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Cooking With Wines - Some Easy Tips For Success!

leah elisheva

Master of the Pit
Joined Sep 19, 2013
Happy Saturday Smoked Cookies!

And here's to a fabulous weekend!!!

When conducting wine tastings, I've been asked, often, about "cooking with wine" and what one should choose.

Chef Anthony Bourdain did educate readers years ago, in "Kitchen Confidential," not to use rotgut wine to cook with, (and instead, for them to use wine which they would drink), and other vino gulpers do grab their top shelf libation and use that for cooking.

I have a view on all that jazz, which differs a bit, and am sharing that with you today, plus more!

First off, seeing as I DID cook with wine today, I thought this was a perfect day to share my twisted sentiments about this subject.

I am still working on my "Pod Pekom" (method of cooking "under the lid" - from Croatia) octopus; as to perfect it as a company dish.

I'll thank 3 gentlemen on this very site, for initially educating me of and about the dish, and then inspiring me to keep working at this menu too.

For anonymity sake, I'll just refer to those gents as, Adam, David, and Mick. Smiles.

In any event, while I tried roasting this with the traditional ingredient of "potatoes" last time (albeit sweet potatoes and purple Peruvian too) and little baby octopus, and outside, with my grill last time, today's version was instead done in my oven.

So here is all that, and then YES, I'll share some easy "cooking choices with wine" and easy etiquette to remember regarding such!


This time I used a LARGE, 3 pound octopus...

I chopped him up and placed the pieces in the same lidded pan which I had used last week inside my grill. (It had been cleaned since).

I then added a pound of calamari...

Then 3  chopped raw zucchinis ...

And two large tomatoes,,,

And a bag of baby carrots...

some Kalamata black olives without pits (thinking of company and making it easy on them)...

and raw chopped hunks of elephant garlic...

and a cut apart yellow onion...

and a dozen little neck clams in their shell...

This got covered with dried oregano...

Then white wine was poured in...

Some olive oil...

And it all was stirred up, oil tossed over again, and some fresh rosemary layered over it too.

The lid went on, and into a 350 degree oven it did go...

But just 14 minutes into it, I remembered that I did want to add a can of giant snails!

And after a total of one hour, it all was ready and the house just smelled so divine!!!!!!

The first order of business was to take the cooked rosemary out and put a clean fresh sprig in, as garnish for the serving plate...

Then the OCTO broth was saved, to freeze, so that when I feel both cravings and sinus cussing coming on, I won't need to make chicken soup, or go get Miso soup take-out with too much sodium, as my own "house broth" will be here! And that broth was amazing!!!!!

Then I sectioned off "some" to have as a second meal. Rarely does this last until then, (I stand and eat it versus putting it away at all usually), but it is good in theory, right?

Then I got my Cyprus Black Lava Sea Salt (which has activated charcoal in it and I just love it) all ready, and began crushing some flakes in my hands and then sprinkled that over the dinner plate...

And drizzled more olive oil...

And it was delicious, but that LARGE octopus was tough and should have been tenderized first. Now I know. The bay ones were very soft. So next time, I may go for middle sized or beat the big guy and to a soft and very malleable great place! Cathartic, right?

But delicious indeed! And the calamari and snails were fantastic! The flavors were fabulous! And the veggies were just "al dente" enough and still cooked, and it was lovely!


1. Do not use rotgut, cheapest as ever, wine that you would not serve your guests, as the wine you cook with.

(MANY people are sensitive to the added chemicals and preservatives which are in some very crudely made wines today, as I am very allergic to those as well). Therefore, if they get a rash on their skin, from certain additives and crap, and wouldn't want to drink that, then eating it isn't a great idea either.

2. CONVERSELY, when people mix Dom Perignon or Krug or Cristal, with orange juice at a Sunday brunch, to have "Mimosas" it is a waste, (unless "announcing that you used such means something to you"), as the wine mixed/diluted with other sugars and acids and such, will be altered and changed. One will not get the essence of Krug or whatever it be, and so that money is better spent on serving the beverage by itself.

3. In both cases, (I think of both as 'cooking' with wine per se), by choosing something in the middle, which you do know is not some top shelf and inappropriate waste to cook with and heat, chill, and change; but too, is not some super cheapy which could have a lot of added junk in it; you will be fine! This could range in price between 16 and 30 dollars (unless you know of some small house, very limited supply, and PURELY made bottle for much less) and can become your "go to" for cooking many a great dish.

4. DO NOT SERVE the same wine you opened to cook with, as the wine with the dinner!

Doing this for YOU, because it was already open and needed to be finished, is FABULOUS! But do show your guests that you are indeed a very lovely, and gracious HOST. Therefore, spring for something which separates what you spill into spaghetti gravy, and what you pour into beautiful glasses. If only for the romanticism even, make it a special difference.

5. BUT, make it SIMILAR to what IS used in the food. (In other words, don't cook with a dry white wine and then serve a super sweet one. Or don't put dessert wine in the food and then have a bone dry Italian red in their glasses. The "style" should generally match and complement each other and the dish.

OK then, I hope that this was helpful in some fun way????

Cheers and happy weekend!!! OH, and the next attempt at this dish, (in a week or so), already has a few surprises, and so stay tuned!

It's fun working on such things, and so once again, thanks to the 3 Musketeers in this particular case, who helped me learn about this concept and then encourage me to then "make my own version!" How grateful am I!

Cheers!!!!!!!!!!! - Leah

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