31 December 2009

Champagne: The Spirit of Celebration



Chronicle Books has always has an affinity for design. One of their most beautiful books, in my opinion, is their book on champagne by Sara Slavin and Karl Petzke.

Champagne: The Spirit of Celebration is one heavy paper with lovely striped endpapers. There is a grand mix of vintage images and crisp modern photos. The recipes form a handful of vibrant, sensuous dishes for any table. It is a rare combination, a handsomely bound book that is also a grand little cookbook.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of risotto as a festive entrée. This is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I have gone back to it year after year and it always impresses.

Champagne Risotto with Wild Mushrooms

4 cups beef broth
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound wild mushrooms (morel, shiitake, etc.), stemmed and sliced
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/4 cup champagne
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Heat broth to a simmer and let simmer until later. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter begins to foam, add the mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place the remaining butter in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and sauté the shallots until soft, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the rice and stir for 1 minute to coat with the butter-shallot mixture. Add 1 cap of the champagne, reserving 1/4 cup. Stir until champagne is completely absorbed.

Begin to add simmering broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently, but waiting until the broth is absorbed before adding more. After 18 to 20 minutes the rice should be tender but still firm. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup of champagne, mushrooms, half and half, cheese, and parsley. Serve immediately.


There are several wonderful histories of champagne. Patrick Forbes’ Champagne: The Wine, The Land and The People is an older book, but one of the best I have ever read on the history of both the drink and those who make it.



For this eve of a New Year, raise a glass of champagne or a bowl of risotto and toast the year to come.

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