It’s no secret I’m a wine girl, right? I mean, I drink wine, I make wine, I cook with wine and I drink wine. Oh wait, I already mentioned the drinking wine part.
Years and years and years ago I made the unfortunate mistake of using cooking wine to enhance a recipe. You know the stuff I’m talking about – usually it’s found in the aisle with Worcestershire sauce and whatnot.
Why did I consider it a mistake? Because the gourmet meal I was attempting to make tasted like the cooking wine, which tasted more like Mad Dog 20/20. In other words, it tasted horrible.
No offense to those that actually drink Mad Dog 20/20 because they enjoy it, not because they’re forced to drink wine out of a bottle nestled in a brown paper bag. Ahem.
I was nonetheless intrigued when I was asked to try out Holland House Cooking Wines, since I’d seen their name pop up here and there in various recipes and cooking sites, as well as spied them on a shelf. Bring it on!
Can I be honest here for a minute? My rule of thumb when cooking with wine is to always always use a wine you would actually drink out of a bottle. Well, OK, maybe not literally out of a bottle, unless that’s your thing. Put it in a glass, first.
My reasoning behind that is if you don’t like the taste of a particular wine, that’s how your food is going to taste. Which is one of the reasons my gourmet meal failure transpired all those years ago, using a bitter vinegar-y tasting cooking wine.
So good news / bad news – Holland House is way better than that rancid stuff I used years ago. It doesn’t have that Mad Dog 20/20 vibe at all. So there’s that.
Because I’m picky about taste and flavors (and often attempt to channel my inner Gordon Ramsay when cooking), usually I’ll taste test any wine products that are going into the food I’m preparing. And no, it’s not an excuse to drink more wine. As far as you know.
This time I decided not to do a taste test before using the White Cooking Wine, because they all have an abundance of added salt to enable them to be called ‘cooking’ wine:
I always limit my salt intake because I already have an extreme case of water retention all the time, so I don’t need to feed the bloating. I decided to do a blind test with a recipe I’ve been meaning to make, and this gave me the perfect platform in which to do it.
What dish, you ask? Slow Cooker Chicken with Wino Mushroom Sauce, of course. OK, I changed the name a bit, since I changed the original recipe to meet the demands of my people.
I gathered the necessary ingredients:
Notice it’s a very simple recipe, not a lot of ingredients. Not pictured is the milk and fresh garlic. Don’t worry, the recipe is coming. I used a combination of boneless skinless chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken tenders.
I mixed all the ingredients together (except for the chicken, duh!) and added the Holland House White Cooking Wine as the final step:
Do you know how hard it is to take a picture of yourself pouring wine (or anything) into a giant measuring cup? Awkward!
I mixed all the liquid ingredients (with the few non-liquid ingredients, if you’re following along and tend to be literal) all together, placed the chicken in the bottom of my handy dandy crock pot, then poured the mixture over the top to cover:
When there was about an hour left of the cooking time, I used two forks to shred up the chicken and stir it all together. Then made some Angel Hair pasta and dished it up:
We (meaning I) was in such a hurry to eat, I neglected to get the plated food ready for its close-up. It looked great when it was completely plated – I added a side of buttered asparagus spears and home made crusty bread before serving it up to my peeps.
General consensus was that it was pretty good – everyone polished off their plates, so there’s that. But I was trying to figure out what was missing…
It was then that I decided to take a sip of the cooking wine for a taste test after the fact, extra salt be damned. It didn’t taste like wine.
Which I expected – after all, with the added salt technically it wasn’t supposed to taste like wine-wine. But then again, it’s cooking wine, so it’s supposed to at least have the flavor of wine, right?
I’m sure my palate is spoiled by all the wine tastings I’ve participated in over the years, or when making wine, making sure the flavor and bouquet is just so, so I’ll have to take the taste with a grain of salt. Pun intended.
It doesn’t taste like any Chablis I’ve ever had – it didn’t taste like wine at all. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, then had an epiphany that it tastes like really good chicken stock or broth.
Now don’t get me wrong – the flavor was OK, but I was expecting more of a wine flavor. So if you want more of a wine flavor in your recipe, make sure you use your favorite wine.
And the fact that it didn’t have that strong wine flavor was certainly not bad thing – I’m pretty sure the kids liked it better without the strong winey taste. And, like regular wine, the alcohol content gets burned off during cooking, so there’s no worries there, either.
Since I hadn’t had a chance to try the Marsala Cooking Wine or the Sake Cooking Wine, I figured I’d better to a taste test on those for the sake of this post. I know, the things I do for you, right?
They didn’t taste like chicken stock, so that’s a relief. The Marsala had a very faint hint of Marsala – but definitely salty. Same deal with the Sake – salty Sake.
But remember, since I’ve reduced my salt intake in a big way, when there’s added salt to anything, I notice that above and beyond all else. So someone who ingests lots of salt may not get that salty mouthfeel when tasting these cooking wines. And obviously cooking wines are not meant to put in a glass to drink, either. Or out of the bottle.
That being said, I can definitely see using them in appropriate recipes if you want to make sure you have a hint of flavor of Sake or Marsala without the overwhelming flavor of Sake or Marsala. If that makes sense.
If you use a different brand of cooking wines, stop. Holland House is way better than the other brands – their flavors are more robust, and they’re the perfect option to get that hint of flavor without being too overpowering.
Would I use them again? Absolutely! I’ve been perusing their website and have already bookmarked some of their delicious sounding recipes to try with their various flavors of cooking wine. They have a well-rounded selection, that’s for sure:
I’m jonesin’ to try out the White Wine with Lemon, and want to see how their Red Wine version stacks up, too. I will keep you posted on future experimentation for sure!
Do you cook with wine or cooking wines? What are your favorites?
A big thank you to Holland House for providing the product for review. No other compensation was received for this post, implied or otherwise. The opinions are all mine and not influenced by any outside sources. See my Disclosure Policy here.