Too much Champagne? Ahh yes, that age-old dilemma of the working class. It is, perhaps, a problem we long for rather than one we actually negotiate on a regular basis, but if ever there were a time when our flutes runneth over with an access of bubbly, it’s during those first few foggy days in January.
Maybe you stockpiled a bit too much for your fabulous New Year’s Eve party or were given a bounty of bottles as holiday gifts and the idea of downing one more glass has you eyeing that industrial strength Tylenol. Or maybe, just maybe, those two mysteriously opened yet unconsumed bottles have begun to lose their fizz, and thus destined for the drain (or so you thought).
Halt! Allow us a to make a few suggestions of a culinary nature.
Cooking with wine, in general, is a good and fast way to impart depth of flavor to sauces, stews, desserts and much more. That’s because wine, by nature of production, has already aged itself and its ingredients into a complex tapestry of sweetness, acidity, tannins, and other aromas and flavors attractive to our taste buds. It’s why we love wine in the first place. When we cook, and thus reduce/concentrate that flavor, while removing far less tasty alcohol, we’re left with a power shot of flavor created for us, deftly and lovingly, in a winery somewhere.
In terms of cooking, sparkling wine is likely not the first thing that comes to mind. For one, it bares association with celebration or brunch cocktails and, on average, runs at a higher price point per bottle. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a great choice for a range of exciting dishes and should not be overlooked!
A good rule of thumb when cooking with wine is to use it in recipes that, themselves, would pair well with the wine in question. It’s also wise to use something of a quality that you yourself would drink. That doesn’t have to mean a $300 bottle of Krug but stay away from the bargain bin, when possible.
Do be careful. Most sparkling wines have a specific and sometimes delicate flavor and are not a viable substitute for any recipe, even those calling specifically for white wine. To complicate matters just a bit, different sparkling wines themselves have marked differences in their own profiles, via production and blends, making some better than others for particular dishes.
In general, French Champagne is dry (or “Brut”), light and often Chardonnay-based with some Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier but can also be majority Pinot Noir, which makes for a bolder more structured profile. Because of an often dry and biscuity breakdown, Champagne does nicely with lighter cream sauces, soups and seafood, especially shellfish, but can stand up to chicken dishes or even as part of the base in a good béarnaise or béchamel.
Italian Prosecco, another sparkling wine you might have laying around, is made from Glera or Prosecco grapes and, in general, produces a wine with more present sweetness, fruit, and floral aroma. Because of this, Prosecco or a sweeter Champagne, may be suited for a dessert or pork dish with complementing fruit elements.
See here for a more robust explanation of the difference between Champagne and Prosecco.
Others, like Spanish Cava and a slew produced in the American west, sport their own distinct flavor profiles. The trick is to learn them somewhat intimately and use accordingly. Try not to forget that cooking is a soft science, so trust your instincts and take a chance. You might just stumble upon greatness.
The below recipes all fancy a spot of sparkling wine. Cheers and enjoy!
Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette
Mignonette, a classic Oyster topper, is vinegar-based so a dash of sweet Prosecco adds a nice balance. Feel free to try an even sweeter version for a fun twist on a classic appetizer. Get our Oysters with Prosecco Mignonette recipe.
15-minute Brie and Champagne Fondue
A sweet sparkling wine would be a total fon-don’t in this one, to be Brut-tally honest. Get the recipe.
Shrimp and Champagne Bisque with Gruyere Cheese
We mentioned Champagne pairing well with seafood, cream, and soups. This hits all three and would be an awfully nice first course for your next winter dinner party. Get the recipe.
Classic Béarnaise Sauce
Because this is the sauce accompanying the dish, don’t be frightened by the above mentioned pairing “rule of thumb.” Béarnaise may be loosely affiliated with beef but can tap in to embolden a simple chicken breast or brunch-able egg dish. Get our Classic Béarnaise Sauce recipe.
Chicken au Champagne
A brighter take on Chicken Marsala. A dry Champagne pairs well with mushrooms and lemon, both featured in the dish. Get the recipe.
Seared Shrimp Tagliatelle With Prosecco Lemon Cream Sauce
The sweetness of Prosecco balances out the acidity of the lemon cream sauce in this hearty Italian entree. Get the recipe.
White Chocolate Strawberry and Prosecco Cake
Prosecco and sweet strawberries are a classic pairing and this decadent cake brings them together in a showstopper of a meal ender. Get the recipe.
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