Good food, cheap wine

2chuck.jpgYou’ve heard it over and over, from both expert cooks and people who have barely stepped into a kitchen: “never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink”. I think few commands have frightened people off the kitchen, or at least off cooking with wine, than this one. While there are many drinkable wines under $5-10, it’s hard to predict whether the one you chose will be one of them, so if you follow this mantra chances are you’ll end up spending much more money on the wine that you’d otherwise want to. And all for nothing, because the truth is, cheap wine makes GREAT cooking wine.
I’ve been cooking with 2-bucks-chuck pretty much since it came out. I won’t drink it unless I have to, but I find it perfectly fine to flavor sauces, braises, stews and marinades. I very seriously doubt that anyone would be able to tell the difference between a dish cooked with a $20 award winning wine and one with chuck – once you heat them up and combine them with other flavors, cheap wine improves magnificently. Indeed, that’s what NY Time food writer Julia Moskin found out, when she decided to test the premise by making identical dishes both with good wine and cheap wine – she couldn’t tell the difference in the finished dishes.
And it’s not only cheap wine that makes great cooking wine – old wine is also good for food. I pretty much never finish a bottle of wine when I open it – so I keep the leftovers in the fridge for when the muse inspires me to cook. In my experience, wine will still be good for at least two weeks after you open the bottle. Just make sure to put the cork back before you put it in the fridge.

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