If you want to add a bit of flair to an upcoming meal, try incorporating wine as an ingredient.
Cooking with wine might sound exotic, but many chefs find ways to work wine into their recipes to add harmony and flair to a dish.
This week and next, we will take a look at how to easily add wine into your cooking, thanks to tips from two of Washington's most wine-focused chefs. Today, we focus on white wine. Next week, we will look at how to use red wines in the kitchen.
The first tip: Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink. Cooking with bad wine is like adding stale spices or moldy vegetables. It will not taste good, even if you're really hungry. The wine should be opened and checked for flaws before it is added as an ingredient.
Additionally, consider serving the same wine you're cooking with at the table. It should make for a superb pairing.
John Sarich, longtime culinary director and ambassador for Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, says white wine is a versatile ingredient. For a rich cream sauce, he will reach for Chardonnay or Viognier, wines that are a bit softer in acidity. For Asian dishes, he looks to incorporate high-acid varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.
One of his favorite easy-to-make dishes is to sprinkle scallops with sea salt and sear them in a pan with just a bit of butter. Once they are browned on both sides, remove the scallops and add a cup of Chardonnay or Viognier, a bit of tarragon, Dijon mustard and chopped shallots to the browned butter. He might also add a bit of cream. Stir and reduce until you have a cream sauce to pour over the scallops.
"At the end, it always needs a bit of acid," Sarich said. "So a squeeze of lemon over the dish just brightens up all the flavors."
Frank Magaña, a chef based in the Yakima Valley, said he incorporates wine into his cooking about 80 percent of the time.
He loves using white wine to build a sauce. For example, he will brown chicken, then while the pan is still hot, deglaze the pan with white wine. He'll then add onions and garlic.
"That's the base of your sauce," he said. "It binds all of your flavors together."
Magaña will do the same thing when caramelizing onions. He adds a splash of dry white wine to pick up all the sugars left in the pan.
For shellfish, Magaña likes a high-acid dry wine.
"With the minerality of the shellfish, it goes really well," he said.
He'll often use a dry white wine as the base for a sauce to go with barbecued oysters.
A popular myth in some kitchens is that all alcohol "cooks out" of wines or spirits used in a recipe. This is not quite true. Magaña says about half the alcohol in a wine will dissipate during the cooking process -- and more, depending on how long you cook the sauce.
Both chefs also enjoy using wine to make salad dressing.
One of Magaña 's go-to recipes for salad dressing is a half-cup of dry white wine, three-quarters of a cup of olive oil, a tablespoon of dried Dijon mustard powder and two tablespoons of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary and parsley, for example). If using dried herbs, make it a half-tablespoon. Then, add a half-tablespoon of white vinegar (balsamic, if you have it). All of this is mixed together in an empty olive oil bottle and served.
Looking for more ideas to incorporate wine into your cooking? Go to www.ste-michelle.com/wine_food/recipes for several great recipes.
*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.