I don’t come from a family that drinks alcohol. The only wine my father had on hand was buried in the back of the pantry behind bottles of other rarely used cooking liquids. It was labeled “cooking wine” and was probably purchased for a recipe that only called for a tablespoon. Most culinary wines are fortified with distilled spirits and flavored with salt and sweeteners and have no place in my kitchen. In my opinion, it should never be used as a substitute for real wine in any recipe.
Most of us have heard that you should only cook with the wine you drink. I suppose this makes sense, although I care more about the wine I pour into the glass than the wine I cook with. I prefer to use medium quality wines for cooking and better wines for drinking. Bottled wines or partially opened wines for several days are good for making sauces and marinades, but you should avoid wines with added flavors.
Deglazing a hot pan to break up flavorful pieces of meat is the start of a great sauce. After browning the duck or goose breast to the desired temperature, remove the meat, add 1/4 cup of wine to the hot pan, stir and cook to reduce the liquid to just a few tablespoons. Then remove the pan from the heat and add a few tablespoons of chilled butter and chopped fresh rosemary leaves for a simple but elegant sauce.
When making a wine marinade, boil the wine first to evaporate the alcohol and reduce its volume. This will concentrate the acidity and flavor of the wine. For a marinade that enhances the flavor of any wild game dish, rather than masking it, add 2 cups of wine to a saucepan and cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup, then add minced garlic, olive oil, salt and vinegar. Pepper to taste, and leave to cool.
The mistake I see most often from home cooks is not reducing the wine properly. Reducing wine removes the taste of alcohol and intensifies the flavour. If the liquid is not reduced enough, the sauce will be too thin.
Basic red wine sauce
Yield: About 1/2 cup red wine sauce, makes 4 to 6 servings
This basic red wine sauce is just that—Basic. Feel free to experiment with adding balsamic vinegar, garlic, or a sprig of fresh rosemary. For more depth of flavour, cover a pot with olive oil and lightly brown the shallots before adding the wine. Or try using equal parts red wine and beef or game broth.
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 1 medium leek, peeled and chopped
- A quarter cup of chilled butter, cut into pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Add the wine and shallots to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until liquid reduces to about 1/4 cup.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, until the butter has emulsified and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
A spray will do
Wine sauce is the perfect accompaniment to grilled, roasted or fried game. After cooking the duck or goose breast to the desired temperature, do not immerse it in sauce. Just a spray or two is plenty.