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The Perfect New Year’s Eve Wine Cocktail

December 31st, 2013 No comments

Your search for the ultimate holiday party cocktail is over. Spiced wine is the perfect festive beverage to serve at your New Year’s Eve gathering, and to enjoy throughout the holiday season. This traditional drink will warm your guests through and through, and looks impressively festive. But they’ll never know that this beverage couldn’t be simpler to make.

Spiced wine has been around for centuries. Nearly every culture that drinks wine has added spices to it at some point in history. Historically, this doctoring has served a number of purposes, from supposedly increasing the wine’s medicinal value to masking the taste of the beverage gone bad.

Today, of course, we know that a few spices probably won’t make wine better for us, and we have no need to disguise the taste of rancid wine. Modern spiced or mulled wine recipes cause for the wine to be warmed with a few spices, along with additions of your choice. Here, we use orange juice and zest, but you can also add a fortifying beverage such as brandy to make your wine cocktail even more festive.

The roots of spiced wine go back as far as ancient Egypt. The Egyptians laced their wine with figs, herbs and pine resin (yum!) to create what was believed to be a medicinal brew. Spiced wine was also popular in Medieval Europe, where it helped the people get through long and terrible winters, and on top of that, was rumored to function as an aphrodisiac — cheers!

The crusades played a major role in spreading the love of spiced wine across Europe. The countries that embraced spiced wine made it their own, designing recipes that are deeply ingrained in their traditions today. In Britain, the beverage is called mulled wine and is a popular drink throughout the winter. In Germany, it’s called Glühwein. In the Nordic countries, it’s called glögg or gløgg.

Whatever you call it, spiced wine has a long history and tradition that make it a great choice for a wintertime party cocktail. There’s no strict recipe, so feel free to make tweaks to the recipe below to make a signature version of spiced wine that you can enjoy with your friends and family for years to come.

Spiced Wine:

In a large pot, bring to a simmer:

1 bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon

3-5 cups apple cider (depending on how strong you like your spiced wine)

The juice and zest of one orange

3 tablespoons-1/3 cup honey (depending on how sweet you’d like it)

3 cinnamon sticks

A few cloves

Simmer for 30 minutes, then pour into mugs and serve.

A Vintage Cellars Recipe: Wild Rice Mushroom Risotto

November 15th, 2013 No comments
Wild Rice Mushroom Risotto | Wine Recipe

Photo Credit: Jason Gibb

Here’s a delicious recipe perfect for your Thanksgiving meal that will feature your favorite cooking wine! This risotto is a simple but hearty dish that will go well with almost everything on your dinner menu.

Wild Rice Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  1. 5 1/2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  2. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  3. 1 small onion, finely chopped
  4. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  5. 1 1/2 cups arborio rice (10 ounces)
  6. 1/2 cup dry red wine
  7. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  8. 1 pound mixed wild mushrooms, thinly sliced
  9. 1 shallot, minced
  10. 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  11. 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a simmer. Keep warm.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  4. Add the wine and cook, stirring until the red wine is absorbed.
  5. Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until it is nearly absorbed between additions. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the mushrooms and shallot, season with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Scrape the mushrooms into the risotto and stir in the cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

A Vintage Cellars Recipe: Cabernet Sauvignon Short Ribs with Polenta

March 29th, 2013 No comments

braised short ribs and polentaThe following is a delicious recipe courtesy of Christopher Noel, a Wine Cellar Specialist at Vintage Cellars.

This family recipe is the perfect way to slow cook short ribs to tender perfection, and it features a whole bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon!

As a side dish, Christopher has also shared his Creamy Gorgonzola Polenta recipe. Garlic mashed potatoes or any of your favorite starch sides will also pair well with these delicious slow-cooked ribs. Bon appetit!

