In Vermouth Veritas

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Folks on the CLBB have a conversation rolling about dry vermouth. Specifically, how to use it for cooking. Some have pointed out that you can use it in place of white wine. Very true. But there are differences, because vermouth brings a little something extra to the party.

Vermouth is an aromatized wine, which means that herbs and spices are added to the mix, typically dozens of botanicals such as allspice, anise, clove, ginger, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, and vanilla. The faint spice, herbal, and floral notes make it a particularly appealing substitute for white wine. These extra flavors won’t overpower a dish, but they lend a welcome complexity to the overall flavor. (Again, we’re talking about dry vermouth here; sweet vermouth is a whole different story. And be aware that one major producer, Noilly Prat, has recently changed its recipe, making it much sweeter; if you’re subbing it for white wine, you probably won’t want that.)

Vermouth is also lightly fortified with unaged brandy, giving it a slightly higher alcohol content than white wine, so it may need to cook longer to burn off  most of its alcohol. I find that vermouth works extremely well with shellfish, as in this Linguine with Mussels recipe.

Photo courtesy: Cote at Flickr

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