Happy New Year! Let's ring 2013 with a little pizzazz, shall we? Champagne has a way of making any occasion feel extra special. There's just something exciting about adding some sparkle to your life, especially in the form of a little effervescent bubbly.

Cooking with champagne, or sparkling wine if it's not from that oh-so-special region of France, may seem a bit daunting (Hmm, why? Because of the bubbles?), but treat it just like you would any other wine when cooking. Choose a variety that will match the dish that you are cooking; dry for poultry, fish, pork and veal, light and fruity to balance spicy items, and sweet for desserts or as a finisher.

As always, don't cook with any wine that you wouldn't drink (a little for the dish, a little for the chef!), and never use "cooking wine" -- it lacks flavor and is loaded with sodium and other additives. Take care when adding wine to your pan, and never add alcohol directly over an open flame.

Pomegranate Sparkler

Ingredients (per serving):

1 4 oz. glass of Champagne or sparkling wine

1/2 tsp. Chambord or other raspberry liqueur

1 Tbs. fresh pomegranate seeds

Pour the sparkling wine into a glass. Once the foam subsides, gently stir in liqueur. Add the pomegranate seeds and enjoy!

Brown Sugar Champagne Scallops

Ingredients:

1/2 shallot, minced

1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. butter

1 tsp.


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flour

1/2 cup dry Champagne or sparkling wine

2-3 saffron threads*

1 cup water

1 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 lb. fresh jumbo scallops

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

*If you don't have saffron on hand, use a pinch of good paprika instead.

1. Mix together 1 tsp. butter and 1 tsp. flour until thoroughly combined into a paste (aka: beurre manie). Set aside.

2. Melt 1 Tbs. butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Sweat shallots until translucent and fragrant, but do not brown.

3. Add sparkling wine and saffron to pan, and bring to a simmer. Allow to reduce by about 2/3.

4. Once champagne has reduced, stir in water. Allow to reduce again by 2/3. Stir in brown sugar to dissolve. Stir in beurre manie from step 1. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the sauce has thickened to coat the back of a spoon.

5. Meanwhile, heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of another sauté pan (medium-high heat). Season the fresh scallops with salt and pepper on each side. Once the pan is hot, carefully place the scallops in the pan. Sear on each side about 2-3 minutes until beautifully browned.

6. Serve scallops each with a dollop of sauce and your favorite side. They go great with sautéed spinach, fresh greens, or rice.