Suggested Wine Pairings: 2007 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel

Cabernet Sauvignon Short Ribs:

5 Pounds of short ribs bone in

4 table spoons of olive oil

3 carrots chopped & peeled

2 whole yellow onions

2 celery stalks

3 bay leaves

5 sprigs of thyme

2 sprigs of rosemary

2 pinches of oregano

5 sprigs of chopped flat leaf parsley

1 head of garlic finely chopped

Kosher salt

Pepper

Old Bay Seasoning

1 Can of tomato paste

1 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon

3 Cups of beef stock

Directions:

1) Preheat oven for 350 degrees. Season meat generously with Old Bay seasoning pepper and Kosher salt.
2) Heat Dutch oven with 2 table spoons of olive oil.
3) Brown ribs on all sides, then set them aside.
4) Use additional 2 table spoons of olive oil if needed and sauté onions/carrots garlic and celery until onions are brown and tender. While vegetables sauté, season them with 2 table spoons of old bay and add in 1 table spoons of tomato paste and 2 table spoons of all-purpose flower.
5) Once stirred, add wine, beef stock and ribs until ribs are covered along with all herbs and bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat and cover with lid. Put into oven for 2.5 to 3 hours until tender.
6) Strain gravy and skim off fat as needed. Add additional seasoning to gravy if needed and drizzle over ribs.

Creamy Gorgonzola Polenta:

1 cup of Gorgonzola cheese

2 Tablespoon unsalted butter

2 Tablespoon olive oil

2 Teaspoon freshly minced spring garlic

1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1-1/2 cups milk

4 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup instant polenta

Kosher Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

1) In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.
2) Add the garlic, and sweat for about 2 minutes, but don’t let the garlic brown.
3) Add the cream, milk and chicken broth and increase the heat to high. Let the broth simmer for 5 minutes.
4) Turn the heat back to medium. Whisking constantly, pour the polenta in a thin stream into the simmering liquid. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the polenta starts to thicken.
5) Turn the heat off, and add the cheese. The heat from the burner should keep the polenta cooking; stir until all of the cheese is melted. Adjust the flavor with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with short ribs, drizzled in any leftover sauce.

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How Much Alcohol Remains In Cooked Food?

August 21st, 2012 No comments

We’ve all heard that when you cook with wine, all the alcohol “boils off,” rendering your final dish innocuous. But is the conventional wisdom true?

In short, no. It is true that alcohol boils at a much lower temperature than water (173 degrees Fahrenheit, compared with 212 degrees Fahrenheit), but all that means is that the alcohol in a dish will begin to evaporate (“boil off”) before the water does. How much alcohol is left in your finished dish depends on three things: heat, time, and the concentration of alcohol you started with. All three factors have a role in evaporating the booze from your dish. So, for example, a flambéed dessert will end up with more alcohol than will a long-simmered tomato sauce with red wine.

A 1992 study by food scientists from Washington State University, the University of Idaho and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooked with wine and sherry (all in the name of science, of course!) to find out exactly how much alcohol is evaporated during normal cooking. Here’s a chart that summarizes what they found:

The take-home message? It can take up to three hours to simmer almost all the alcohol out of a dish. But don’t worry–there’s still not nearly enough to get anyone tipsy, unless you’re pouring bottles of wine into your food, and eating huge portions. Wine is only about 13% alcohol or so. If you’re adding a cup of your favorite red to a pasta sauce, then simmering it for an hour, your finished dish has only 1.56 teaspoons of alcohol in it. Divide that into four servings, and each dinner guest is imbibing in a mere 0.39 teaspoons–hardly enough to accidentally get them drunk. As for the wine you serve with dinner, that’s another story!

Make Your Own Sangria

July 3rd, 2012 No comments

While wine purists may roll their eyes at this post, making Sangria has become a popular topic.  Taken for what it is, basically a mixture of wine and fruit, Sangria is often a summertime “gateway beverage” that leads non-wine drinkers to eventually explore the richly-rewarding world of wine.  (Some folks say wine coolers act in a similar way.)  While Sangria tends to be very fruity and sweet, the good news is that you can control its sweetness if you make it yourself.  What is more, Sangria pairs well with just about every kind of BBQ sauce, especially sauces rich with honey flavor.  This means it’ll be enjoyed at almost any cookout.  And, of course, it’s a great addition to Caribbean meals.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Pitchers of Sangria (image from Wikipedia)

  • 1 bottle of red wine (Rioja is used most often)
  • 1 cup peach-flavored rum
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 1 apple (cut into chunks)
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 6 strawberries, halved
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (or more)

Pour the wine into a big pitcher.  Cut the lemon, lime, and orange into wedges.  Squeeze the juice out of each wedge into the pitcher, then throw in these “squeezed” wedges.  Pour in your rum, then your lemon juice and orange juice.  Stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar.   Chill!  When ready to serve, add apples, strawberries, club soda, and ice (if desired.)

