Cooking without the booze

Q: I do not have wine or liquor in the house as I do not drink. When a recipe calls for alcohol is there some other liquid I can use? I hate to buy the stuff just to have it go to waste. Sometimes adding water seems to dilute the good flavors.

—Toni Chapman, Batavia, Ill.

A: Yes, you can substitute some other type of liquid for alcohol in a recipe because the booze is there, usually, to add flavor. Use canned broth, homemade stock, fruit juices, instant coffee or espresso, meat drippings (terrific tossed into a salad dressing), cream, flavored syrups—anything pourable—to provide a tasty boost to the dish.

Use water if that's all you have, but don't be afraid to jazz it up first. Stir in some ketchup or tomato paste, Dijon mustard, or Worcestershire or soy sauce—anything that will give the water a kick.

Cooking without wine would be the biggest culinary challenge but it can be done. Boeuf bourguignon without the wine is a beef stew; might not sound as fancy but tastes just as delicious.

I'm sure there are more examples, but I can only think of two instances where alcohol is absolutely necessary in the kitchen: Flaming, as in crepe suzettes, for example; and in making frozen strawberry or banana daiquiris. The "virgin" versions tend to freeze up much harder than ones made with liquor.

We didn't test these out, but if you're looking for substitution suggestions try this page at The Gourmet Sleuth.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611.

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