Recovering alcoholic frustrated foodie....
There are so many awesome recipes out there that don't include alcohol, I shouldn't be frustrated, BUT - I know from personal experience (mainly in restaurants) and from hearing from other foodies what wonderful flavors cooking with wines and other spirits can add to food.
Does anyone have any suggestions for really awesome substitutions? Keeping a partial bottle of any spirits in the house isn't a good idea for a recovering alcoholic, and I don't really want to buy a whole bottle of something and then dump the rest down the drain after using the 1/2 cup or whatever my recipe of the day calls for. I've even thought of inviting friends who drink over for the meal, and sending the rest of the bottle home with them, but then I'm encouraging someone to drive with open alcohol in the car, not my idea of being a good friend!
At least twice, after at least three years each, those little bottles of wine have seduced me. I live near wine country, and have to deal with it a lot, and do, without batting an eye, I can keep one of the little bottles for years, and then one day...
I hope I don't try THAT again! These are some great ideas,
You can often substitute with stock or juice. I do occasionally just because I don't want to open a bottle of wine for the half cup I might need. I've used cranberry or pomegranate (100% juice versions) in place of red wine. Both are tart enough to impart a bit of that dryness that red wine gives. I've also used chicken stock in place of white wine. They may not be perfect, but they're much better than the dreck that cooking wine is.
I've gotten to the point in my recovery that it doesn't bother me to have some wine around the house and I never liked beer anyway so I don't mind having it around. There are just some flavors you can't achieve in cooking without using wine or beer. Make sure to cook your food long enough for the majority of the alcohol to cook out. You can never cook it all out, but then you get minute amounts of alcohol when you put vanilla flavoring in food. If the amount is minuscule, the average body won't even register the alcohol with any effect. I do avoid keeping stronger spirits around, however, and I will send them home with people (have them put the opened bottle in the trunk of the car to avoid open container violations).
In early recovery I found the small 1-glass bottles of wine were great to use. You can buy them one at a time and pour out leftovers. The same applies to stronger spirits, for example Cooks Illustrated has started adding vodka to pie crusts and it really makes for a flaky crust and you don't taste the vodka at all. I buy those tiny airline bottles, which are available at some liquor stores and pour out anything I have that's leftover.
It's really up to you what you can tolerate having around and you have to be brutally honest with yourself about that. If there's any doubt at all, pour it out because losing your sobriety would be much more of a shame than pouring out a bottle of good wine, no matter how expensive it is.
A different idea is picking up some regional cuisines that really almost never involve alcohol? Indian/South Asian food, or Thai/Vietnamese/SE Asian, for example, or Mexican?