If your BBQ sauce is too acidic, or if your Sangria needs to be sweeter to combat other big dinner dishes, simply add more sugar as needed.  You can even experiment by altering the other ingredients.  Have fun!  Give this recipe a whirl on one of this year’s final summer days.

In Place of Red Wine…

June 12th, 2012 No comments

If you enjoy cooking with wine, you probably keep a few bottles on hand.  However, “wine emergencies” do happen; dogs and children can knock over portable wine racks, you can drop, break, or spill the last bottle of “perfect” red wine meant for your dinner, or you can be so rushed to get home and start cooking that you forget to pick up that “perfect bottle” in the first place!  Although nothing competes with a quality wine, below are a few cooking tricks to use in an emergency when you find yourself without a proper wine.

Wine is meant to enrich food, not compete with it.  Be sure your dish really requires that “wine flavor” before doing one of the following:  If your recipe really needs wine, substitute regular grape juice or cranberry juice.  Cranberry juice blends containing apple juice are also possible.  If the result is too sweet, add a tablespoon of vinegar.  (This really does work.)

Use a Napa 4-bottle wine dispenser to keep wine on hand while you cook.

If you are making a soup, stew, or sauce, do not add the wine alternative at the last minute.  Instead, add the substitution to your liquid as it simmers so you can accurately gauge the balance of its flavor and its overall scent.  If you need a red wine substitute for soup, consider using 1/2 a cup of broth mixed with 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar.  Don’t have red wine vinegar?  Use 1 teaspoon of lemon juice instead!

While nothing compares to meat marinated in red wine, any marinade will help make your meat more juicy and tender than if cooked alone.  If your meat dish requires a dry red, add a cup of lemon or lime juice for a generic tart taste, or a cup of orange or even pineapple juice for a tart-yet-sweet marinade.  Too strange?  Try 3/4 cup tomato juice and 1/4 cup vinegar.   (That’s actually not too bad!)

Although these alternatives may sound a bit odd, the results are far superior than if you resort to “cooking wine.”  Although you may have an inkling, resist the temptation to use cooking wine!  It is often flavored with salt and various additives that will easily compromise your dish.  Of course, the best course of action is to always have extra bottles of wine around “just in case.”  To ensure you always have a few bottles of red on hand, consider purchasing a Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser. This way, you’ll always have a bottle “on tap” and ready to go.  The Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser also fits conveniently in most kitchen spaces.  Cheers!

Meatballs in Red Wine Sauce

If you like to add wine to your pasta sauce, here’s an easy recipe that’s sure to make some happy tummies!  Here’s what you’ll need:

Red Wine and Meatball Sauce

Photo by Erik Möller

  • 1 pound (or more) ground beef or turkey
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 egg, yolk separated
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • olive oil
  • parsley flakes
  • salt
  • pepper
Napa 4-bottle wine dispenser and wine preserver

Napa 4-bottle Wine Dispenser

In a large bowl, mix the egg, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and ground beef (or turkey) by hand.  Season liberally with salt and pepper, and continue mixing.  Shape your meat mixture into 20-30 small balls, and set them in a medium-to-large frying pan coated with olive oil.  Fry your meatballs, turning them as necessary until they are brown on all sides.  Drain excess oil from the pan, if necessary, and remove the meatballs.  (Set them aside for later.)  In a separate bowl, mix together the beef stock, wine, and tomato paste.  Add parsley flakes as desired.  Carefully pour mixture into your meatball pan, stirring gently until the sauce comes to a boil.  Add your meatballs!  Cover and simmer for 25-30 min.  Pour over pasta, and enjoy!  (And don’t forget to serve the wine you used for cooking with the meal.)  If you’ve prepared this dish in advance early in the day, consider using the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the rest of your wine fresh and ready to serve with the meal.

