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Most of you know that risotto is Mrs. Vino’s favorite 30 minute comfort food. It’s such a great backdrop for . . . any flavors. Chopped up rotisserie chicken, sauteed mushrooms, avocado and tomato salad . . . you can put just about anything on top of a risotto and it’s delicious. Risotto has a reputation as being a bit hard to make. I don’t believe this is necessarily true – but it does require a bit of focused attention at the stove (pretty much constant stirring). Sometimes Mrs. Vino is totally into the Zen of stirring a risotto. Then again, sometimes she’s not. That’s why I was so excited when I opened up my most recent issue of my fave Cooking Light magazine and saw this tip for no-stir risotto.
I’ve tried some other recipes for no-stir risotto (usually baked). And they are OK, but just don’t have the creamy, chewy richness of a more traditional risotto. And I actually did not believe that the technique in this link would be any better. But the technique looked so easy that I just HAD to try it.
I cannot believe that the super simple step of rinsing the rice in the chicken (or other) stock that you use to make the risotto would make a difference. I was completely blown away that this made the best, easiest risotto I’ve ever had.
If you love risotto – or if you’ve been afraid to make risotto because it seems hard – please give this a try. You will be so glad you did.
Wait! What’s that wonderful aroma in the tasting room??? It’s November so it’s Mulled Wine Season. This year I think the Mulled Wine is the best ever (OK, I’m pretty sure I say that every year – but this year I mean it). For those of you who misplaced your recipe for Mrs. Vino’s Holiday Mulled Wine in all the holiday craziness – here you go:
1 bottle of 2011 Cabernet Franc by Morovino*
1/2 bottle of tap water (use the Cab Franc bottle)
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 package Morovino mulling spices
1/4 c. dried fruit (used dried cherries, plums, raisins, apricots or blueberries for best results)
OK, last year Mrs. Vino took a LOT of guff because the recipe she was handing out in the tasting room was not exactly the same recipe she used to make wine for the tasting room – it was the easier version of the recipe that she uses when she makes Mulled Wine at home. SO, this year, here are 3 different ways to make your mulled wine – based on time and inclination.
To make mulled wine EXACTLY like the tasting room version: 1) Put the Cab Franc, water, sugar, dried fruit and spice package (take tag off, leave cork on and spices in bag) all in a saucepan. 2) Simmer over low heat (do not boil – it will volatilize the alcohol) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Mrs. Vino usually makes her mulled wine for the tasting room the night before she serves it – that’s the difference. So for this version, when the wine has finished simmering, 3) take the pot off the stove and cover it. Let it cool down a bit. Then put it in the refrigerator overnight (leave the spice bag and dried fruit in it). When you are ready to serve it, put it back on the stove top on low heat and bring it back up to a simmer. Discard the spice bag and ladle into glasses as desired. NOTE: Mrs. Vino usually uses a combination of raisins and dried apricots for the tasting room mulled wine.
To make Mulled Wine like Mrs. Vino makes it at home, follow steps 1 and 2 – and serve immediately. Still delicious, but leaving the bag and fruit in the wine overnight does concentrate the flavors a bit.
To make Mulled Wine in your Crock Pot, put the wine, water, sugar, spices and dried fruit in your slow cooker and simmer covered for 1 hour on high and then uncovered for at least an additional 30 minutes on low. Keep the slow cooker on low and serve directly from the slow cooker.
Serve it with cookies, holiday carols, and friends – it’s a perfect pairing!
**If you don’t use Morovino Cabernet Franc, use a light, fruity red wine like Merlot, Grenache, Sangiovese, or Barbera. For wines other than our Cabernet Franc, start with 1/4 cup of sugar. Then taste and add more if necessary. Too much sugar is when Mulled Wine goes horribly, horribly wrong!
Mrs. Vino considers herself to be a pretty easy-going person with a philosophy of “Live and Let Live.” But there is one thing that I just cannot stand: Bachelorettes. Over the past 5+ years, Morovino’s tasting room has seen many Bachelorette parties. In almost every case, Bachelorettes have been rude, whiny and obnoxious. We’ve seen far fewer Bachelor parties than Bachelorette parties, but HANDS DOWN I’d rather pour for a group of tipsy bachelors than bitchy bachelorettes. Even the bachelor party that insisted on paying for a wine tasting for the blow up doll and the bachelor party that offered to let me autograph the bachelor’s . . . appendage were preferable to 99% of the bachelorette parties I’ve worked.
Bachelorettes, I’m sorry if this post offends you (OK, actually I’m not really sorry). But Mrs. Vino is here to help. If you are a Maid of Honor, Bridesmaid or Friend planning a Bachelorette party at a winery or wine tasting room- here are a couple of suggestions and guidelines that will help make you a welcomed guest instead of a nuisance – resulting in a fun time for all! Non-bachelorettes, these rules are also true for wine tasting with any group of over 6 people.
