Monday, 20 September 2010

The judicious application of alcohol

Experienced cooks will laugh at me when I reveal that I have only recently discovered the reason for and method of including alcohol in certain things.

But amateur cooks will appreciate it so everyone else can just take a long cool drink of shut the hell up.

I've always chucked a glass of red wine here or there into things that seem like they might benefit from it (stews, bologneses etc) but I now see I've been putting it in way too late.

The thing to do, I now see, is to add the alcohol at a much earlier stage and let it reduce until the alcohol has burned off and you're left with a kind of sticky and rich saucy thing. I've been doing this with a lot of things recently and it really works and helps a lot.

So, for example, if you're making a bolognese-type-thing, add a large glass of red wine to your mince after it has done its browning and let it bubble for a few minutes - (try not to wander off at this stage - the doorbell will only be a young offender selling J-Cloths anyway and you don't need to be distracted by his handsome young rascally ways) - until it fizzles down to a faintly glossy halo around your beef. Then continue as normal, add your sauteed onions and whatever other veg you're using. You'll find the wine adds a real richness and darkness to it that you won't get from throwing it in after you've added chopped tomatoes, as I've been doing, like a complete penis.

In stews, you can do the same thing, although I tend to add the booze, (you can use beer), to the sauteed vegetables, rather than to the meat. Don't know why, it's just a gut feeling. And the Lord knows I didn't get here without listening to my gut. *burp*


  1. Don't worry. I only learnt that recently as well, the hard way. My in-laws were coming for dinner so I decided to be clever and make a Jamie Oliver stew in my slow cooker. However, eight hours in a slow cooker doesn't quite burn off the alcohol contained in half a bottle of red wine. Yuk - beef in red wine.

  2. Like a penis... ha!

  3. great post... my best gravy EVER... saute onions till they caramelise, then add red wine till reduced and sticky, then add another glass of red wine to a pint of gravy (Bisto will do... believe me it's perfect!) and then slowly add the gravy to the onions reducing by half each time... soooooo good, red wine makes it taste like you've slaved over it for years!... end of story

  4. This helped me. So cookery snobs can stuff it.

  5. It's Maundy Thursday and I'm arsing around reading your blog instead of working because it's nearly a long weekend and frankly work can do one. So anyway, this is a revelation, I have been a complete penis for years adding wine at totally the wrong stage to my bolognese sauce - I shall amend my ways forthwith! Actually, I'm going to make your shepherd's pie tonight (with wine added at the the correct point), I did it once before with great success. I just hope I'm making enough as one of my guests tonight is a personal trainer who eats 4000 calories a day. I think he might eat the lot... Happy Easter! Katie x