Cooking

Budget Bottle Battle Plan

5 ways to put cheap wine to good use
Photo: Katie Foster/Tasting Table
Zinfandel Spaghetti

'Tis the season for entertaining, which means you're going to get many bottles of wine from guests. But not everyone is a master sommelier, and it's likely that you'll end up with more than a few cheap varietals you'd rather not drink. So be it. Don't be bummed: Grab life by the bottle with these five alternative uses for subpar wine.

① Cook Pasta
Who says you have to stop at water for boiling a bowl of pasta? Use a robust wine like Zinfandel to finish parboiled noodles and fall drunk in love with burgundy strands of spaghetti.

② Make Sangria
Even if you don't want to drink the wine straight, there's nothing a bit of sugar and fresh fruit can't fix. Try Jim Meehan's red sangria, which has a perfect balance of bittersweet Cynar and juicy berries.

③ Braise Meat
Wine has long been used in cooking, and it's a great place to use bad bottles, since a lot of the taste cooks out. Use a bottle of unwanted dry white for Jacques Pépin's chicken jardiniere. Or, if you have one too many bottles of leftover Manischewitz, use it to braise lamb shanks.

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④ Reduce for Sauce
It's not called "red wine reduction" for nothing. Make a sauce by boiling the wine with a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf or two until it's thick and syrupy. Finish it off with a pat of butter for the ultimate bone-in rib eye go-with.

⑤ Poach Eggs
Just like with pasta, you can use something other than water to poach an egg. Pour a two-to-one ratio of red wine and water into a pot and proceed as normal for a plate of purple poached eggs. You can even use the whole bottle to poach eggs for a crowd ahead of time.

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