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Put leftover wine to work in new ways

December 26, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: Every Christmas our family celebrates with the English classic -- roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding. But my mom (who's in her 80s) has lost her touch with the pudding. She used to make the fluffiest you've ever tasted, but the past couple of years it's like lead. We've tried different recipes and different oven temperatures, but nothing works. Could it be because it's cooler here in Atlanta that it was in Los Angeles, where we lived until several years ago? -- Jeff in Atlanta

Dear Jeff: Your mom's touch is just swell. It is your move from Los Angeles to Atlanta that is probably the reason for the change in her pudding.

I'll bet she used an all-purpose flour in Los Angeles, and now is using a local flour in Atlanta. Southern flours often have less protein (for tender biscuits and quick breads), which means that her Yorkshire Pudding batter doesn't have enough elasticized protein strands in the flour to firm up in baking and give it structure. Use a national brand of all-purpose flour like Gold Metal or Pillsbury, which usually is consistent in protein content across the country.

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To know flour's protein content, check the side of the bag for Nutrition Facts. It will show the nutrients in 1/4 cup (30 grams) of flour. You want 3 to 4 grams of protein.

And maybe you should apologize to your mom.

Dear Lynne: Sometimes a bottle of wine doesn't get finished at a dinner party, so I put it aside -- and before I know it, it's gone bad. I hate to waste wine that way. Can I make vinegar with it or do anything else? -- Jane in Scottsdale

Dear Jane: A couple of solutions come to mind. First, there are gadgets that put a layer of harmless inert gas over the wine so oxygen can't get to it. Oxygen eventually spoils the wine, so shielding it from air is always the goal. This will give you four or five days. Second, seal the bottle as quickly as you can and refrigerate. It will be OK for up to three days.

Another approach is to turn the wine into sauce makings by boiling it down to almost nothing, scraping it into a container and freezing. Do this within a day of opening the bottle. Stir the concentrated wine and saute to make a pan sauce or into any dish where you want to deepen and open up flavors.

Or make vinegar. Get some mother -- the gelatinous substance that is the foundation of all wine vinegar. It converts alcohol to acidic acid, a/k/a vinegar. You'll find mothers on a number of vinegar-making sites. Put it in a container with a wide opening and add your leftover wine to it. After four to six weeks, you should have vinegar. Come to think of it, mother has excellent gifting possibilities for the food types on your list.

This is an example of what leftover wine can do for you.

LITTLE MEATBALLS IN SWEET/TART WINE SAUCE



o Serves 4 to 6 and doubles easily.

These are delicious reheated and they'll hold up nicely for up to three days in the refrigerator.

Make small ones for buffets or larger meatballs for main dishes. Serve with rice or boiled potatoes and a salad.

Meatballs:

4 thin slices firm white bread, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup dry red or white wine
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/3 tightly packed cup parsley leaves and stems (flat leaf preferred)
1 generous tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 medium onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 generous teaspoon dry basil
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup shredded Asiago or sharp Provolone cheese
1 pound ground chuck (80 percent to 85 percent lean, no leaner)
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 large egg
Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil

Braising Sauce:

1/2 medium onion, minced
3 tablespoons wine or cider vinegar
1/2 cup dry white or red wine
2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1 cup canned whole tomatoes, crushed

In a medium bowl, moisten the bread with the 1/2 cup wine. While it soaks, drop the garlic, parsley and tomato paste into a food processor with the motor running and blend until you have a fine mince. Scrape it out into a large mixing bowl. Blend in the onion, salt, pepper, herbs, cinnamon and cheese.

Squeeze the soaked bread lightly to get rid of some of the wine and add the bread to the large bowl. Blend well and, finally, add the meats and the egg. Blend until well-mixed using your clean hands or a spoon. Shape into 1- to 2-inch balls. The meatballs could be chilled at this point for a couple of hours.

Pour a sheer film of olive oil over the bottom of a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan. Heat over medium high. Add meatballs, turning heat down to medium. Brown on all sides, turning the meatballs gently by slipping a metal spatula under them. Adjust heat so meatballs don't burn.

Tip the pan and spoon off most of the fat. Scatter the onion between the meatballs. Spoon the vinegar around the meat, then the wine, sugar and tomatoes. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer gently 15 minutes, or until meatballs are firm and their centers have reached 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Turn them once or twice during cooking.

Remove meatballs to a shallow serving bowl. Boil down pan juices until they are thick and rich-tasting, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan. Pour them over the meatballs and serve hot or warm.

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