Need Just a Little White Wine to Cook With?

I’ve been wanting to write a post about dry vermouth for a while.  It’s a regular part of my cooking, and a great tool for adding flavor to foods without adding a lot of calories or salt.  Every time I try to write this post I get sidetracked, wanting to talk about the physiology of taste and the roles of fat, salt, and glutamine in creating the flavors we taste.  I’m getting sidetracked again right now, so I’m gong to start writing a series of posts where I explore these ideas and how to make use of them in cooking.  More to come on that later.

For now, back to dry vermouth. when I was still working as a cook, there was always white wine in the kitchen.  We would use it to deglaze pans, and flavor sauces and risottos.  I always wanted to have wine on hand when I was cooking at home.  The problem was, I didn’t use it up all that fast, and didn’t want to have to drink or waste most of a bottle of wine after I used a cup or so to cook.  The solution came to me when I learned what vermouth was.  Vermouth is wine that has had additional alcohol to it (fortified), and has been flavored (aromatized) with various botanicals. It makes a great substitute for white wine, and it has a much longer shelf life.

You typically find two varieties of vermouth: dry and sweet.  Dry vermouth is made with white wine and is, I think, a great substitute for white wine in cooking.  Sweet vermouth is made with red wine, and typically has added sugar.  I’ve tried cooking with it, and haven’t been happy with the results. Most recipes that call for white wine only need a splash, whereas most red wine recipes call for a good bit of red wine.  This means a lot of added sugar in recipes where you might not really want it.  Since you typically use more red wine when you cook with it there’s less waste, so it makes more sense just to buy a bottle.

My favorite use for dry vermouth is for finishing sautéed  vegetables.  I take green beans or leafy greens and sauté them in in a little oil. when they are mostly cooked I give them a splash of dry vermouth, cover and let them steam.  I prefer my veggies only lightly cooked, and bright green, but you can let them go until the bright green is gone and the vegetables softer.  I’ll put together a recipe for a post later this week.