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A PRACTICAL WAY TO COOK WITH WINE

Cooking with wine adds depth to food that's hard to duplicate. But what do you do with the rest of the bottle when the recipe calls for only 1/4 cup? If drinking it isn't the answer, how do you avoid wasting the rest?

"Nothing can change the fact that you've uncorked the bottle," says Ginny Andrews, co-owner of Wine 'N Things, a wine shop in Raleigh, N.C.

For Ms. Andrews, the answer is nothing more complicated than a rubber stopper and a vacuum pump handle. The product is called Vacu-Vin, and she recommends it to customers who are looking for a device to help retain the flavor of unused wine.

"Of all the different products, Vacu-Vin works very well," she says. Air causes wines to mature, so an unopened bottle matures very slowly, with only the smallest amount of air moving through the cork. Once you've uncorked the wine, the air speeds the wine through its life. The vacuum action of the Vacu-Vin slows the process again by sucking out the air left in the bottle.

Priced at $15, Vacu-Vin is manufactured in Holland and was the first vacuum-seal wine saver to hit the market. Other brands are available at most wine and kitchen stores. Extra stoppers are sold separately.

Investing in one of these gadgets makes it more economical to cook the flavors of your favorite wines right into your recipes.

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Chicken with Mushroom Wine Sauce

Baby spinach greens with bottled dressing

Purchased sourdough rolls

CHICKEN WITH MUSHROOM WINE SAUCE

8 ounces angel-hair pasta

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 large onion (for 1 cup chopped)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, fresh or frozen (about 1 1/3 pounds total)

1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms

1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic

1 cup white wine

3 tablespoons half and half

black pepper to taste

parsley (for 2 tablespoons chopped), optional
Bring 2 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a covered 4 1/2 -quart (or larger) Dutch oven or soup pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the angel hair and cook until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.

If the chicken is frozen, place it on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 3 minutes, uncovered, to begin defrosting. Meanwhile, heat the oil on medium heat in an extra-deep, 12-inch, non-stick skillet. Peel the onion and chop it finely, adding it to the skillet as you chop.

Cut the chicken into bite-size chunks, adding each breast half to the pan as you cut it. When half the chicken is added, raise the heat to medium-high. When all of the chicken is added, raise the heat to high.

Chop the mushrooms coarsely and add them to the skillet. Add the garlic. Cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add the wine to the skillet (the chicken will not be completely cooked through), and continue to cook until almost all of the liquid has evaporated, about 8 to 9 minutes. Stir from time to time.

While the sauce cooks, chop enough parsley to make 2 tablespoons, if desired. Set aside. When the pasta is tender, drain it, put it back into the pot, cover the pot and set it aside, off the heat, to keep warm.

Take the skillet off the heat and stir in the half and half. Season with black pepper to taste. Sprinkle the chopped parsley over the skillet, if desired. To serve, place some pasta on each of 4 plates and top with chicken and sauce. Serves 4.

Approximate values per serving (Using Nutritionist IV software): 425 calories (18 percent from fat), 8.5 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated), 132 milligrams cholesterol, 52 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 123 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; or e-mail: ddinnersaol.com.

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