Does it Matter if You Use Cheap Wine When you Cook?
According to an article in today’s NY Times, it doesn’t really matter if you use good wine or “plonk” in cooking.
Wincing a little, I boiled a 2003 premier cru Sauternes from Château Suduiraut (“The vineyard is right next door to Yquem,” the saleswoman assured me), then baked it into an egg-and-cream custard to see whether its delicate citrusy, floral notes would survive the onslaught. They did, but the custard I made with a $5.99 moscato from Paso Robles, Calif., was just as fragrant.
I’ve always said if you cook with bad wine, you’ll get less than stellar flavors. I think a lot of it depends on what type of things you are cooking.
Interesting article, you can read it here, and then I’d like to know what you think.
Kettleman’s Bagels slated to open in Portland
Based on lively discussions here and other food obsessed websites around town, we know Portlanders are in dire want for more good bagels. Well, there’s a new bagel shop in town set to open on SE 11th near Powell sometime in April. Kettleman’s Bagels, states they are independently owned and operated and thus should not be confused with the Canadian chain of the same name. Kettleman’s goes out of their way to explain that their New York style bagels are made the proper way by first boiling them, then baking, and not steam injected like those fakers at Noah’s. We’ll keep you posted…
Tim L says
Interesting NY Times article on “good versus plonk”. Although this probably says more about my frugal nature than about wine cooking choices, but I’ll still go with at least a “decent” wine. Since recipes often require, say, a cup or two of wine, someone has to drink the remainder of the bottle. If it’s plonk, I’d be reluctant to finish off the bottle.
Well Seasoned says
I think Julia Moskin’s NY Times piece on cooking with wine comes to the wrong conclusions because her technique is wrong. I refer you to Madeleine Kamman’s “The New Making of a Cook” which has two pages on this subject. The most important thing is that you DON’T BOIL the wine: you mix it with one or more aromatic vegetables (usually shallot), bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer until it’s reduced “to the point where only the concentrated flavor of the wine remains, modified somewhat by the aromatics.” Madeleine goes on to say, “The notion applied by some French chefs that wine should be boiled rapidly is not correct and leads to the demise of many a potentially good sauce.” She also slams the idea of using dry vermouth in place of white wine (something Molly Stevens is quoted in the piece as recommending, as did Julia Child – sorry, but IMO they’re both wrong!): “A dry vermouth never quite adequately replaces a good dry white wine because it is a cooked wine in which woodruff has been steeped. The woodruff surfaces after reduction and renders any sauce or gravy anywhere from slightly to quite bitter.” Personally, I don’t like that woodruff flavor in my white wine sauces.
Obviously, much of this is subjective, but I have to say that in my experience Madeleine’s technique results in superior sauces, and I’ve frequently used that technique to add expensive wines to sauces that will be served with those wines. Madeleine again: “…it is a good idea, if a bit pricey, to use the same wine to cook a dish as you plan to serve with it at dinner to appreciative company.” Emphasis on “appreciative”!!
Sorry to hear about the chemo Food Dude. I hope you get well soon. I have a cousin in Colorado that used some new treatment called a vibe machine that is pretty big there. I guess the Mayo Clinic just bought a bunch of them. Anyway, his cancer was gone in just a few weeks of using this machine. Not sure if there are any in Portland, but might be worth a shot if there are.
I hope Tara isn’t leaving PK. She really has gotten quite good (still not as good as Ellen was). Those are still some pretty big shoes to fill.
Food Dude says
I was always taught; if the wine leftover isn’t good enough to drink, it shouldn’t be in the food!
Thanks apollo. Fortunately, I don’t have cancer.
Sorry to hear about the chemo. I have friends that can’t eat certain foods to this day thereafter so for your love of it, here’s the return of your pallate to the level of your insight and reviews in food! You rock!
And the real equivalent of bagels in PDX – it brings tears to a Jewish girl’s eyes if they are all that they are cracked up to be!
