Alcohol substitutes that don't sacrifice flavor

Those wonderfully appealing recipes in magazines and glossy advertisements may be trendy and exciting, but more and more they seem to have wine included among the ingredients. If you don't use wine in cooking, this may be a small dilemma. Can the wine be left out altogether or is there something to substitute that's not alcoholic? That is the question.

The best, but not always the easiest, solution is to find another recipe without wine that will fill the need.

But this is not always possible. There are occasions when a substitute is needed. Often a specific recipe or dish has been requested by a family or friend. Sometimes only one recipe can be found for a special ethnic or holiday dish.

If wine is a major ingredient in your recipe or if a large quantity is called for, it makes good sense to avoid it -- not to attempt a substitute. Results could be unpleasant because the substitute will change the dish into something quite different from what was originally intended. In such a case, look for another recipe.

But often the wine required is a small amount, such as one or two tablespoons, and in this case there are several substitutes.

For sherry and light wines. Lemon or lime juice and chicken bouillon are good substitutes when called for in small amounts. Use equal quantities of lemon juice or chicken bouillon or equal amounts of lemon juice combined with celery water, made by boiling leaves and coarse celery stalks.

In Chinese and other dishes requiring small amounts of light wine, plain water will often do when the recipe has other seasonings such as soy sauce or sesame oil. Both wine and a substitute may sometimes be omitted altogether if liquid is not needed for a gravy or sauce.

For white wines with fish. Many recipes call for fish and chicken or other meats to be poached or cooked in white wine. A substitution can be used in some cases, but the cook must use judgment as to whether or not the flavor will be changed. An equal amount of bottled or fresh clam or fish stock can often be used with fish. Just remember that fish stock and especially bottled clam juice are usually high in salt, so reduce any salt in recipe accordingly. Use chicken stock or bouillon with chicken.

Some people use white grape juice as a substitute for wine with fish. Others say it is too sweet. Apple juice is also a possibility, but it is wise to sample fruit juices for flavor and sweetness before using.

For red wine. Cranberry juice slightly diluted or combined with lemon juice is good, especially in marinade mixtures and barbecue recipes. It is often recommended for pot roasts and stews, with the idea that the acid content helps tenderize the meat. Sample it to be sure it isn't too sweet for your taste.

For champagne. Ginger ale is recommended, especially for some baked and roasted meats and in recipes that call for basting a leg of lamb with champagne or white wine. This is a matter of personal taste.

Although a ginger flavor is nice with many foods, there are other ways to season lamb, such as with rosemary or thyme or other herb combinations. The sweetness of the ginger ale is another consideration.

Ginger ale for desserts is a different thing. It's fine with fruits. Other carbonated beverages may also be used with fresh or canned fruit desserts in place of wine.

Grenadine. A liquid form of sugar made from pomegranate juice, grenadine is a bright scarlet color, is free from any trace of alcohol, and is excellent as a sweetening agent and dessert topping.

Phyllis Hanes is the Monitor's food editor.

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