A surprising combination makes for a startlingly good stand-in.
We’re always looking for ways to accommodate dietary preferences. When we came across British food writer Jack Monroe’s claim that strong tea could be substituted for red wine in cooking, the idea made a fascinating sort of sense, since both tea and red wine get some of their flavors from tannins, bitter compounds also found in coffee and dark chocolate.
To test Monroe’s idea, we compared a pot roast braised in a full bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon with another pot roast braised in an equal amount of black tea. The batch made with tea turned out to be surprisingly good, with the tannins in the tea helping balance the richness of the beef. We made this substitute even better by brewing a superstrong infusion to bring out even more tannins and then adding a little vinegar for brightness. In fact, the pot roast and gravy made with this mixture were startlingly similar to those made with red wine. The tea and vinegar substitution didn’t work quite as well in a simple red wine pan sauce, which didn’t have the benefit of the pot roast’s complex flavors to mask any differences, but the results were still acceptable.