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Published on November 30th, 2012 | by Craig Collins


Holiday Wine & Recipe Series – Holiday Meals and Wine Gifting on a Budget

Over the next six weeks, master sommelier Craig Collins and gourmet food expert and sommelier Rick Bakas will share some of their favorite wine and dining suggestions for the holiday season. In today’s post, Craig and Rick share some of their suggestions for holiday meals and wine gifting on a budget. Cheers!

In this week’s post we wanted to take a deep breath and exhale before the next month of holiday madness unfolds. After running around spending money on gifts and battling the crowds, sometimes you just want to come home and have a heart warming meal without spending even more money. We’ve put together a couple of meals that will put a smile on your face, but won’t break the bank. And we make it easy, all ingredients plus a bottle of wine are neatly packaged into either a $30 meal or a $60 meal:

Great Holiday Meals on a Budget with Rick Bakas

$30 Wine+Food Pairing for 2: Mushroom Stuffed Chicken & Chapoutier Cote-du-Rhone

The first time my wife said she was going to make mushroom stuffed chicken, I kind of groaned and was all like, “that sounds kinda lame, but if you have a vision for this dish, go for it.” I begrudgingly sat down that night with her like a bratty kid who didn’t want to eat his mushrooms. After the first bite, the expression on my face was like in the cartoons where my whole body jolted out of the chair with a loud, “ZOIKS!! that’s good!” We made it the following week, and I wolfed it down embarrassingly fast.

I wasn’t a fan of mushrooms growing up, but as an adult I’ve come to really like the different flavors they can add to a dish. Turns out, the mushrooms don’t really add a “mushroomy” flavor, but it opens the door for some unique wine pairings. I asked Master Sommelier, Craig Collins what he’d match with it and he came up with the Chapoutier Cote-du-Rhone. Recipe follows:

Ingredients (approx. cost of ingredients = $10-12)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup shitake mushrooms
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP heavy cream
3 TBSP butter
1/4 TSP nutmeg
salt and pepper

To Prepare

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Melt 2 TBSP butter in saucepan or skillet over medium high heat.  Sautee mushrooms and shallot about 4-5 minutes or until shallot turns golden brown.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper after the 4-5 minutes.  Stir in nutmeg and 1/4 cup breadcrumbs, then remove from heat.
  • Place your hand on top of chicken breast, then slice horizontally halfway between your hand and cutting board.  Slice 3/4 of the way through the chicken breast so you can open it like a book.  Spoon mushroom mixture into chicken breast then fold it over and secure with a toothpick or two.  Place chicken into a baking dish and brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle with remaining bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  Pour 1/4 cup cream all over.
  • Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and is no longer pink.  Spoon 2 TBSP cream on top and serve.


$60 Wine+Food Pairing for 2: Filet Mignon with Peppered Cream Sauce & Penley Estate Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s hard to describe how good this meal is without using four-letter words. It might sound like a high falutin’ dish reserved only for royalty and dignitaries but you can make it at home quite easily. What more could you want besides a nice filet mignon and a savory cream sauce?

Ingredients (approx. cost of ingredients = $30-35)
2 Filet Mignon steaks
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup Brandy
1/2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup black peppercorns
2 TBSP vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

To Prepare

  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Season the steaks with salt on both sides and press one side of steak into the cracked black pepper.
  • Heat a heavy sauté pan over high heat. Coat bottom of the pan with oil and heat just until smoking. Add garlic and thyme. Place steaks pepper-side down and sear for 2 minutes.
  • Turn heat down to medium-high and cook for 2 minutes or until nice crust develops. Flip the steak and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes.
  • Finish cooking in an oven safe dish in pre-heated oven until cooked to desired temperature. Remove steaks from the pan and let rest 5-10 minutes.
  • While steaks are resting, bring original sauté pan back up to medium high heat and add garlic and shallots—sauté until cooked. Deglaze pan with brandy and flambé, reduce by half. Add Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock and reduce further. Reduce heat, add cream and season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Reduce sauce to desired consistency.
  • Tell your taste buds to buckle up.


Holiday Wine Gifting Suggestions

Tis’ the season to not only enjoy great wine, but to gift it as well. Although I have made my list and checked it twice, there will no doubt be friends that I forgot that will show up last minute with a holiday gift. I always buy a few extra bottles of wine and have them ready to go in holiday gift bags just for these occasions.

When gifting wine I make sure it is reasonably priced and easy to enjoy. I also seek out unique bottles that my friends will not be able to find at every grocery store. This year my wife and I have bought the Vietti Dolcetto d’Alba ‘Tre Vigne’. Dolcetto translates to ‘the little sweet one’ and this wine is from the Piedmont region in northern Italy. Although not sugar sweet, it is a beautiful wine that displays notes of red plum and ripe strawberry with a delicate violet flower characteristic. There is a clay minerality that really rounds out the palate and balances the fruit of this wine – making it a bit too easy to enjoy. The acid of this wine also makes it a perfect partner for several dishes, an ideal gift for our foodie friends.

The holiday season brings us many things and great gifts are one of them. Make sure you are prepared for those unexpected presents with a great bottle in a gift bag. Simple and easy and insurance that you will continue to receive presents into the future!

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About the Author

Master Sommelier Craig Collins has been passionately exploring his love for wine since the day he turned 21 and began working at a local winery. His advancement continued after graduating from Texas A&M University and working for Glazers Fine Wine Division. It was through this appointment that Craig was introduced to the Court of Master Sommeliers and refined the professional skills and industry knowledge that would shape his career.

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