Just a quick comment: We are sourcing new talent for the kitchen in preparation for opening Tuesdays nights (that’s seven nights a week, folks!) beginning in April. See you at the Oyster Bar!
Sir Loins says
“A dry vermouth never quite adequately replaces a good dry white wine…”
Wel Seasoned: In an issue last year, the staff of Cook’s Illustrated actually recommended using a dry white vermouth in place of white wine when cooking. Per their usual routine, they conducted lots of tests to come to this conclusion and then ended the article ranking brands of white vermouth.
I couldn’ tell you what issue it is (or what their fave white vermouth is) but I’d bet the Multco. library would be a good place to look.
For what it’s worth from my experience *drinking* white and red vermouths in martinis, Manhattans, and on their own, I know that they taste very, very different from brand to brand, so I’m inclined to be a bit skeptical of Ms. Kamman’s statement.
the cobra says
you KNOW that hurley’s brunch is gonna rock. what a shame that it’s become so unfashionable to speak well of this guy’s food. he’s without doubt among the most talented guys in town.
I thought wine was a sauce?
Well Seasoned says
Sir Loins: Certainly an example of how tastes always differ. However, I do know that all dry vermouths (at least those using the traditional flavorings) do contain woodruff and that when reduced, the woodruff imparts a bitter overtone.
I suspect that everything I drink would be considered “plonk” by the NY Times.
Good bagels? in Portland? If they’re half as good as Seigals bagels that have been driven down from Portlan and stored in my freezer for two week, I’ll be a happy happy camper.
oops, I meant Siegels bagels that have been driven down from Vancouver, BC. (too excited by bagels too spell check I guess!)
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Feel better Food Dude,
As for cooking wine. I read the Times article and I feel it really missed the mark. For casual dinners or dishes where you will simmer the crap out of a stew, soup, etc, it may not matter much. For a concentrated winey flavor, sure use vermouth, but for something complex, nuanced, and delicate, or something that isn’t cooked like a batch of fromage fort, then it will make a difference.
As for bagels. Yeah, many of us go a little ga-ga when it comes to a good bagel. Look for a bagel taste-off later this spring (and yes, I will be noting the difference between Montreal and NY Styles)
All the best to you FD, hope you feel better soon!
On wine — there’s an episode of “Gordon Ramsey’s F Word” in which GR has a winery owner taste wines while blindfolded, and in the last pairing, he liked a $5 “plonk” over one of his own very expensive wines.
I grew up in the shadow of NYC and still think the best bagels I ever had were from a shop in Houston (the owner was from Brooklyn originally I do believe.) Heck, the best calzones I’ve ever had were in Houston, and those guys were originally from Brooklyn too. Perhaps the lesson is I should eat in Brooklyn more often.
Best of wishes re: your treatments. It feels weird to see the swirl of food and wine and restaurant talk amidst your quiet revelation. But it’s nice to keep interests and enthusiasms as part of the scenery, I suppose. I hope the prognosis is excellent and that you will still have energy for throwing yourself in front of sublime or wretched food every once in a while–and letting us know all about it. Cheers to you.
sidemeat: re: post #9:
FoodDude, we wish you strength and health. My wife & I love your blog.
The comment preview feature is great! I think the tabs at the top might look better as a single row, though of course then you have to choose which ones stay.
Interesting thoughts on wine in sauces, we’ll have to experiment here and see what we think. I don’t think either of us has ever used vermouth, though.
Would love to find a good bagel in town…
As a former saucier for Wolfgang Puck at Spago Beverly Hills, the only time we used expensive wine in our sauces was when Michael (the sommelier) had some leftover from a tasting. Usually it was jug wine. Would the customer be able to tell the difference? I honestly doubt any master sommelier would have been able to. But, as a saucier, it entirely depends on the application of the sauce. If you’re doing, say a hearty red wine sauce to be paired with a heavily flavored meat, than the wine will be balanced out with the other ingredients in the sauce and the wine will not stand out as a dominant flavor, thus allowing for a cheaper (albeit no Thunderbird) wine. If you are doing a delicate dessert wine such as a sabayon, than the wine choice should be considered rather important as it will stand out more. At the same time, the wine need not be expensive. It should be appropriate for the application. I’ve had some pretty decent dessert wines from Paso Robles that make excellent desset sauces and they cost less than $8.00. I guess the more you know about wine, and the more you experiment with them in sauce making, the decision becomes easier.