1. Call in advance – if you are bringing 7+ people to a tasting room on a busy weekend afternoon, please call in advance to let them know you are coming. In addition to this is just being good manners, the tasting room staff can then ensure that they are adequately staffed and prepared to give your group excellent service. The follow up to this is please show up when you said you were going to show up.
2. Many Wine Tasting Rooms are Family Venues – so please don’t put your penis-shaped wine charms on the glasses without asking first if it is appropriate. And please don’t wear your penis-shaped tiara unless you check first to see if kids are present.
3. Expect to Pay for Wine Tasting – in today’s challenging economic climate, many wineries are using complimentary or discounted tasting coupons to introduce their wines to new customers. In general, tasting coupons are not intended to be used by large groups. Don’t be bitchy if we expect you to pay for wine tasting.
4. Don’t Bring In Your Own Food – without checking first. You may want to take a cupcake break, but please don’t bring out food without the permission of the tasting room staff.
5. Remember the Tasting Room is a Business – please keep your volume and your pitch down to normal social levels.
6. Buy Wine - I understand that wine tasting is recreation for you. But wine sales are my livelihood. In the past 5+ years, more than 90% of the time bachelorette parties leave without making a single bottle purchase. If you are paying less than $10 for a wine tasting, that fee does NOT cover the actual cost of pouring a tasting flight for you. That’s right ladies, pouring for you actually loses me money.
And the exception: Several weeks ago we had a delightful group of bachelorettes in the tasting room. They were polite. They were considerate. They were charming. They expected to pay for their wine tasting. Each of the seven bachelorettes walked out with a bottle and we were delighted to comp the tasting for the entire group. Ladies, you know who you were and we appreciated you!
Mrs. Vino is sorry if she sounds bitter, but having 3 back-to-back unexpected bachelorette parties through the tasting room just did me in. It’s so frustrating to watch wine buyers (carrying bags and boxes from other local tasting rooms) come up to my door, then turn away when they see the penis-bedecked bachelor girls taking over the tasting bar.
No prefab meal for tonight’s 5 Minute Friday! Because Mrs. Vino is in the mood for comfort food.
For some reason I’ve been craving the comfort food of my childhood – a Tuna Melt with Tomato and a pickle! Thank goodness this great meal can be put together in 5 minutes. And, I have the perfect pairing for it – our brand new, not-released-to-the-tasting-room-yet 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose. I make my tuna salad with Greek Yogurt instead of Mayonnaise to lighten it up a bit and add a bit of diced celery and green onion for texture. The yogurt adds a bit of brightness and freshness to the tuna. It’s still plenty creamy, though. So the really crisp 2011 Pinot Grigio Rose is perfect to pair with it. Oh yeah, and if this is truly my comfort meal, there has to be potato chips! And, if you spritz your chips with Truffle Oil – it goes from good to gourmet! The salty, earthy truffled chips really bring out the fruit character of the wine. Watch the blog next week for Mrs. Vino’s experiences with her brand new microwave potato chip maker (AWESOME) and learn about one of her new obsessions.
It really doesn’t matter how simple the meal – a good wine pairing will elevate it to gourmet (well, the Truffle Oil doesn’t hurt, either).
So here’s my question to you all – Do you have a 5-Minute comfort food? And, if so, what is it!
Welcome to a new feature in The Practical Kitchen – 5 Minute Fridays!
As much Mrs. Vino enjoys her time in the kitchen, there are just days when it is just NOT gonna happen. I’ve discovered a couple of things:
1. There are some really tasty pre-cooked dinners out there that can be microwaved in 5 minutes.
2. When those meals are paired with the right wine, it elevates the whole experience to something special!
3. If you light a couple of candles and play some nice music while you are eating your 5 minute meal and suddenly you aren’t as tired anymore.
Morovino is now doing live music on Friday evenings from 5 – 7 p.m. This means that Mrs. Vino usually gets home around 8 p.m. and is way, way too tired to cook. So every Friday, The Practical Kitchen blog will feature a different prefabricated 5 minute meal paired with a different local wine. If you have favorite pre-cooked meals, I’d love to hear about them.
Costco’s Monterey Gourmet Foods - Seafood Lasagna paired with Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino
I always approach prefabricated seafood a bit cautiously. But the Monterey Gourmet Foods Seafood Lasagna offers really tasty, tender shrimp, scallops and fish. The sauce is creamy, the noodles are tender, it has great seafood flavor and it’s not overly salty.
Peloton Cellars 2010 Albarino is an amazingly crisp, full bodied white that has the perfect balance of acidity and creaminess to pair with the lasagna. It’s beautiful Citrine color sparkles like a jewel in the glass. It has great citrus notes and a lightly floral nose that I just love. But if you want to try this wine, hurry. I believe Peloton is almost sold out of it!
So fire up the microwave, light the candles, turn on some George Winston or Liz Story, take a deep breath and . . . enjoy.