“Why not? It’s expensive to go to a restaurant!” Chedister chimes in.
As you might imagine, that makes them a popular couple among their friends and Arlington neighbors, as does their open-yard policy on herbs. A shared talent for making things grow nurtures the cheerful, anarchic cottage garden that surrounds their snug 1938 Cape Cod. Edibles push their way into the poppies, Shasta daisies, sedum and ageratum. The 40-plus rosemary bushes, a 20-foot-high bay laurel and random pumpkin vines are all testament to Stewart’s composting. He trots a steady supply of food scraps out to the bins behind their garage.
Stewart is the cook in the house. Chedister bakes and washes the dishes. The division of labor is mirrored in their refrigerator compartments: The top freezer holds flours, cornmeals, rices and phyllo dough, while the bottom shelves are packed with farmers market bounty, mustards, yogurt, butter and bags of cut fruit. A second fridge downstairs (“you have to have two,” he says) contains Stewart’s signature poultry stock, cured ham from his native Southhampton County, Va., and opened wine bottles.
Reds and whites never go to waste here. Stewart uses them for deglazing saute pans, for enriching that tawny-colored stock, which is long-simmered using a full bottle of wine, water, roasted chicken or duck or pheasant bones, onion, carrot, star anise, cloves, parsley, thyme and bay leaves. (“If you’ve done it right, it’s like gelatin.”) Leftover wines go into marinades, become poaching liquids for fruit and are reduced in fruit syrups.
The key to storing wine efficiently is, of course, eliminating oxidation. Air will turn a wine into something you don’t want to drink, Stewart says, so don’t pop a half-empty bottle in the fridge at dinner’s end — or worse, leave a partial bottle of red wine out at room temperature for days.
Stewart finds that wine vacuum systems work fine, but only for about three days. For long-term storage, he marries enough dregs to fill a 750-milliliter bottle, or transfers any lesser amounts to a smaller one, never blending wines of different colors. To prove his point, he offers a small glass from the wine he’ll soon use to make a French-inspired dish of chicken breasts in a light sauce of wine, cream, scallions, sage and bits of Virginia ham.
“That’s a combination of sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot blanc and chardonnay,” he says. A tightly stoppered, filled bottle can last for six months. “I wouldn’t serve it. But as you can tell, it’s drinkable. It’s just like they say: Don’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink.”
He never freezes wine in ice cube trays, the most common advice bandied about. “I’d think unwanted aromas would get in there, anyway,” he says.