One time at Spago I was in the midst of adding the wine to some 14 sauce reductions and became aware of someone standing behind me watching what I was doing. I turned to find Jean Louis Palladin and Alain Ducasse witnessing me pour E&J Gallo into the pots. They never said a word, but I’ve always wondered what they were thinking.
How about we do a blind “sauce tasting”? Some with expensive wine, some with Gallo stuff, some with Italian wine, some with California Cabs, etc…
I think the guy that can make the difference is not born!
G-man: I had one of my best meals at Spago a few years back. I was not expecting it due to all the hype, but it was amazing! We polished a bottle of older Chave Hermitage, the man himself was in the house working his magic and it was just a fantastic evening…Gallo or not in the sauce!
Hey, you know what? If anyone wants to spend extra money in their wine sauce, it’s their right. I just wish they would spend the extra money on better chairs or better lighting…
BTW, I’m so bummed Palladin died. He was a kick ass chef and a fun guy to hang out with. Hope he cooks up there!
FD: Chemo can be rough. We feel for you and wish you’ll be out of trouble soon enough. I can’t imagine the PDX food scene without you…where would the Oregonian and WW get all their food news?
the cobra says
i hate when i turn around and just find him there, staring… alain ducasse.
Marshall Manning says
If anyone is doing a sauce tasting with various wines, I’d love to participate. However, the sauces have to be on some good meat (duck, pork, or elk, preferably!), not just by themselves.
How about we do this? Seriously.
Maybe not a blind tasting, but a real tasting. I think it would be very interesting.
We find a neutral venue (maybe the Oregon Culinary Institute?) and make 5 or 6 sauces, same base for all, each using same technique, just with different wines…
Who would be up for it? We can all benefit.
Glad to hear a hopefully GOOD bagel place is coming. Boiling is the REAL way to make ’em. Speaking of which…now that the downtown Farmer’s Market is opening soon, when is Touch of Grace’s next bagel run going to be? Gotta put it on my calendar!
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Ah, these new bagel places – they tease and taunt us with their “made the proper way”, boiled before baking, and authentic promises.
I’ve heard it all before here in Portland. And with but a couple of exceptions, have been let down, terribly.
I’m doing a wait and taste on this one, but they do talk a good NY talk so we’ll see.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Touch of Grace – Yeah the only good bagels in town.
So MCZlaw, are you done whor…er, I mean eating your way through Thailand? Are you doing bagels at the market this year or do we need to wait for the big deli to open? I hope not.
PS, justing kidding about the other thing in Thailand. I know you were just there for the good food and warm weather.
Hi CBF & All:
I was not involved in any discussions nor did I review any documents involving. . .Thailand’s horizontal recreation industry.
I am still in Thailand, regrettably for my last meal tonight before heading to Hong Kong for a few last days of authentic Asian bites (private posts on best Hong Kong dim sum or chiu chow, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org).
As for Touch of Grace: my noncompete with K&Z allows me to sell at the Market. . .and I may once in May and maybe in the fall. I need to talk to the PFM folks. But if K&Z is making 50 dozen bagels/day to my spec (and under my oversight), I guess the question is, why bother?
I’ll have no comment on the new guy (who I have never heard of) other than to say that boiling is only one piece of the puzzle.
Best to all, esp FD for a speedy get well.
My wife and I went to Naomi’s “Supper” last night at clarklewis. This was the first time I have been to one of these events. I had no idea if people attended these dinners because of the food, because of Naomi’s energy and spark, or because it was simply the “hip” thing to do.
