The Event
Burning Off The Alcohol
© by Sheral Schowe
Youíve heard it before: "Donít worry about the alcohol, it all burns off in the cooking process." All? This is a common, off the cuff remark made by wine and spirits aficionados to their less imbibing friends when serving a dish laced with alcohol. Just how much really burns off?

A study on alcohol retention in food preparation appeared in the April 1992 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Here are the results, which represent the average of dozens of test samples of food preparations that incorporate alcohol.

Long simmering time: 5 percent alcohol remained.

Short simmering time: 35 percent alcohol remained.

Oven-baked: 45 percent alcohol remained

Refrigerated, no heat: 74 percent alcohol remained.

Flaming: 78 percent alcohol remained.

Added to boiling sauce, off the stove: 84 percent alcohol remained.

Obviously, the longer you cook the greater percentage of alcohol that burns off. You can, if you prefer, substitute wine or reduce the amount with a complementary liquid. For instance, vegetable, beef or chicken broth can be increased to replace the wine if it is already called for in the recipe. For desserts, you may increase the milk, cream or juice. But donít increase the extracts. The concentration will be too strong in the final product. Avoid replacing wine with water. It will dilute the flavors of your dish.

Adding wines, spirits and liqueurs to favorite dishes, desserts and sauces is becoming quite popular. A rule that I like to follow when using wine in food preparation is: If it isnít good enough to drink, donít add it to your food. Use the wine you enjoy to enhance the flavors in the dish, then serve the same wine with your meal for a perfect food and wine pairing.

Every wine is created with its own individual set of characteristics, which can either enhance or detract from a meal selection. If the dish requires more acid to brighten the flavors, try a sauvignon blanc, a pinot grigio, or a chianti. If it is more robust and hearty, with beef or lamb, try a cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc or a zinfandel. If your choice is poultry or cooked seafood, particularly with a buttery sauce, use a chardonnay. The trick is to match the individual characteristics and flavors of the foods with the same characteristics found in the wine.

Food enhances wine and wine enhances food. I enjoy experimenting with, different varietal wines, both incorporated in, and served with my favorite meal selections.

April 22, 1999

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