MANY people do not cook with wine because they are unsure of how much to use.
But if you follow a few simple tips, the inclusion of wine — particularly red wine in a slow-cooked casserole — can turn an otherwise ordinary dish into a stunning flavour sensation.
The flavour of wine in cooking is derived from the nature of the wine and not the alcohol. Most of the alcohol evaporates and very little is left in the finished dish. Boiling down wine concentrates the flavour, including acidity and sweetness.
Be careful not to use too much wine, as the flavour could overpower your dish. The first step is to try a small amount of wine so the flavours will blend and not become too overpowering. As you are cooking, try sampling your dish and add as needed.
There’s a generous amount used in this recipe. Substitute some other liquid — water or beef stock — if you are worried. And don’t forget the old tip — if the wine is not good enough to drink, it’s not good enough to cook with!
BEEF CASSEROLE WITH STAR ANISE & ORANGE
2kg stewing steak, cut into large pieces about 5cm across
Good bunch of parsley and thyme
3 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra
200g kaiserfleisch, cut into 2cm cubes
4 tbsp cognac or brandy
1 tbsp plain flour
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6 medium carrots, 3 finely chopped, the rest thinly sliced
2 celery sticks, chopped into 2cm pieces
1½ bottles red wine, preferably cabernet sauvignon or merlot
2 star anise
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Heat oven to 160C (140C fan). Wash and dry the meat. Pour boiling water over the shallots to cover them, leave for five minutes, then drain, peel and cut in half. Put to one side.
Pare long strips of peel from half the orange and tie together with the parsley and thyme with some string.
Heat two tablespoons of the oil and the butter in a large heat-proof casserole pan. Add the meat and half the kaiserfleisch pieces and brown quickly on all sides (you will need to do this in batches). Return all the meat to the pan, then quickly pour over the cognac and ignite. Stand well back when you do this as the flames may be fierce. Stir the flour into the meat until the flour disappears.
In a separate pan, fry the onion, finely chopped carrot and celery in a tablespoon of oil until softened — this should take about five minutes. Add to the casserole pan along with the wine, herbs, star anise, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stir well, then cover tightly and cook in the oven for two hours.
Put the remaining kaiserfleisch into a frying pan and heat with a drop of oil until the fat runs, then add the shallots and fry gently until they are lightly coloured. Add to the casserole along with the sliced carrots, give it a stir and cover again.
Return to the oven for a further 90-120 minutes, until the meat is very tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the herbs (and, if you can find them, the star anise) and serve with mashed potatoes and wilted greens. You can make this dish ahead of time. If so, reheat it either on the stovetop or in the oven for 20-30 minutes. This is a generous quantity and it freezes well.
THE type of wine you use in any cooking is very important. Cook only with wine that you would drink.
A well-made medium grade for under $15 is just fine. Start with a very mainstream white or red. As you get more accustomed to using wine as an ingredient in your dishes, you will be more likely to experiment.
Sauvignon blanc is great as a white wine for sauteing, marinating and in sauces for seafood, and chicken. As well as cabernet sauvignon, chianti is also great for meats and meat-based sauces for pasta.
Avoid wines that are heavily flavoured with oak. They tend to give off a bitter taste. Same goes for extremely fruity wines.
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