Anyone who knows me, or has been to my house knows that there is always something going on in the kitchen. I go out of my way to try a new recipe or two at least once a week. I have long preached that you shouldn’t cook with anything you wouldn’t drink. So I was a little surprised to find that I still had a bottle of “cooking sherry” on the shelf that I have been using for my cooking. This should be a hint to how much I know about Dry Sherry. I really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised and cooked a couple dynamite meals using a couple of Lustau Sherries that are currently available at the LCBO.
When these two bottles appeared at my table I really didn’t know what to do with them. I had a chance to speak with a few bartenders in the city and they explained to me that they use Dry Sherry to help bring the Sugar and Alcohol down in cocktails.
I decided to head to the kitchen and taste these wines paired with food. Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck suggests that Dry Sherry is a vessel to help enhance umami flavours found in foods like mushrooms and cheeses. I served both the Amontillado and the Oloroso with a simple spring green salad where I used an 18 year old balsamic vinegar, a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. The flavours of the sherry and the salad were both enhanced by the dash of salt added to the salad dressing.
The second course was a Recipe from the Holiday Food and Drink. Roasted Pork Belly with Apple Compote. This recipe made a perfect match for these wines. The Pork Belly was marinated with clove, soy and garlic which was really enhanced by the sherry. Bone dry and high alcohol help the flavours fill your entire mouth of both the food and the wine. To keep thing simple the dry Sherry makes a good partner to salt with your cuisine.
The pairing with the first meal went so well I had to cook something with the traditional pairing of Sherry and Mushrooms. I made a Mushroom Soup that is loaded with Umami as it calls for dried Porcini Mushrooms (I used Porcini and Black Trumpet) and Shiitake Mushrooms. The recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of Sherry, which isn’t alot in the grand scheme of the whole recipe … but you really notice it as an enhancement to the flavours of the mushrooms. Simply put, it’s like mushrooms on steroids. (Recipe linked here)
The bottom line from the two meals I assembled using these wines are that I will never be cooking using “cooking sherry” from my local grocery store in the future. Many wine critics will tell you that Dry Sherry is one of the last places to get a great deal on well put together aged wine (the content of your bottle could be as old as 60 years).
Here are a few impressions about the wines on their own. There is no score with these wines because I just haven’t had enough Sherry to give them a fair score. Beppi Crosariol of the Globe and Mail gave the Oloroso a 94/100… almost unheard of for a wine under fifteen dollars.
The nose on both dry sherries were caramel, and maple syrup with a nuttiness in it. The Amontillado is a little lighter than the Oloroso but both made a great match to the food. They are very dry with a clean finish. These wines are both very smooth from start to finish. If you are familiar with the bristol cream sherry that is generally present around the holidays you might find some similar flavours in these wines but a complete absence of sugar.
Wines are available from the LCBO
Lustau Oloroso – LCBO 375105 – $14.85
Lustau Amontillado – LCBO 375097 – $14.85