Addition: How many bottles of hot sauce equal one bad case of heartburn?
Subtraction: Can five boxes of dried pasta be removed from the pantry without making a dent in the supply?
Multiplication: If one bottle of vinegar is good, are two bottles twice as good? (Ted is laughing at this; I am a person who never thinks she has vinegar in the house, and buys bottle after bottle....)
Division: A one-pound bag of bay leaves, which looks so incredibly seductive in the spice store but turns out to be an awful lot of bay leaves that you cannot possibly use before they lose their oomph, should be shared among how many friends?
Arithmetic may not be the strongest suit in The Perfect Pantry, but even with questionable math skills, I've figured out a couple of things.
A bottle of cooking wine, the stuff you buy in the supermarket that's filled with salt and artificial food coloring, costs $3.99 for 16 ounces, or roughly 25 cents per ounce.
A bottle of wine you'd be happy to drink, that's also great for cooking -- something like this Yellow Tail or many of the good buys at Trader Joe's -- costs $5.99 for 750 ml (25.36 ounces), or roughly 23 cents per ounce.
So, good wine for cooking often is less expensive, and you can drink what you don't use in the recipe. It's a no-brainer, even for a non-drinker like me.
In cooking, wine features in marinades, as a primary cooking liquid, and as a flavoring for dishes like risotto. This isn't the time to use a $30 bottle; a good, drinkable wine under $10 is what you want, especially for long-cooking dishes like stew. The alcohol in the wine evaporates while the food is cooking, leaving behind the essence of the grape, sweetness and a hint of acidity.
Wine is a common deglazing agent, too. After you've sautéed something in a hot pan, such as meat or fish, what remains stuck to the bottom of the pan is called the fond (also known as the "brown bits"). To incorporate those flavorful bits into a pan sauce, first remove the pan from the heat. Pour in a bit of wine, and return the pan to the stovetop; this should prevent the alcohol in the wine from igniting. With the heat on high, the wine will come to the boil almost immediately. Use a wooden spatula to scrape the fond off the pan and into the wine. Add a pat of butter, and you have an all-purpose pan sauce.
Do you have a favorite wine-you'd-be-happy-to-drink that you use for cooking? Which red and white wines do you keep in your pantry?
Green herb risotto (risotto preboggion)
Adapted from The Top 100 Italian Rice Dishes. Author Diane Seed writes: “In Liguria this risotto is made with preboggion, a bundle of mixed wild herbs which vary according to the season. Local lore has it that during the Crusades a Genovese lord, Goffredo di Buglione, sent his men out to scour the alien hills for fragrant herbs for his dinner. These herbs became known as pro Buglione which was corrupted to preboggion.” Serves 6.
6 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 small zucchini, diced
4 oz baby spinach, washed, thoroughly dried, and finely chopped
2 oz finely chopped mixed mint, sage and rosemary, combined
1-1/2 oz each finely chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 (2 Tbsp) stick unsalted butter
Generous 1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
In a saucepan bring stock to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add garlic and onion. When they are soft, add rice and cook, stirring, until it is coated with the oil. Remove pan from heat, and stir in the wine. Return to the heat, and let the rice cook until the wine is almost fully absorbed. Now add the vegetables and herbs and gradually add the stock, a ladle at a time (reserving 1/4 cup), letting the rice absorb the liquid. After 20 minutes, when the rice is cooked, adjust the seasoning, add the reserved stock, butter and cheese and stir vigorously. Serve hot.
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