I am dating a man who has been sober for a number of years and he’s coming to my home for dinner. I have several recipes that seem to “require” either some sort of wine/fortified wine in them, specifically an oyster stuffing recipe. How can I substitute alcohol without sacrificing taste?
You are on the right track. Dr. Harry Haroutunian, physician director of the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., says that alcohol flavors in food are indeed potential triggers for a person in recovery. He said many people wrongly believe that it’s okay to cook with alcohol because most of the liquid will have evaporated by the time a dish reaches the table.
“Alcohol’s boiling point is lower than that of water, and many cooks assume that little or none of its potency remains after cooking,’’ said Dr. Haroutunian. “That is simply not true and quite dangerous thinking for anyone in recovery.”
He says cooked food can retain from 5 to 85 percent of the original alcohol, depending on how the dish was prepared and how much alcohol was used. Fast cooking methods, like flambéing, leave about 75 percent of the alcohol behind, he said. A dish that has been baked or simmered for 15 minutes contains about 40 percent of the original alcohol. After two hours of cooking, roughly 10 percent of the alcohol remains.
Non-alcoholic substitutes can be used, but the flavor is likely to be different. For savory recipes Dr. Haroutunian advises using 7/8 cup of broth or juice (apple, tomato or white grape) and 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice or vinegar (to mimic the acidity) for each cup of wine called for in the recipe. In desserts, he suggests replacing the wine with fruit juice plus a dash of balsamic vinegar. If a recipe calls for orange liqueur, try frozen orange juice concentrate and the grated zest of fresh orange instead, he advises.
If the substitutes don’t sound tasty to you, just switch to a new recipe. And don’t be tempted to use a splash of wine anyway. “A bottle of wine in the kitchen — its feel, smell, taste — are absolutely needless temptations and very risky behaviors for the alcoholic in recovery,’’ said Dr. Haroutunian. “Your family, friends and you will enjoy the holidays much more knowing that you cherish your recovery enough to avoid these dangers.”
Here’s an alcohol-free oyster, bread and spinach stuffing recipe from The Times.
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