Cooking with Wine: Should You use Cheap or Quality?

Posted on August 24, 2009
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Cooking With Wine

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cooking with wine: cook with cheap wine or cook with quality wine. The difference is really how you’re using it.

When to Cook with Cheap Wine

A less expensive bottle of wine, such as Marsala, is totally fine to use if the alcohol is being cooked. This because the finer, more exquisite flavors can be lost from the heat of cooking. And if that is the story, you’re essentially looking for the base flavors of that wine. For example, if you’re using a recipe that calls for Burgundy, and it will be cooked, sub in a cheaper bottle of Pinto Noir instead. See if your friends can tell the difference. If they can, let them buy the wine. You can only win in this situation. Normally there will be an area in the liquor store for cheaper cooking spirits.

When to Cook with Quality Wine

Splurge, baby! This is where spending a little more makes sense.  When you are soaking a finished dessert in wine, use the good stuff. The alcohol isn’t heated here, thus all is being tasted. And that’s all there is to that!

Below is a great Tiramisu recipe that showcases how to use both cheap and quality wine in one recipe.


For the Zabaglione (Custard)

6 egg yolks
¾ cup Marsala
½ cup sugar
2 vanilla beans

For the rest of the recipe

8 ounces Mascarpone
1 Pound Cake, Make or use prepared. Will provide my recipe soon enough.
Coffee Liquor, use your favorite and have fun.
¼ teaspoon cocoa for each finished dessert.


Place egg yolks, Marsala, sugar and freshly scraped vanilla beans in a large, round-bottomed stainless steel bowl. Half-fill a pot with water, bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low. Set the pan or bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Whisk the mixture for 10 minutes until it froths up and becomes pale. May triple in size. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the container out of the pot. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to its container.  Custard done!

Immediately add the Mascarpone to the custard and refrigerate for at least one hour.  When needed, transfer to a one gallon plastic bag.  Cut the bottom tip from the bag and you’re ready for piping into the wine glasses.  Next cube the pound cake into bite size pieces and lay on a cookie sheet. Grab the coffee liquor and drizzle over the bread. Toss and do it again. Maybe once more? The pieces should be moist, not soaked.  Time to layer and touch it up with a little chocolate. Serving Tiramisu in a wine glass is something I picked up a restaurant a long time ago. The presentation is unique, fun and not as stuffy as it may sound. Check out the pics for how I did it.  Should make about 6 – 8 servings.  Enjoy!

photo credit: thor_mark  via photopin cc

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