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I'm hoping you can help me with an issue I have. I had a co-worker whose spouse made a very large pot of Beef Bourguingnon. It was delicious. I found out she had used Ina Garten's recipe. You can find it here Ina Garten: Beef Bourguignon.

I made it to the recipe, with the exception that I couldn't find pearl onions, so I used regular. My co-worker's batch was excellent and there was just a hint of wine. Mine tasted extremely boozy. I think I even let it cook a little longer than the recipe called for, hoping the alcohol would cook out, but it didn't. It was very strong.

I'm not a wine guy. I don't drink it and don't know anything about it. The co-worker didn't know which wine his wife bought. I probably grabbed something red colored, possibly a cabernet sauvignon, because I know a guy that drinks it and I probably recognized the label.

Can you guys tell me if a different red wine would taste less boozy or do I just need to reduce the amount of wine in the recipe and up the amount of stock? Thanks for the help.

Edit: By 'boozy' I meant it had a strong alcohol flavor to it. It could partially been stronger because of the tannins one of you guys said was heavy in the cabernet. Also, I attached this recipe, because the co-worker told me the one they handed me was Ina Garten's recipe. I just read through this one and the one I was handed uses much more wine. I know I've experienced in the past where a chef will have two version of a recipe posted around the internet, where they've improved it. The one they handed me and it said it was Ina Garten called for adding all the ingredients back to the pot and then adding a small bottle of wine. I think it was 750ml. You're supposed to then add beef stock to bring the level of liquid up to right below the top of the beef. I didn't have to add much beef stock. Looking at this recipe, it says 1.5 cups. So the version I had basically adds 2x the amount of wine. That could very well be the issue, though the co-worker made the same version with the same ratio of wine I did, so I guess it's also the type of wine used. I probably need to use one of the types you guys suggested.

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    I honestly think you are confusing boozy with something else. If you followed the directions of the recipe, it would boil for at least 30 minutes. I'm not sure how this 5% thing works since you are starting with a wine that's probably only 13% alcohol. I think if you make this again, use a light bodied wine like Pinot Noir (aka Burgundy) or Chianti. Do a little looking at the bottle before you buy. Heavy tannic wines like Cabernet do not make good cooking wine. – farmersteve Jan 30 '18 at 22:16
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    Cooking for longer may actually have concentrated the wine flavours in the sauce. Adjusting the proportions of the liquids in a recipe like this to suit your taste is a very normal part of cooking. – Chris H Jan 30 '18 at 22:19
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    I think we need a clarification on the term “boozy”. Do you mean a strong alcoholic taste or do you mean the wine flavor was very intense? – Stephie Jan 30 '18 at 22:46
  • By "boozy" I mean there seemed to be a strong alcohol flavor coming through. It's potentially wine flavor, because I don't drink wine I wouldn't know, but it had a stronger alcohol flavor that the other batch. – Dalton Jan 31 '18 at 15:52
  • Julia Child uses 3 cups of wine. I know recipes that use a whole bottle of wine. epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/… I think it has to do with the strength of the wine and how long you cooked it afterwards. I would cook it more and sample it along the way. – farmersteve Jan 31 '18 at 18:24
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After Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. but prior to adding the beef stock, reduce the wine to almost a syrup. Most of the alcohol will be driven off, along with most of the water. When the, relatively large volume of beef stock is added, the concentration of alcohol will be greatly reduced. You may need to add additional liquid to make up for the missing wine and You may need to adjust how the garlic is handled, so to not over cook at high heat.

Edited to remove wrong chemistry.

  • The 5% is true but not true. If you drive the volume of liquid below 5% you won't just end up with 100% alcohol, it will probably remain 5% of the total volume of liquid until it's all gone. – farmersteve Jan 30 '18 at 22:11
  • @SteveS, edited to clarify, I'm talking about 5% concentration in remaining liquid. I am unclear why you thought I was talking about ending up with a 100% concentration. – Shannon Severance Jan 30 '18 at 22:27
  • I'm confused by this 5% claim. In this article, it looks like it can go way below 5% but never completely to 0% sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X16300427 – farmersteve Jan 30 '18 at 23:10
  • @Steves, According to MaxW, I don't understand azeotropes and am wrong about the 5% (Probably true.) However quick read of your link, those percentages are after preparing a dish, and dilution figures predominantly in some of them, not just cooking it off. For example the first recipe for the vinaigrette with no cooking, the reduction below 5% is just dilution of ale with oil, water, and other ingredients. – Shannon Severance Jan 30 '18 at 23:25
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    +1 Almost every time I've run into the 'too boozy' situation, it's because someone was in a rush and didn't reduce the wine before adding another liquid – Joe Jan 31 '18 at 1:28
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First, this recipe is anything but authentic. One big single piece of beef? Olive oil?? Tomato paste?!?? This might make a good stew, but it sure won't make boeuf bourguigon. The recipe I like that's closest to my mother's is in Mireille Johnston's 'Cuisine of the Rose'.

