Beyond Coq au Vin

Chefs are enhancing their recipes with wine, and cooking with vino goes beyond Coq au Vin.


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At SaborAm, the "Sabor Lux" cheesecake is accented with Champagne and orange zest.

Chefs everywhere are turning to wine to enhance their recipes, and we’re not just talking about coq au vin. A cheesecake designer in Florida instills Champagne into her orange zest cheesecake, a sorbet maker uses Merlot as the accent in the black cherry flavor and a Canadian flour producer uses dried grape skins to make purple-tinted breads, and the list goes on and on.

Inspiration struck Anna Toole-Hutchens during dessert with friends in a Greenwich Village restaurant in 2006. Wine and cheese were on the menu, but not chocolate. She popped out to Li-Lac, a nearby chocolate shop, and returned with lavender, Port and Champagne truffles. As her friends enjoyed cheese, wine and chocolates, inspiration struck: wine-based cheesecakes.

“I couldn’t get the combination of cheese, wine and chocolate out of my mind,” she says. That’s when she launched her Bonita Springs, Florida company, SaborAm, where she creates cheesecake recipes infused with wine. There’s the Merlot and pomegranate juice-spiked Mystifying Merlot, the violet-rose accented with Zintuous Zinfandel and orange zest and Champagne-infused Sabor Lux. The cheesecakes have a creamy texture and lighter crust, since Toole-Hutchens doesn’t want to “overpower the wine flavors.”

From dessert to the dessert: Classic frankfurters are not the only German component of Sam Engelhard’s version of choucroute garni, a customary dish of sauerkraut and sausages. The sous chef at Chicago’s Kith & Kin makes kraut with Riesling.

“Riesling is so flavorful and it goes a long way,” says the restaurant’s executive chef Andrew Brochu. Brochu incorporates half of a bottle of Riesling into four quarts of his salt-pickled cabbage. He lets it sit for about a week to create a kraut with a delicate texture.

“The longer it sits, the better it gets,” says Brochu. “The Riesling gives a floral sweetness. It adds depth to the flavor and helps take the hard edge off the kraut,” concurs Robert Diaz¸ general manager of the restaurant. 

In Fennville, Michigan, Palazzolo Artisan Gelato & Sorbetto makes sorbet by blending fruit juices and fruit pieces that are soaked in wine.

“Some of our best sorbet flavors are the ones with fruit cooked in wine, like Black Cherry Zinfandel,” says co-owner Pete Palazzolo. “The cherries have a burst of wine. One of my favorites is Blood Orange Mimosa sorbet. It’s nice, tart and tangy!”

His advice to home cooks baking fruit-based desserts: “Adding a hint of wine in the recipe will help with a smooth texture,” Palazzolo says.

During her weekly “bread shift” at Stone Road Grille in Ontario, Canada, junior sous chef Molly Sloan uses 1/5 dehydrated Cabernet grape skins in the flour to make Cabernet bread.

“It’s not a huge flavor bang, but guests wonder how the breads get their purple hue,” Sloan says of the taste; however, the breads bake a bit faster with the skins because of the sugar, she says.

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