The halls are un-decked, the festive apparel is waiting at the cleaners and, with other holiday leftovers polished off, you may be thinking, "What am I going to do with all this leftover wine?"
There's no need to unpack your crystal decanters to put extra wine to good use. Wine has been cooked into, spooned over and blended with other food items for millennia and will morph the simplest recipe into a satisfying mealtime treat.
Of course, one solution for leftover wine is to send it back to where it came from. Most merchants accept the return of unopened bottles with the original sales receipt. It's best to check your retailer's policy upon purchase. To keep wine, store unopened bottles in a coolish, darkish space.
I treat opened bottles like a piece of cut fruit, which I cover (cork) and pop in the fridge. After one day, there's a little change; after two to three days, it's time to consume, dump or otherwise employ as below.
Vinegar is more than "sour wine", as the French derivation -- vin aigre -- suggests. Do-it-yourselfers will be rewarded for their investment in vinegar-making materials (especially a vinegar "mother") and time (about two months) with a complex ingredient and unique gift.
For immediate gratification, simply add a few tablespoons of wine to your favorite vinaigrette recipe, shake well and serve. As always, be aware that red wine will deepen your recipe's color, while white wine will lighten it.
Coq au vin (chicken in wine), boeuf a là bourguignon (beef in red wine) and the world's other wine stews combine the season's favorite descriptions: easy, affordable and delicious. Make a large batch to freeze in portioned containers and you'll have no-fuss meals from now until spring.
If you don't even have time to thaw a frozen container, a tablespoon of wine transforms canned soup or chili from prefab to fantastique, especially when served with crusty bread, fresh from the oven. For family meals, know that simmering removes a good portion, but not 100 percent of the alcohol.
Marinating with wine has been used to tenderize tough meat since the Pax Romana. Today, medical studies suggest that wine-based marinades reduces carcinogens in grilled meats. Marinade recipes abound and sample the world's great flavors. For an Asian flair, add soy sauce and ginger; wine with rosemary, garlic and lemon juice echoes the south of France. Time is an essential ingredient in marinating. Plan four hours at least; overnight is better.
Poaching will use up an ample wine supply. Wine-poached fruit makes for an elegant lunch, dessert topping or dessert in itself. Poached apples and pears are excellent to stuff with mousse, cheese or chocolate. Poached dried fruits add elegance to simple desserts.
Your slow-cooker can accomplish much of your poaching and stewing recipes. But if even "set it and forget it" cooking is beyond the current energy allowance, freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays. No need to thaw; just pop cubes into recipes as needed.
Wine may warm the cockles of your heart (and other regions), but it is not, technically, warming. In fact, alcohol expands blood vessels, bringing blood closer to the body surface to shed heat.
Hot spiced wine, however, is classic warmer in every country that knows winter cold and damp. British-style mulled wine is seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg and mace. Germanic glühwein and Swedish glogg involve fruits (including your stewed fruits, above), almonds and an extra punch of spirit, such as brandy. Flaming the brandy is showy, but optional.
In any case, bring your spiced wine to a gentle simmer only, or you'll boil away the fun.
• Contact Advance Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross at firstname.lastname@example.org.