Do you have a favorite wine-sauce variation? Share it in the comments!

 

Red Wine Garlic Bread

January 31st, 2012 No comments

Delicious wine bread with garlicIn the mood for some warm, winter bread?  Who isn’t? With a little wine and garlic, your winter snack will be even more delightful!  First, pick up a freshly-baked baguette from your local grocery store or bakery.  (You may also opt to bake yourself a homemade loaf of French bread.)  In addition to a loaf of bread, you’ll need:

  • 1/4 cup dry, red wine (pick a good one!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced thinly

Preheat your oven to 400° F.  Cut your bread into 1-inch slices but do not fully separate them from the main loaf; aim for semi-sliced bread that will bake as a unit, but with slices that will be easy to separate later on.  Place a large amount of foil on a baking sheet, and place your bread on top of it.  Curl up the edges of the foil to contain the soon-to-be-made wine and butter mixture.  Between each slice of bread, place a thin slice of garlic.  Mix the wine and melted butter in a bowl, then pour the mixture evenly between bread slices.  Pour whatever is left evenly over the top of the bread.  Bake for 22-24 minutes until the bottom of the bread is nice and crisp.  Enjoy!

Wine and Chicken Crock-Pot® Recipe

January 10th, 2012 No comments

Crock-Pot®Slow cookers, like the Crock-Pot®, are ideal for winter cooking; you can keep them on and cooking all day, filling your home with the tempting aroma of tonight’s dinner.  What is more, you can even use them when cooking with wine.  Here’s a delicious chicken recipe perfect for a cold, winter’s eve.

 What you’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 whole mushrooms, diced
  • 12 pearl onions, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 to 6 chicken legs, or a small chicken
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser

Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser

Put your diced mushrooms and onions into your slow cooker.  Add the chicken broth, dry red wine, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, garlic salt, pepper, and bay leaf.  Stir.  Add your chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.  When ready, place chicken on a warm serving dish, and transfer the liquid in your slow cooker to a small pan to make a nice sauce.  Add the 1/4 cup of flour to it and, if necessary, a 1/4 cup more chicken broth.  Cook until thick, and stir.  Remove bay leaf, and distribute the sauce evenly over the chicken.  (This recipe also works well with two cornish game hens.)  Since this dish will be cooking all day, consider using a wine preservation device like the Napa 4- bottle wine dispenser to keep the remainder of your wine fresh to serve with the meal.  Happy eating!

Recipe: Wine & Lemon Sauce for Chicken

January 5th, 2012 2 comments

Every family seems to have a unique, coveted lemon chicken signature dish.  Perhaps this easy wine and lemon sauce recipe will help liven up your current poultry preparatory practices, or perhaps you’ll be inspired to add additional ingredients to make this sauce truly your own?  Here’s all you’ll need:

Sliced lemons, ready to make a white wine and lemon sauce.

A photograph of lemons by André Karwath

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup white wine (we recommend any good Sauvignon or Fumé Blanc)
  • 2 lemons, or more
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

While your chicken is cooking, mix the flour, pepper, and salt together in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and wine.  Mix well!  Pour the mixture into a small pan, and heat on medium until the sauce reaches a desired thickness.  Next, cut your lemons, and squeeze as much juice from them as possible into the pan.  (You can add more lemons, if desired, and bottled lemon juice will suffice if you’re in a pinch.)  Stir quickly, then remove the pan from heat.  Transfer the sauce into a serving bowl, and top with parsley.  Spoon the sauce over your fully-cooked chicken, and enjoy!  As always, be sure to serve the wine you used to make the sauce with the meal.  If you have wine left over, don’t throw it out; consider using a nitrogen-based wine dispensing system like The Keeper Wine Preservation System to keep it fresh for the next time.  And to bring out the flavor of your Fumé Blanc even more, consider adding one or more of the following ingredients to your sauce: dill, basil, chives, crushed hazelnuts, mustard, or capers.  Mmmmm!