By Scott Leysath
I'm not a wine snob, but I do appreciate a good glass of wine. Some chefs say you shouldn't cook with a wine you wouldn't drink. Personally, I use inexpensive wines for cooking and save my money for the wines I'll pour into a glass. And if I have leftover wines from a day or two prior, I'll cook with them. I never use grocery-store bottles labeled “cooking wine," however; they taste awful.
Cooking with wine adds acidity, a little sweetness, and a layer of flavor you don't get from broth or stock. When making a stew, add the wine early in the process. Once it has simmered along with the other ingredients, only a trace amount will remain, leaving just the flavor of concentrated wine behind. Some cooks add a splash of good wine to a stew just before serving, but go easy since raw wine can overpower a finished dish.
RED WINE STEW
Makes: 8 to 10 servings
As is the case with most stews, this dish is usually better the following day.
- 4 cups duck and/or goose breast fillets, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound roughly chopped bacon
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 1 1/2 cups each chopped onion, celery, and carrot
- 6 minced garlic cloves
- 1 quart beef or game broth
- 2 cups roughly chopped potatoes (1-inch pieces)
- 2 cups halved fresh mushrooms
- 1 cup seeded and diced tomato
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
[Step 1] Place flour, salt, and pepper in a gallon-sized plastic bag and mix well. Add cubed meat to the bag and shake vigorously to coat evenly. Remove meat and shake to remove excess.
[Step 2] Heat bacon pieces in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and reserve. Add meat to the pot and brown evenly on all sides. Remove meat and reserve. Add 1/2 cup dry red wine to the pot and scrape with a wooden spoon to remove any bits stuck to the bottom.
[Step 3] Add onion, celery, and carrots. Cook over medium-high heat until onions are translucent. Add garlic. Return browned meat and bacon to the pot. Add broth and remaining wine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.
[Step 4] Check meat for doneness. It should be soft enough to break apart with moderate pressure. If it is still very firm, cover and continue cooking for another hour. Once the meat is tender, add potatoes, mushrooms, and, if desired, an additional splash of red wine. Cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add tomato and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pairing Wine with Waterfowl
Picking a good wine at a reasonable price shouldn't be a daunting task. I am forever on the hunt for great wines that cost between 10 and 20 dollars, and there are plenty of them out there. A proper pairing of wine really does enhance the flavor of a dish, but there are no hard-and-fast rules. You can make it as complicated or as simple as you like. For waterfowl dishes, I prefer lighter red wines that aren't too tannic, but there is nothing wrong with drinking white wine with duck if that's your preference. Your wine, your duck, your choice.