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Intoxicating Entrées

Tips for cooking with alcohol + a recipe

A menu at a local fish market displays various types of ceviche available in Panama City, Panama.

Mark Swallow/istockphoto.com

In my business I have to cater to the likes of so many different tastes, so I am often challenged to come up with interesting ways to prepare food. I have to think about the menus we offer and how they pair with wine as many of our clients are looking for the ultimate suggestion for food and wine pairings. 

Often, rather than suggesting foods that pair well with wines, we suggest foods that are cooked with wine. This helps steer people in the direction of foods that match well with a nice bottle of white or red. We often cook with wine to deglaze a pan to bring out the best flavors in the food. There are, however, some clients who are reluctant to eat food cooked with alcohol for health or religious reasons; and pregnant women or people taking certain medications are also cautious about the amount of alcohol in foods. 

There is a myth that alcohol bakes off in the oven or cooks off in a pan during the cooking process. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water, which is why people think it disappears in sauces and baked goods. But when you simmer a sauce containing wine or liquor, up to 50 percent of the alcohol can remain. The percentage depends on how long it simmers and other factors, like the size of the pan. When you’re baking a cake, the evaporated alcohol has to work its way out of the batter, so even less will “burn off” than in an open pan. Many people enjoy cooking with wine, beer or hard liquor because the alcohol adds distinctive flavor.

When I was an undergraduate in college, I was fortunate enough to be the teaching assistant for one of the culinary classes that Julia Child taught at Boston University. As it relates to cooking with alcohol, she once said: “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a dish and utterly debase a noble one.”  She’s so right. I have vivid images of her drinking a glass of wine while she was cooking, and she often added some of that wine to her cuisine as she loved the way it melded with food.

One of my favorite recipes prepared with wine is an Italian dessert called Zabaglione. Here’s our recipe for you to enjoy:

Whipped Cream Zabaglione


  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks


Create a double boiler by filling a saucepan with several inches of water, and bringing to a boil over high heat. Place the egg yolks, Marsala wine, and sugar into a metal mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water. Beat constantly with a wire whisk until the Zabaglione turns pale yellow and thickens to the consistency of softly whipped cream. Be sure to beat it well otherwise you may end up with scrambled eggs.  Place the zabaglione into a clean mixing bowl, and set over ice, stirring until cold. Once chilled, fold in the whipped cream.

Serve this dish chilled with fresh fruit or berries. It’s quick and delicious and will fast become one of your go-to favorites.

Keep in mind that cooking with wine is fun. Sometimes you can even add it to food!

Eat, Love, Party!

With an extensive background in luxury event planning, honed at some of the country's most exclusive hotels, Jeffrey Selden leverages his two decades-long party history in his role as Managing Partner of his family owned business, Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning. Whether it's an opulent party for 500, or an intimate private dinner, he holds an industrywide reputation as a power event-builder with a unique, creative vision and flawless results. Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning has been named "Best of the Gold Coast" of Fairfield County by Moffly Media for several years running, and was recently honored by The Knot as “The Best of Weddings.”


Jeffrey Selden
Managing Partner
Marcia Selden Catering and Event Planning
65 Research Drive
Stamford, Connecticut 06906

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