Cooking with Chardonnay

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

Virginia Woolf

Since March is Taste Washington Wine Month, I used a Washington Chardonnay from Maryhill Winery© for the following recipes. After using the Chardonnay in both recipes there is still enough left for two glasses to go with dinner.

Many of us have opened a bottle of wine while we are cooking up a meal, pouring some for ourselves into a glass and adding a splash to the dish while its simmering on the stove. Wine can be a very versatile ingredient to cook with and can add a new layer of flavor to your favorite recipes.

Cooking with wine is an often misunderstood technique used in the kitchen. When you add wine to a dish which is cooking, some or all the alcohol evaporates as it simmers and what you are left with is the concentrated flavors of the wine. It’s important to understand the basic flavor profile of the wine you are using. The sugars in a sweet wine will become far more concentrated as the wine cooks down, and the tannins and acids in a red wine will disperse those flavors as it cooks.

When a recipe calls for a white wine, the most important thing to remember is that the wine should be one that you enjoy drinking on its own. A poor-quality wine can ruin a fantastic recipe. Luckily, you can find great-tasting wines at very affordable prices. So, don’t limit yourself to the typical grocery shelf “cooking wine”.

Using a Vibrant and crisp flavored white wine like a Chardonnay for cream sauces, gravy, and white meat adds another level of rich and creamy flavor. When adding wine to a cream sauce or gravy it is important to reduce your wine prior to blending in the cream to keep the acidity balanced.

“If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”

Julia Child

For absolutely the best pork loin recipe I’ve ever made, you need to try this Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy. Cooked with wine, garlic and herbs, sliced thin, and served with a beautiful wine gravy. Add a Barley and Mushroom Risotto for a special night at home, or a dish your guests will not forget.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy & Barley and Mushroom Risotto

These recipes are all about the wine, fresh herbs and quality ingredients.

Pork Loin with Chardonnay and Herb Gravy

Pork loin cooked on the stove-top with wine and herbs, sliced and served with a delicious, light creamy gravy. If using a pork loin roast, look for one with a little bit of fat for ample drippings.

1/4 cup garlic olive oil
5 cloves garlic (peeled and sliced in half lengthwise)
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves chopped
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves chopped
2 lb center cut boneless pork loin
1 1/4 cups Chardonnay (plus a splash more to deglaze the pan with)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic, rosemary and sage, stirring for about one minute. Add the pork loin to the pan, carefully placing it on top of the herbs. Saute the pork for about 5 minutes on each side, then remove it to a plate. Add the wine to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Cook until the smell of the alcohol has disappeared, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Lower the heat under the pan to low-medium heat. Return the pork to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Partially cover with a lid and cook for about 1 1/2 hours ( Rely on a thermometer to check for internal temperature of 145 degrees), flipping the pork and scraping the bottom of the pan every 20 minutes or so. Keep an eye on it, making sure there continues to be some liquid in the pan. Add 1/4 cup of warm water if necessary.

When the pork is cooked through (if you want to test with a thermometer, it should be about 140-145° internal temperature.) Remove pork to a cutting board to rest and cover with loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil to help retain the heat while it rests.

Meanwhile, increase the heat under the liquid in the pan to medium. If your pan has little liquid, deglaze with a splash of white wine. Stir well to loosen the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cook until the alcohol smell disappears (about 1-2 minutes). Add the chicken stock and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat a few minutes, to allow the chicken stock to heat through a bit. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add the cream. Heat gently over medium-low heat, stirring the sauce constantly, until it thickens a bit and is warmed through. Avoid vigorously boiling. A gentle simmer is fine. (*If your sauce doesn’t thicken up, mix 2 Tbsp. cornstarch with 2 Tbsp. water and add a bit at a time to your sauce until it thickens to your liking.) Taste sauce and add salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

When the sauce is ready, slice the pork very thinly and place on to a serving platter. Pour the warm gravy over-top to serve.

Barley and Mushroom Risotto

Barley cooked risotto-style, with beef broth, garlic and mushrooms and a touch of Parmesan. It’s full of chewy, nutty deliciousness.

3 Tbsp butter, divided
1 shallot minced
2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1/2 lb. fresh mushrooms about
1/4 tsp fresh thyme leaves plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup Chardonnay or other white wine
4 cups beef broth hot
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese grated

Begin by heating the 4 cups of beef broth in a saucepan and keep warm.

In a large, deep skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, stirring until they begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and thyme leaves then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring regularly until the mushrooms are tender and lightly golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the barley and the remaining 1 Tbsp butter. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until the wine is absorbed, 3-4 minutes.

Add 1 ladle of the hot beef broth and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until nearly all of the broth has been absorbed. You want a consistent simmer, adjust heat to that point. Continue adding ladles of broth one at a time, allowing to cook until the liquid is absorbed before adding another. Cook until all the broth is added. Test the barley, you want it to be al dente. If it is not quite there, add another ladle of hot water and cook a bit longer. When cooked, stir in grated Parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with additional grated Parmesan.

With the addition of the Barley Risotto this isn’t a quick, weeknight meal, but it’s not a huge time investment either. Two perfect recipes for a weekend dinner or entertaining, and Chardonnay left from the bottle to enjoy.

These recipes were adapted from a Food & Wine version.

Images © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.

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