Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
Like sequins and gold lamé, sparkling wine gets a lot of attention around the holidays. And why not? All those glittery things are, by definition, pretty festive. But there’s no need to pack them away come January—just be judicious in how you use them. Think sparkling wine sitting at the table with a meal instead of with appetizers and a pre-dinner toast.
Take this example from California, Scharffenberger Brut Mendocino County Excellence NV: Priced at $20 (I found it in my local wine shop for $17), it’s perfect for celebrating any given weeknight, and with a case production of 25,000, should be easy to find too.
When it comes to homing in on a food match, sparkling wine reflexively makes me think of shellfish—a classic pairing. But when the weather is cooler, recipes for steamed or baked shellfish make more sense than raw or seviche-type preparations. In particular, a dish of mussels steamed in a white wine-butter-garlic sauce, a traditional bistro fave, always feels right this time of year and is easily adapted to home cooking.
I wondered, however, if I could tweak the classic recipe for this particular sparkling wine. Looking at the tasting note, I zeroed in on the ginger and citrus descriptors and decided to see if adding minced ginger and lemongrass to the sauce would enhance the pairing.
With the basic butter-wine-garlic mussels, the Scharffenberger was an A-level solid match; the bubbles made a textural contrast to the butter-thickened sauce and the Chardonnay base of the wine locked in flavorwise with the slightly browned butter. The addition of ginger and lemongrass to the broth, however, bumped both the wine and the food up yet another level. The sharp acidity of the wine softened, allowing the fruitier characteristics to come forward, and the aromatic profile of the ginger got a boost in the sauce, making the dish taste fresh, light and (dare I say?) celebratory.
Pair with a California bubbly such as Scharffenberger Brut Mendocino County Excellence NV (88 points, $20)
Total time: 20 minutes
Approximate food cost: $25
1. In a large heavy-bottomed saucepot (or two medium-size pots), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the sliced shallots and cook until the shallots are soft, then add the garlic, ginger and lemongrass and cook until they become aromatic, around 30 seconds. Add the wine, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
2. Add the mussels to the pot, cover and cook until the mussels have steamed open, around 4 to 6 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally. Divide the mussels and the broth between four bowls, removing the lemongrass stalks, and serve immediately with the sliced baguette. Serves 4.
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