Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cooking with Alcohol

Another Cooking blog… I seem to be in that vein!

My mother had an incredible recipe for a shrimp & scallop scampi cooked in a white wine sauce that was incredible. Last year, for Christmas, I did a similar dish using pasta shells.

First I sautéed my shrimp & scallops in the wine and then used the sauce to create a Munster cheese bisque. Next I stuffed my shells with spinach and various cheeses. Finally I covered the shells in the seafood bisque and baked the dish for about half an hour. It was very good.

I had always heard that when you cook with alcohol all of the alcohol cooks out of the food; so cooking with it has never really concerned me. I have recently learned that this is not always the case. In fact, if one were to cook the above recipe the way it is written the dish would have about a 5% alcoholic content at consumption. Needless to say... I will be changing it! :o)

Apparently the way you cook the alcohol is important in removing it. Since I am not an alcohol connoisseur, I did not know this and since most of my readers are seemingly similar, you probably didn’t either. So in my quest to never leave my guest unable to depart from my house of their own free will, I did some research.

First, know how much you are using. Your wine bottle should tell you how much alcohol is in one cup. How many cups you use determines your starting alcohol content in your dish.

You should never use alcohol without it being heated in some way. Alcohol can only be removed from the drink with heat- no heat, no removal. Second, backing it and simmering it are always better than boiling it or flaming it. In fact, boiling it is just a bad idea altogether. Boiled wine and beer still have 85% of their starting content. If you do boil it, do it the night before and store it overnight, this will remove a lot more alcohol.

Baking and simmering are always the best ideas. The longer you bake and simmer wine the less alcohol you get. Simmering for about two hours leaves only about 2% of what you started with. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind you did not start with a whole bottle of wine, you started with a cup, or in most cases a half cup.

If the wine you use has only about 5% alcohol in a cup and you simmer it for about two hours the remaining liquid now only has a .01% alcohol content. This is less than half of a single percent. This small amount does virtually nothing to your body in any way. You could drink the whole pot and still be completely fine!

I also discovered a lot of companies that make several non-alcoholic wines as well. These wines already have the alcohol removed from them before they are packaged and shipped. Many beer companies offer this same service. Your food will still get the effects of the strong marinade without the alcohol that preserved it.


Michelle said...

You are brave! I would worry about someone seeing me buy it and not know that it is intended for cooking purposes only! That said, the flavor wine adds is amazing, so I do buy cooking wine and add a splash to most dishes I cook. It is very salty however, so no more than a splash.

Anonymous said...

I think you can get enough flavor with other seasonings and condiments. Why use anything with alcohol??
I agree with Michelle about the chance someone would see a pentecostal person buying alcohol. Bad testimony.

Anonymous said...

This could be a stumbling block to someone who is recovering from alcohol use. Why blog this?