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Rule No.1: never cook with wine you wouldn’t serve to guests

Food is about flavor, so why cook with inferior product?

DEBORAH LEE WALKER ¦ Contributing Writer

(Oct. 12, 2012) Cooking with wine is a pleasure indeed! Julia Child could have not summed it up better when she said, “I enjoy cooking with wine; sometimes I even put it on the food I’m cooking.”

The time is upon us to learn another aspect of cooking and at the same time have fun. On that note, cheers! And let the lessons begin.

The first and foremost rule in wine selection is never cook with wine you would not serve your guests. I cannot reiterate how important this is. Food is about flavor, so why cook with an inferior product? Also, the process of reducing will bring out the worst of a substandard wine. A poor quality spirit can debase any brilliant effort.

The next time one is strolling down the grocery aisle where the so-called “cooking wines” are located, do not stop and proceed to the next item on your shopping list. Cooking wines are a no-no and should be avoided at all times. They are typically salty and have other additives that could easily hamper one’s best efforts. The use of cooking wines signifies an inexperienced chef.

The art of tasting is essential when cooking with wine. Enrichment cannot take direction unless the chef is familiar with the source. Your homework assignment is to pick a different bottle of wine on payday. Do not go for the norm, but instead expand your horizon. White burgundy, Riesling and red Bordeaux are just a few suggestions.

Quality has been established so purpose is the next agenda at hand. Wine has three main uses in the kitchen: to marinate ingredients, to be used as a cooking liquid, and as a flavoring agent in a finished dish. Enhancement is a variable of many degrees that must be considered at all times.

Wine should be reduced slowly over low heat because the flavor compounds are better preserved. The alcohol gradually evaporates as the food is cooking, but the flavor remains. While we are on the subject of evaporation, does alcohol really burn off after a period of time? Definitely cannot always be pinpointed and therefore sometimes precision must be placed on the back burner.

What is for certain is the disappearance of wine depends on how high the temperature is, how long the dish has been cooking, how much vino you have added, and was the pan covered? But experts do believe there is a small amount of alcohol even under the best of conditions that does not burn off.

Shrimp scampi is simple to make but whether to serve in small casserole dishes or over pasta determines the final outcome of the recipe. Traditional shrimp scampi sauce will not adhere to the pasta. But if heavy cream and a thickener are incorporated into the sauce, the results are similar to a garlicky, lemony Alfredo sauce.

Steaming the shrimp adds moisture as opposed to sautéing them. Cook the shrimp until they are two-thirds done and allow to cool on racks. Never overcook seafood; it is another sign of an amateur chef. The addition of thin slices of shitake and baby portabellas parlay wonderfully with the shrimp. Their earthy undertones are indicative of the fall season. One other important note: as the sauce reduces, it will be necessary to adjust the seasonings according to taste.

Local grocery stores continually promote shrimp at a reduced price. That being said, some stores are pricier than others. But when the sale price is right, grab a couple of bags and enjoy the frutti di mare (fruit of the sea).

Creamy Shrimp Scampi over Linguini 3 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 stick unsalted butter 2 cups chicken stock 2 cups seafood stock 1 cup Sauvignon blanc wine 5 cloves garlic, minced 4 ounces shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced 4 ounces baby portabellas, thinly sliced 3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons thyme 1 teaspoon herbs de province 3 bay leaves juice of 1 small lemon 2 pounds jumbo shrimp (deveined with shells still intact) 1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream Wondra Quick Mixing Flour small box linguini (12 ounces) kosher salt, fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Steam shrimp until they are twothirds cooked and immediately place on cooling racks. When the shrimp have cooled, remove the shells.

2. In a large Dutch, cook garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

3. Add butter and parsley and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.

4. Add stocks, wine, herbs, bay leaves, lemon juice, salt and pepper and allow mixture to simmer until it has reduced by a third.

5. While the sauce is reducing, cook pasta until al dente. Set aside.

6. Add mushrooms, cream and sprinkle small amounts Wondra Quick Mixing Flour to help thicken the sauce. You may need to do this a couple of times.

7. When the sauce has reached the desired thickness; stir in shrimp, turn off the heat, and cover for 5 minutes. The shrimp will finish cooking in the hot sauce. Serve immediately. Serves 4

Secret Ingredient: Indulgence. “Selfdenial is indulgence of a propensity to forego” … Ambrose Bierce.

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