
Cooking Light, March 2008