Cross-posted at the Scotch Blog - an excellent resource for Whisky imbibers.
Future Sherry lovers of planet earth! You have been fortified with the knowledge of Sherry's history, how its produced and the grape varieties involved. Perhaps more importantly, you now understand the major styles of Sherry (read part II for a Sherry style refresher). Still, the question remains: "When do we eat?" Prepare yourself. Sherry is coming to dinner.
Part 3: Sherry Comes to Dinner
If you've ever sipped Sherry in a restaurant, chances are it was a sweet, dark, sticky Oloroso such as Cream Sherry. However, Fino, Manzanilla and Amontillado Sherrys are serious food wines. - They can serve either as an accompaniment to appetizers, or as the table wine for a sit-down dinner. Prepare yourself for a bevy of Sherry-friendly recipe ideas.
Ain't Nothin' But a (Dinner) Party, Ya'll
Finos (from Jerez) and Manzanillas (from Sanlucar) are the lightest, most delicate Sherrys. Even though these wines are fortified (up to 15% alcohol), they taste surprisingly fresh and light. These styles of Sherry are often described as possessing a salty/tangy flavor. Indeed, Fino & Manzanilla Sherrys are the embodiment of the oft-overused wine adjective, "bone-dry." The number one food caution when it comes to these wines is this: Avoid clobbering light Sherry with heavy sauces and aggressive spices. Focus on fresh flavors and subtle spices. My favorite food matches with Fino & Manzanilla are appetizers/tapas - perfect for a casual get-together. A few Fino (and Manzanilla)-friendly foods:
Manchego Cheese - This is one of my favorite cheeses. It's a 'slight' cheese - slightly creamy, slightly salty and slightly earthy. Cut a few Manchego cubes, add roasted almonds, olives (green ones with big pits) and a Fino; and you've got yourself and instant Tapas party.
Gazpacho (yes, it's supposed to be served cold) - Try either a classic recipe or modern interpretation. It's incredibly easy and perfect with this style of Sherry.
Shrimp & Grits - Creamy grits and succulent shrimp are the perfect foils for the fresh zip of light Sherry. Serve it as a Sunday brunch surprise.
Seared Tuna - Fino/Manzanilla is an interesting pairing with sushi. With ever-so-slightly cooked fish, it is amazing. Sherry acts just like a squirt of citrus over a tuna steak - only you get to drink the Sherry.
Amontillado Sherry is richer than Fino. Rather than tang, this Sherry offers flavors of smoke, wood, raisins and toasted nuts. Dry Amontillados are ideal with dishes containing rich and savory flavors. Off-dry Amontillado is a great match with recipes containing fruit or fruit-based sauces (e.g. fig sauce, dried apricots). Some Amontillado amigos:
Pistachio-Crusted Beef - This dish has all the trappings for a fine match with either a dry or off-dry Amontillado. It contains fruit juice, rich oyster sauce and roasted pistachios - all flavors that will pair excellently with this style of Sherry.
Pork with Figs & Salami - This recipe might very well be the perfect pairing for Amontillado (dry or off-dry). Just try it. I promise you'll love it.
Duck Breast with Mushroom Risotto - OK, I lied. This might be the perfect recipe. Perhaps you're noticing a theme? Earthy & rich flavors combined with this style of Sherry are difficult to beat. If you're not up for duck breast, try a glass of Sherry with mushroom risotto. Or, for some seriously good Arborio rice (AKA risotto), replace a half cup of the liquid with Amontillado. Scrump-diddly-umtious!
I must admit to having a love/hate relationship with Oloroso Sherry. The reason being is that the most widely available expression of Oloroso is Cream Sherry. Alas, a few Creams are painfully sweet (as in after one glass, you're riding a sugar-high, followed by a sugar-crash). For super sweet Creams, try combatting the sugar with espresso. Add a shot of Cream Sherry to a double-shot or Cafe Latte. The result is caramely-coffee goodness.
If you have an eagle eye and are lucky enough to spot an Oloroso labeled, "dry," you are in for a treat (seek out Lustau 'Don Nunes,' Pedro Romero Dry Oloroso, or Barbadillo Dry Oloroso). Dry Oloroso is akin to bittersweet chocolate. It possesses an overall dry character with allusions to sweetness. There are flavors of toasted hazelnut and caramel; along with bitter notes of chocolate and coffee. Pair a dry Oloroso with rich, heavy-duty blue-veined cheeses. One interesting thing I plan on trying with Oloroso is Sherry ice cream.
There you have it; appetizers, entrees and dessert - all paired to Sherry. For even more Sherry-friendly recipe ideas, visit Ten Star Tapas. Keep in mind Sherry is not your typical wine. It won't wow you with fruity flavors. On the other hand, it may very well seduce you with its nutty, wooded flavors. If you have yet to sample it, visit Part II of this series for a few recommendations. Here's to a wonderful wine with rich history and unique production. Here's to Sherry.