I brought two bottles of wine (1998 Napa Cab and 1998 St. Emilion Bordeaux) with a plan to drink one of them depending on the menu. I ended up selecting the Chateau Meyney with decanting assistance from Daniel the bartender.
I was pleasantly surprised during the entire evening. The service staff were professional and organized even though 67 people were expected. The food was rich, flavorful, bright and used local ingredients as much as possible. Naomi explained the menu before we started and her excitement about the dishes was obvious and infectious. The people sitting around us at the long family style tables were from all walks of life and a wide range of ages.
Menu from last night:
Appetizer: Diced baby asparagus with olive oil, lemon, chili flakes, shaved pecorino served on toasted baguette slices
Shaved Baby artichokes with arugula, pecorino and lemon vinagrette
Spring herb and fontina stuffed Fulton Valley chicken
Gold beets with candied blood orange, tarragon salsa verde and minced “8 minute” egg
Tomato braised chard with flageolet beans and garlic
Chocolate birthday cake with rhubarb ice cream
I’m convinced that people love to be around Naomi, to experience her cooking and take part in these private/public dinners. It’s as if Naomi has a really, really big dining room and kitchen and you are coming over to have dinner with her. I hope she invites us over to dinner again soon. :-)
I’m really delighted that you had a nice time at supper on sunday.
It feels great to finally be cooking again, and always nice to hear when the passion and energy you feel for something gets translated all the way to the diner (my personal goal). I’m hoping to find a more frequent stage… I’ll keep everyone posted.
Diane Morgan says
Regarding all the comments on making sauces with wine, I am in the midst of developing and testing recipes for a forthcoming book , and one of the recipes is a tenderloin of beef rubbed with olive oil, minced fresh thyme, garlic, coarse salt, and pepper. I decided to serve the beef with a Bordelaise sauce. After reading the article in the NY Times, I decided to try making the sauce using “Two-Buck-Chuck” for the wine reduction. I simmered the wine with garlic, sliced carrots, mushrooms, and shallots along with bouquet garni until almost evaporated and then added veal demi-glace and reduced that by half. I finished the sauce with a little chunk of softened butter. It’s a fabulous sauce. It proved the point to me. I wouldn’t drink the stuff, but it worked for this wine reduction sauce.
pollo elastico says
I buy the 3L box of Delicato from Trader Joes (or Freddies) @~$17 and keep it on hand for cooking. It’s incredibly convenient, will keep for a long time, and reduces waste. My coq au vin and demiglace reductions (using almost exact method Diane describes) turn out just fine, but I’m no oenophile.
I think anything that’s simmered for a while or reduced, you’re fine with using something erstwhile. But, again, I drink erstwhile and I am an unrefined, low brow plebe.
Food Dude says
I have a real problem cooking with ‘plonk’ for one simple reason.
A splash for the sauce, a splash for the cook. A splash for the sauce, a splash for the cook.
I like to think I only taste as good as the wine I drink.
Don’t forget the diced bone marrow and chopped parsley for your sauce Bordelaise.
Re post #26…you WILL let us know [here] the date that you’ll be at the Farmers Market with Touch of Grace bagels, yes? And will FD let us know when K&Z opens? Maybe a review too? I’d follow Ken anywhere, smile.
Food Dude says
Viki – I’ll do my best to keep everyone up to date on both! Personally, I can’t wait to have a good source for pastrami. It’s almost like BBQ when it comes to evoking memories.
I agree about the pastrami…but I hope Ken will get a commercial slicer. When he first started serving it at the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market I tried it. Hand slicing the pastrami makes for thick slices and just exposes us eaters to huge, inedible chunks of fat. I simply couldn’t eat it. Pastrami NEEDS to be thinly sliced. (Ken, are you reading this?)
vicki – try it again! Ken & Nick have really improved since the HFM, or so I’ve heard. My slices of pastrami have never been over 1/2 inch thick and was perfect.
Can’t WAIT for K&Z’s!!!