Don’t sweat the holidays: Wine and recipe ideas

Bonny Doon Ca’ Del Solo albariño (2008) California

The holiday wine season causes tremendous panic in people — even those who are familiar with wine — about what to serve. The rest of the year, it’s buy a bottle wine at the grocery store and don’t worry about it. During November and December, everyone is afraid that if the wine isn’t right, Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever will be ruined.

This is silly. Wine is there to complement the holiday, not to star in it. Choose wines that you’re comfortable with, and don’t worry especially about food pairings or impressing others with your selections. Do you like the wine? Will it make dinner more enjoyable? Then that’s the wine to buy.

This month’s suggestions follow that approach, and are more guidelines than specific recommendations:

• Texas wine: The 2010 vintage is probably the best in the history of the state, and there are quality wines at every price. The McPherson roussanne ($12), a white from west Texas, is fresh and clean with lemon and lime flavors. Messina Hof’s cabernet franc ($22) is a red wine that is deep and rich, perfect for red meat.

• Sparkling wine: Next month’s column will go into more detail about bubbly; it’s enough to know now that there has been tremendous growth in the quality and quantity of cheap sparkling over the last couple of years. It comes from places as odd as Australia (Emeri, $12) or as well-known as Italy (the various proseccos and astis, like Lamberti, $14). And sparkling wine is not just for celebrations. Much of it pairs with food — use it at brunch or to spiff up a midweek dinner.

• “Anything but” wines: That is, anything but cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay. The world wine glut has lowered prices everywhere, making it easier than ever to try something different. La Clotiere ($9) is a red wine from the Loire region of France that is light and easy to drink; it practically shouts turkey. Bonny Doon’s Ca’ Del Solo albariño ($18) is a California white made with a Spanish grape that is perfect for seafood.

Ask the wine guy

Are there rules for pairing with turkey?
More or less, and they usually revolve around pinot noir — a lighter red that complements the lighter flavor of turkey and doesn’t get in the way of the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. But any lighter red wine will do the same thing, as will most whites that aren’t too creamy or too citrusy.

With your wine

Thanksgiving leftovers
The world does not need yet another recipe for the holidays, some other way to reinvent something we like the way it is. What we need to do is to figure out a way to use what we didn’t eat at Thanksgiving. So consider these leftover suggestions:

• Turkey pizza. Why not? Buy a prepared pizza crust and top it with leftover turkey, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and any cheese in the house. You don’t even need to add sauce.
• Turkey pot pie. The simple way is to buy two frozen pie shells, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, leftover turkey and whatever other vegetables are in the refrigerator, and bake for 40 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Less simple, but not difficult, is Jacques Pepin’s chicken pot pie (substituting turkey, of course) in “Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home.”
• Turkey Cobb Salad. You can do a home version of what restaurants charge $10 (or more) for with nothing more than bottled salad dressing, lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and leftover turkey. The adventurous can add a hard-boiled egg. Get a serving platter and arrange the lettuce to cover. Add the turkey and vegetables and arrange in any design you want. Pass the salad dressing.
Turkey couscous jambalaya (scroll to the bottom for the recipe). The whole thing can be done in minutes.


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