Erik Neilson on July 27, 2016 0 Comments People have been cooking with wine for as long as it has been produced throughout the world. From soups and stews to marinades and glazes, red wine in particular is capable of providing bold flavors and zippy acidity to practically any dish it’s incorporated into. There is perhaps no better example of how red wine can be utilized culinarily, however, than in building a traditional red wine sauce. If you’ve never built a red wine sauce from scratch before, here’s a secret: it’s easy! Take the following approach, and you’ll have the perfect sauce for steak, grilled vegetables and anything in between. Choosing the Right Wine One of the most important things to realize when attempting to put together a red wine sauce is that you should never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink. It can be tempting to save a few dollars by picking up a cheap bottle to cook with, but doing so won’t help your sauce of the food you serve it with. For best results, choose a wine that you can both cook with and drink alongside your finished meal. For steak, a well-made bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon will fit the bill perfectly. Why Cabernet? Simply because it’s one of the boldest grapes you’re going to find in the wine world. As the wine is heated and eventually simmered, it will reduce down to approximately half its original volume, resulting in a rich, concentrated flavor that will carry your sauce. Do You Know How to Cook with Wine? Learn How. Procuring Your Ingredients While there is literally no end to the amount of augmentation possible when preparing a red wine sauce, this isn’t to say that the process has to be any bit more complicated than necessary — especially the first time around. A basic red wine sauce consists of just 3 ingredients: butter, red wine and shallot (red onion can be substituted if necessary). From there, additions such as herbs, vinegars and stocks can help to make your base sauce “pop”. Ingredients such as these can truly alter the flavor of a sauce, so it’s best to experiment with them further on down the line once you have a strong handle on the process. Step 1: Melt Butter/Saute Shallots Start by heating a small-to-medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. After 20-30 seconds, add 2 tbsp butter to the pan, swirling to coat. Once the foaming of the butter has subsided and its color has turned ever so slightly brown, add 1/4-1/2 cup diced shallots, sauteing until translucent. At this point, you can choose to optionally season the shallot/butter mixture with salt and pepper (go light and season to taste when the sauce is finished). Step 2: Add Wine After optionally seasoning your shallot mixture, add approximately 3/4-1 cup of red wine to the pan, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low, ensuring that the liquid is reducing without allowing it to come to a boil. Reduce for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until you end up with half the volume you started with. Step 3: Finish Once your sauce has reached its desired consistency, it’s time to finish it. Finishing your sauce can be as easy as taking the pan off the heat and adding a pat of butter, swirling to combine. This will not only add body to the sauce, but richness. At this point, you can choose to add herbs, vinegars or any other adjuncts that come to mind, all the while ensuring that the balance of the sauce never gets disrupted. Serving Your Red Wine Sauce As delicious as a properly made red wine sauce can be, it’s not something that should ever be served on its own. Like most sauces, red wine sauce must accompany a protein in order to work on a dish, and steak is perhaps the most common option. It’s best to choose a cut that will pair nicely with the richness of your sauce, in which case you’re going to want a fair amount of fat — ribeye and hangar steak come to mind. Sear quickly for approximately 2-3 minutes per side if the steak is an inch or so in thickness, ensuring that the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. Remove steak and allow to rest, covered, for five minutes. Once the steak has rested, slice it against the grain and on a bias. Fan 3-5 slices of steak out on a plate. Using a sauce spoon, drizzle a moderate amount of your red wine sauce over the steak and any accompanying vegetables that might benefit from an added boost of flavor. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve! The Bottom Line While you may have thought that putting together something as complex sounding as a red wine sauce was beyond your abilities, it clearly is one of the easiest ways to cook with wine. As you develop a more advanced technique, feel free to modify the recipe to meet your needs. Most importantly, be sure to pour a glass of the wine you’re cooking with when dinner is served to appreciate its full potential. Happy cooking (and drinking)!