Where I currently live you can't buy wine in grocery stores. But (proof that the gods often torture us) you CAN buy a liquid called "cooking wine." Probably the best known brand is made by Holland House.
I read somewhere once that the reason it's okay to sell cooking wine in grocery stores is because there is a lot of salt added to the "wine" to make it "unpalatable" and thus not suitable for drinking like regular wine. Have you ever tasted this stuff? "Unpalatable" is too diplomatic a term.
Um, why would you add something that tastes like crap to your food? Do you want your cooking to taste like crap too? :)
So my rule for you is this: Don't ever buy cooking wine. Don't ever use cooking wine. The salt content is too high. It tastes like salt and it will make your food taste like salt. Worse still, it is way overpriced per unit of volume.
Instead, take your culinary skills up a notch and use a low-priced table wine that you can buy by the gallon. The favorite in our household is Carlo Rossi, and we prefer either the cabernet, chianti or the burgundy. We keep a jug'o'wine in our kitchen handy for cooking or anytime I feel like I need to rinse some cholesterol out of my cardiovascular system.
For $10-12 you can buy an entire gallon of Carlo Rossi at your local liquor store and get decent quality wine. Plus you can knock back a glass while you're cooking and enjoy life a little bit more.
On the other hand, for $3.49 you can get 12 lousy ounces of Holland House Super Sodium Special Unpalatable Wine. Do the math.
Try this recipe to test your cooking wine skills:
Casbah Curried Chicken:
(Adapted and heavily modified from the side of a NearEast couscous box)
1.5 lbs chicken (boneless breasts are best, cut up into strips or bite-sized pieces)
2 medium or large onions, coarsely chopped
4-5 carrots, sliced
5-6 stalks celery, chopped
8-12 ounces mushrooms, quartered if desired
2 Tablespoons mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (up to 1 teaspoon for a spicier soup)
1 14-ounce can chick peas/garbanzo beans
1.5 cups plain tomato sauce
1 cup water
3/4 cup inexpensive (but real) red wine
1) Season the chicken with cayenne pepper and coarse ground black pepper. Sear the chicken in olive oil in a non-stick on high heat, turning and flipping the chicken occasionally. Set chicken aside.
2) In a large soup pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and then add onions, carrots, mushrooms, celery and spices. Saute for 15-20 minutes on medium heat, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften somewhat.
3) Then, add the chick peas, tomato sauce, water and red wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the chicken and serve over rice or couscous.
Serves 6+ easily.
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