I wouldn’t consider myself an outstanding cook, but I try my best. My biggest problem is following recipes. I can’t really do it for some reason. I always have to improvise or add a little something extra. Most of the time that works. I can tell you one time where it definitely doesn’t work for me and that is…. baking. Not my area of expertise and believe me I have tried. I am not even able to make the simplest batch of sugar cookies without screwing it up. When it comes to cooking though, now we’re talking. I believe there is one reason that I can cook and that is, if I can add wine to it, then by all higher powers, I will add wine to it. Now how can you mess that up? Trust me, it’s kinda hard to do and if you allow yourself to sip the wine while cooking, well, if you screw up you won’t care by then.
The one thing I don’t cook at home but once in a long while is fish. I’m not a big fan of fish unless its Yellow-Tail Snapper. That is about the only dish I go out to dinner for and will pay whatever to get. However, that is not practical to do as often as I like. I think my favorite part of that dinner is the sauce. Essentially it is just a beurre blanc sauce at the restaurant which is incredibly simple to make at home. It’s as easy as chopping some shallots, saute in pan until soft (do not brown them) and then adding butter, white wine and lemon juice (all in small amounts) and lightly bubbling until it’s the consistency you want it to be. Since I buy cheap white wine, it’s almost always in the house. I have also made this sauce without the shallots and instead I add a little heavy cream to thicken the sauce for noodles. Pouring this sauce over a baked piece of talapia (or any other mild flavored fish) almost makes me forget I’m not eating snapper. I also love this sauce on egg noodles served with thin breaded pan-fried chicken or pork. Another alternative if you’re not cooking with shallots is to add chopped chives and white pepper at the end of cooking this sauce. The white pepper adds a little bite to it and the chopped chives (fresh is preferable) really liven up the flavor.
When it comes to meat, which we eat a lot of in our house, I had to have an alterative. Steak, steak and more steak. Due to this fact, I had to have something other than a steak sauce or, dare I say it, ketchup. Yes. I am guilty of dipping my steak in ketchup (I think that’s sacrilegious in some parts of the world). I think the first time I used red wine in cooking, other than pouring loads of red wine in my spaghetti sauce, was my mother’s stroganoff recipe. I remember asking my husband to dinner for the first time while we were out on a golf date. I asked him if he liked stroganoff and he thought it was a vodka. Well, maybe he didn’t know what it was, but once I made it for him, the rest was history. To this day though I’m not sure if it was me or the gallon of red wine I used in that beef stroganoff that hooked him. I guess I can’t bring that up and then not tell you how I make my stroganoff, so here it is, as simple as I can make it. First I cut a bottom round roast into small chunks and place them in a bowl of red wine until ready to cook. Chop regular onion and brown in butter in skillet deep enough to fit all beef and once browned I add the beef as I drain it from the red wine. Cover skillet and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender. As the liquid cooks out I slowly add red wine to the beef to keep it simmering. I then add a packet (or two depending on how much beef you cook) of brown gravy mix adjusting the water amount added as I want the sauce to be thick. I also always throw in a couple teaspoons of Gravy Master. If the sauce is too thin I’ll just add a little flour mixed with a small amount of water (paste consistency) to the beef. Once the gravy is as thick as I like it (i.e., when I know it’s going to stick to the egg noodles) I will take the cover off and turn the stove to low and slowly add in sour cream until smooth. I then pour this over cooked egg noodles and let rest for about 20 minutes and serve. Yummy.
Now back to my easy red wine sauce for steaks. Just as I do my white wine sauce, I will chop shallots and cook in butter. I slowly add red wine and stir while simmering until I get a nice thick consistency and will pour this sauce over my steak. It works on any kind of steak whether it be rib-eye, sirloin, strip or tenderloin. If you have some in your house I would also add a dash of red wine vinegar and chives. If you sauce is thinned out too much by the wine, then just add in a little more butter, cooking until it thickens. Worse case scenario, add a little corn starch to thicken.
With these two simple little sauces you can have an abundance of simple yet romantic dinners every day of the week. I caution though, this is not for children. I have been pleasantly buzzed from eating these sauces and we don’t want to turn our children into eating alcoholics. However, the white sauce can be made without the white wine. Add a little white vinegar instead for the kiddies.