1.13.2012

hello, snow!


Winter has finally hit Chicago. It dumped snow all day and into the night yesterday. I love when the city is covered in sparkly white. No matter how old I get the first snowfall of the year always feels magical. I still get excited like I did when I was a kid. Is it cold where you are yet? 

I'll never forget the first time I had mulled wine. I was in Prague with one of my best friends Meghan. It was a chilly summer night. We were walking around the town square, admiring the Astronomical Clock - a large, beautiful time piece from 1410! The carvings and gold details of this clock are stunning. 

Right around the corner from the clock was a small vendor selling mulled wine. I had never heard of it before but after spending 4 months in Italy, my new found love of wine had me ordering a cup. It was warm and still had tons of red wine tang but with a hint of winter spices and a slight sweetness from the fruit it was steeped with. On a cool summer night it hit the spot. 

Sitting on my couch watching the snow fall with a kitty in my lap I couldn't think of a more perfect winter warm me up than a nice big mug of mulled wine!  It's a great adult alternative to hot cocoa when you're not in the mood for rich dairy (because lets be real, chocolate ALWAYS sounds good but dairy can sometimes get in the way). I highly suggest you try some mulled wine tonight. Maybe with a little chocolate bar on the side!


mulled wine
yields 4 servings

ingredients:
1 bottle of red wine (I used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise pods
5 whole cloves
1 c. dried cherries
½ an orange sliced
2 TBSP honey

In a pot, add all of your ingredients and gently simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes - enough time to let the flavors incorporate and the dried cherries to plump up. 

improv style:
there's a million different things you could do to switch this recipe up. the biggest way to change the flavor profile is with the type of wine you select. i like full bodied reds but you can use whatever type of red you prefer. also, you don't need a fancy expensive wine for this since you're adding flavors... make sure you like how it tastes but don't go breaking the bank. i think it could be really interesting to try this with a crisp pino grigio or other white wine, too. think of hot sake... 

i'm not a huge cinnamon fan but if you are, consider adding 1 or 2 more sticks to your pot. star anise... ever heard of it?! it's a common asian spice that has a subtle licorice flavor. i'm not a big fan of licorice either but it works in this. if you don't have any you can leave it out, no problem. same with cloves, they add that rich winter flavor to the wine... basically you're taking apple cider fixings and adding wine instead. you could leave out the fruit or substitute it with apples, cranberries (fresh, frozen, or dried), figs, plumbs, dates, prunes or ginger. you could even try adding some orange juice or apple juice as well to substitute the fresh fruit. brandy or a cognac could be an interesting addition to the mix as well. 

if you're looking to do a non-alcoholic version of this you could try grape juice or apple juice or even a black tea. 

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