You know what makes food taste real fancy-like? Cooking with booze. But it can be a little intimidating. What do you use, the expensive stuff or the cheap stuff? Will any red wine do? How long do you have to cook before all the alcohol evaporates from a sauce? What about the children? And is it ever a good idea to drink and cook?
We have answers for you.
You could still get drunk. First of all there's one thing you should know up front: unless you cook your dish for three hours the alcohol is not going to evaporate away completely. For all practical purposes, there is no "cook out all the alcohol." Check out the scientific report produced by the USDA Nutrient Data Library (psst, relevant figures on page 14, lines 5001-5009 if you really want to know). But, you know, more of it will evaporate out the longer you cook it.
Cheap liquor is just fine. Quality does matter, but you don't have to go with the pricey stuff. The general rule is cook with a wine (or beer, or scotch) you would drink. If your standards are low and two-buck chuck tastes just fine to you go ahead and use that. In fact, you can just use the wine you plan on eating with dinner.
Vermouth is a big exception. Julia Child herself recommended using it, so I'll keep it in my cabinet for using in place of white wine. Know why? Because we always end up drinking the white wine I buy for cooking.
You're a rube, ask someone for help. What types go with what foods? In general, white wines go well with fish, vegetables and poultry, red wines go best with beef and lamb; and sweet beverages are good for desserts. Most recipes will tell you exactly what to use. If not, as with pairing a wine with a meal, it's a good idea to get a recommendation from your local wine shop. Don't feel like an unsophisticated rube for asking; wine sellers live to answer those kinds of questions.
An intoxicated toddler is not fun. Don't want to cook with alcohol but still want a similar effect? Try verjuice, a sour kind of juice made from unripe grapes. If you're worried about trace amounts of alcohol getting into your kids' bloodstream this is the way to go. It's not quite the same as cooking with wine, but it can refine flavors in a similar way.
Drinking while cooking is always a good idea. I'll sometimes indulge in a little glass of wine while cooking on the weekend, but when I'm preparing a high-pressure, special meal alcohol on an empty stomach makes me frantic and emotional. So drink responsibly.
Ready to get started? Here's a few recipes:
Cooking with beer (I also like adding a slosh of stout to my chili.)
I always make my pecan pie with scotch.
The most famous wine dish at all, coq au vin. Here's a 30-minute version from The Kitchn.
Here is Julia Child's classic Beef Bourguignon.
What's your favorite booze recipe?
Image via madmolecule/Flickr