When discussing wine reduction(s), the normal home cook may be a little overwhelmed to even think about cooking with spirits, wine and beer. The idea of using an expensive ingredient ~ whether an herb, spice or alcohol ~ is daunting.
When do you use a wine reduction? What goes in it? Will it be superfluous? Which wine do I use? A person could go more than slightly insane with questions.
Here are a few tips I have picked up along my travels in various chefs' kitchens over the years.
First tip (and I applaud this one heartily) is NEVER cook with a quality of wine you don't like well enough to drink. Pretty much common sense, I would think, but over and over I hear people remark, "Well, that's not all that great, put it back for cooking." Ugh. If you don't want to drink the flavor, why would you want to eat food enhanced with the same flavor? Some of the alcohol cooks out ~ not the flavor. Also note that not all alcohol cooks out, particularly with the wine reduction sauce as it is cooked quickly.
Don't be scared to ask for help. There are too many resources available these days to not take a look at when troubled by choices. There are many, many wines out there and no one outside of Master Sommeliers is likely to know all of them.
Start with what you know. When beginning this new adventure, use wine you are familiar with already. Now is not the time to pick up an expensive, collectible wine. Experiment with unknown flavors later on. Get your feet wet, and your appetite whetted, with friendly wines first.
Below are step-by-step instructions on your first wine reduction. Reduction sauces are simply that: sauces reduced to about three quarters of the original amount of liquid. For a thicker sauce, reduce it to about one-half of the original amount of wine. It is all based on how concentrated a flavor you desire.
Taking the meat out of the pan, set it aside and keep warm in oven, covered with foil. Pour wine into the pan with the leftover bits from the meat. Cook over medium heat until (Don't forget to sip a little wine as you go to enjoy the experience more) wine is consistency you want.
Pull pan off heat, swirl in a tablespoon of butter. The butter adds shine to the sauce and enriches the flavor. Drizzle sauce over the meat, around the meat, or make a pool under the meat, on its serving platter. Serve, sit back and wait for the rave reviews.
Variations are as numerous as there are cooks in the world. Experimenting with your favorite foods, herbs and spices will make this sauce your own special recipe. Many will add in mushrooms, Thyme, Rosemary, salt, pepper, unsalted butter. It mostly depends on the meat, side dishes and preferences. There are no real rule breakers with the exception of the one which bears repeating. Never use a quality of wine you wouldn't drink.
Bottom Line: Don't worry if it doesn't come out perfect the first time. And...don't be surprised if it does.
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated fine-living, travel columnist, freelance writer and photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic for Gotta Go. Read Infused, at GottaGo.us and FoodandDrinkDigital.com and catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC. Gotta Go is published on Gottago.us, BroadwayWorld.com, in magazines and several Indianapolis area newspapers. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.