But back to the point. The amount of wine is not what made yours taste boozy. I never reduce after deglazing either, I just pour in a whole bottle and leave it be (and no stock either). I like a shot of brandy with that too. It's the long slow cooking that melds the flavors together, and ensures that the booze is no longer alcoholic, in physical or psychological effect. This is an interesting theoretical article https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/dining/beef-stew-recipe.html but I always make mine on the stovetop..

That said, I generally dislike cabernet, so I don't use it. Let me point out that this recipe being from Burgundy, you would be well advised to use a wine from that region. However I frequently grab some $2 bottle from Trader Joe's. The cabernet is much milder than the more expensive ones and suitable, I also like the merlot. Serve a better bottle to your friends with the finished stew, no need to spend a fortune up front.

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Temperature and cooking time affect alcohol levels

When cooking with wine or other alcohols, no matter the recipe, the important thing to look at is the temperature when applying the alcohol, and/or the temperature at which it cooks for a long period of time.

When applying the alcohol

In your recipe, since it isn't a very long cooking process, you will want the alcohol to leave early on in the recipe (when you apply it). When applying alcohol, I prefer to be an aggressive cook and raise the heat of my pan before adding in the wine for it to instantly puff and simmer, removing most of the alcohol at the application.

Reduction

I prefer early high heat to raising the heat and then reducing the wine because it's harder to get a level of heat needed for evaporation once the wine is in, and it's harder to judge of the alcohol level too. You can cook until reduction, which will take care of most of the alcohol too as it will simmer, as mentioned by others in their answers.

When adding large quantities of wine to a stew or other oven-cooked recipes with long cook times, the cooking temperature must be above the temperature required to evaporate alcohol, and it should go a long way in keeping only the wine flavors.

Conclusion

For me, the benefit of an initial high heat is keeping the flavorful liquid while having a fast evaporation of alcohol. (Side note: When you see pans "flambéing" on TV, it's because high heat makes for fumes susceptible to burning, especially with gas elements.)

Naturally, removing all of the alcohol isn't possible, you will always have a certain amount left, whatever the method. For your Beef Bourguignon, I would advise both high heat before incorporating the wine and then some simmer reduction. Hope this helps!

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By reducing the liquid contents you should boil off virtually all of the alcohol.

The phase diagram for water-ethanol is shown below which I copied from here. The ethanol-water ratio is on the X-axis and the temperature of the liquid and vapor is shown on the Y-axis.

enter image description here

The gist is two-fold.

First by distillation you can't get more than about 95% ethanol. Ethanol and water form an azetrope which is about 95% ethanol and 5% water and boils at 78.2 degrees C (173 Fahrenheit).

Second for liquids with much more water than alcohol than water, the evaporating vapor will have more alcohol than water. So the more you boil the liquid contents down the less ethanol will remain in the liquid.

So for your recipe to reduce the alcohol follow the recipe till the part where it says

"Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock..."

At that point you can boil down the liquid by 1 cup to say 2.5 cups get rid of most of the ethanol. Then add 1 cups of water to replenish the total amount of liquid and follow the rest of the recipe.

If you boil off more than 1 cup then there will be even less alcohol remaining.

Note that the alcohol is also further decreased since you simmer uncovered with the onions and carrots in a later step until the liquid is reduced.

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    I think this is really more of a comment. This doesn't actually answer the question, "Can you guys tell me if a different red wine would taste less boozy or do I just need to reduce the amount of wine in the recipe and up the amount of stock?" – Catija Jan 30 '18 at 20:41
  • I assume that less boozy means less alcohol. There shouldn't be any appreciable amount. (A great chemical analysis could probably find a very very tiny bit.... ie a drop of ethanol in a bathtub of water. ) – MaxW Jan 30 '18 at 20:51
  • -1, for many reasons. 1) assuming that boozy taste and amount of alcohol are linearly related, 2) for attacking the other answer. 3) for wording it in a way where readers have to look twice until they realize how it is connected to the question. 4) because according to most sources, your assertion is incorrect. At normal cooking times, a lot of the alcohol stays in the food, and even at very long times, some of it is retained. See cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/659. – rumtscho Jan 30 '18 at 21:30
  • @rumtscho but if you boil off most of the liquid, you boil off most of the alcohol. And of course most of the water. That's not a reason to support this answer, but to support the one it comments on, which suggests doing that then diluting with stock – Chris H Jan 30 '18 at 22:13
  • @MaxW with the wine forming less than half the total liquid it's highly unlikely that the boozy sensation is actually due to alcohol content (which would be around 6% assuming it doesn't reduce at all due to evaporation, which it will a little). – Chris H Jan 30 '18 at 22:17

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