Eats: Celebrate 2018 with champagne recipes

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Not only is it New Year’s Eve but it’s also National Champagne Day! Who knew? Let’s really get into the spirit with menu ideas that embrace the bubbly for the new year!

Whether you’re cooking up dinner for a crowd or a romantic meal for two, these recipes may have you rushing to the supermarket for an extra bottle of champagne. Or perhaps you’re like me — I look forward to seeing in the New Year as much as the next person, but I celebrate far before midnight. A sip or two of champagne is all I need. That fizzy stuff goes straight to my head and then I have an open bottle of champagne to deal with.

If you know me at all, you know I hate to waste anything! There’s no way I’m going to pour that lovely effervescence down the drain. Those sweet tingly bubbles that can make us tipsy also go a long way toward adding bright flavor and, in some cases, light texture to everything from sauces to pancakes. Sure sounds better than being just light-headed, doesn’t it?

For instance, champagne chicken, which is tender and juicy with just the right blend of sweetness and glossy buttery-ness, is a cinch to put together with just a few ingredients. As easy to make for a party as it is for one, the soothing sauce is just heavenly over rice, egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Just a modicum of champagne elevates the dish beyond mere comfort food to a meal with pizzazz.

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A cast iron skillet is perfect for cooking the chicken thighs, but not essential. If you don’t own one, try a Dutch oven or just use a saute pan, transferring the chicken to a casserole dish for baking.

Feel free to increase the amount of ingredients for the sauce if it doesn’t look like “enough” — whatever that means to you. Don’t be skimpy, because you’ll want leftover sauce to drizzle on everything. Believe me, you’ll be tempted to just get out a big spoon or even a straw. You’ll definitely be dipping your bread into it over and over again. It’s that good.

If you want to push the envelope and go “all champagne, all the way,” whisk together a vinaigrette to splash on an accompanying salad, whether it be crisp butter lettuce with a bit of sliced apple and pecans, or a medley of berries and citrus. This is a snap to put together. Experiment with white balsamic as well as aged balsamic.

Perhaps you’d like to carry the champagne theme into New Year’s day? By all means, do! Dig into a stack of champagne pancakes with sparkly strawberry sauce and you’ll taste a bright burst of July as you sit in your warm kitchen admiring the wintry scene out the window. The orange juice and zest adds another hint of sunshine. When I don’t have oranges on hand, I substitute a few drops of DoTERRA Wild Orange Essential Oil, a staple in my kitchen.

Fresh strawberries — as well as raspberries, blueberries or some of each — can be used. Preferably, your berries were hand-picked over the summer and stashed away in the freezer for times such as these! (In the rare event there’s leftover sauce, use it on ice cream or stir it into yogurt.)

For the pancakes, leftover champagne from the night before can be used, but it’s best if it still has a bit of “oomph” left to it, as the bubbles are what makes these pancakes so light and fluffy. One brunch guest, upon enjoying his pancakes, exclaimed, “I feel like I’ve just tasted the stars!” Now that’s a compliment!

Happy 2018, everyone! May you eat well and love well every day of the year!

Karen Schneider, a writer and editor, has been a regular contributor to the Lewiston Sun Journal for over 20 years. Contact her at iwrite33@comcast.net with your ideas and comments.

One way to bring some celebratory champagne to your cooking is to pour a bit of the bubbly over fruit salad, whisk it up in a vinaigrette or add it as the liquid to a recipe. Here, champagne was added to the pancakes and the strawberry sauce for New Year’s brunch. Don’t forget the mimosas! (Karen Schneider photo)

Champagne chicken

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 chicken thighs (skin on, bone in)

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons onion, minced

1 1/2 cups dry champagne

5 tablespoons butter

1 pound mushrooms, sliced

2 teaspoons dried tarragon

2 tablespoon lemon juice

Add chicken to cast iron skillet, season and sear on each side in olive oil until golden. Remove chicken and set aside. Remove pan from heat and add onion. Heat and stir for 1 minute. Add champagne and scrap bottom of pan to remove all cooked bits. If using oven-proof skillet, place chicken back in pan. (If using a baking dish, transfer chicken and champagne sauce into that.) Baste with champagne sauce and bake for 35-60 minutes at 350 degrees, depending on size of chicken pieces. Meanwhile, melt butter in saute pan. Add mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in tarragon and lemon juice. When chicken is done, remove from oven and add the mushrooms. Stir gently.

Champagne vinaigrette

Makes 1/3 cup

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons champagne

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together in a small glass bowl, pour over salad or mixed fruit and serve. This will keep in your refrigerator for 1 week.

Champagne pancakes with sparkly strawberry sauce

Makes 10 4-inch pancakes

Pancakes

2 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup milk combined with 1 teaspoon white vinegar and allowed to “work” for at least 5 minutes

2 tablespoons oil, plus another tablespoon for frying

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup champagne

Whipped cream, optional

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk the eggs, milk and oil in a separate bowl. Gradually incorporate wet ingredients, except champagne, into the dry ingredients. Stir in champagne and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes. Preheat griddle to 375 degrees. Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. To serve, layer a stack of pancakes with sauce. Add whipped cream if desired.

Sauce

16 ounces frozen, unsweetened strawberries, thawed, or 2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

3/4 cup sugar (adjust according to taste)

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon cornstarch

4 tablespoons champagne

Combine strawberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and cornstarch into medium saucepan. Mash berries and turn heat to medium. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes with pan uncovered. Remove from heat and stir in champagne. This can be refrigerated for 2 days.

Champagne isn’t just for toasting in the new year. It’s an unexpected way to lighten and brighten your favorite recipes. Here, champagne chicken is a delicious way to ring in the new year. (Karen Schneider photo)

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