There are many things you have to choose sides on in this life: dogs or cats, Coke or Pepsi, Yankees or Mets (I grew up a Yankee fan, as proclaimed by my father the day I was born) and cooking or baking.
According to me, there is a big difference between cooking and baking. When you bake, you use ingredients like flour and sugar and baking soda. You work with a mixer, a rolling pin, a cookie scoop and a pastry cutter. You must be exact in your measurements or your cake will end up collapsing, or your pie crust will be cement. And you will get sick from eating the batter because for heaven's sake, who can resist it? But, when you cook, you are usually making a main dish. You chop and mince and slice. You grab things like herbs, vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and WINE. You can adjust the taste to your own likes. If you aren't exact, the recipe will still be edible. And you are not (usually/hopefully) in any way tempted to eat the dish while it's in a raw state.
I love to cook. I love to chop. And dice and saute and braise. I adore new recipes (I am speaking solely for myself here and not the members of my family, who were less than impressed with my pork chops Romano the other evening) and I love to try new cooking techniques. In fact, I recently flambéed my first coq a vin successfully and without the loss of my eyebrows. And yes, I have both volumes of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking by Julia Child.
Now, going on the theory that a happy cook produces yummy meals, I have also discovered that I am very happy when I'm cooking and sipping from a glass of wine. (Please note though that too much sipping while you cook may result in burned food or burned fingers...so be responsible when you drink and cook). I do believe there is a sort of Pavlovian conditioning going here: open cabinet, get out pot/pan, reach for bottle (makes it hard when you're cooking eggs for breakfast, but that's what strong tea is for).
My choices of wine are pretty much influenced by the dish I'm making. If I'll be serving the wine with it, it seems only fair to test it before hand while I'm cooking the actual dinner. Or maybe the wine itself is called for in the dish. (Another note: if you are cooking from the Julia Child books, beware that there are HUGE amounts of wine called for in many of her recipes. So you'll need TWO bottles of the wine in order to cook and sip. Seriously - the coq au vin recipe calls for three cups of wine and 1/4 cup of cognac alone. So you see that a second bottle is required for chef sipping.)
In my surfing travels one day I came across a recipe for Martha Stewart's Chicken Thighs Braised in White Wine. I love chicken - and have become especially fond of the dark meat lately. It stays a bit more moist when you cook it and has that dark meat flavor to it. So of course, I had to try it. The recipe calls for 1 cup of white wine, so left about 2/3 of the bottle unused and who am I to waste wine?
As it just so happened, I had found Blackstone Chardonnay, (Winemaker's Select, 2010, 13.5%, 99% Chardonnay, 1% Muscat Canelli, California) featured at the market that week. Sounded like a plan to me! The aroma of the wine was mango and pear. The flavors were tart, juicy, pineapple and melon. The finish was oakey with sour apple and stayed around quite a while. A very clean, crisp wine that was well received in my mouth and in the chicken dish! And when a wine works as hard in the kitchen as it does in your wine glass, well, it's a winner. (This is a Chardonnay that you could bring to a big gathering and please lots of people.)
Happy sipping, happy cooking!
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