Host Your Own
Fall Sherry Dinner
Menu and Preparation by Alex Wallace and Lindsey West
October 14, 2008
Write-up: Alex Wallace
Photos: Meg Kassabaum
In my continuing effort to proselytize on behalf of the wonderful style of wine that is sherry, my girlfriend and I organized a sherry dinner at our house this past weekend. Five courses, five sherries, good times. The idea was, of course, first and foremost to have some good food and good wine, but it was also to educate a little about what sherry is and how damn good it is with food. So we spent a whole day between the farmer’s market, various grocery stores, and the kitchen (but mostly the kitchen), cooking up a storm.
We started off with some tapas and La Cigarrera Manzanilla. An obvious pairing, perhaps, but there’s no arguing with olives, roasted almonds, ham, and pan catalan with vintage bonito. Let’s think of it as “classic” rather than “obvious."
Then onto the soup. I would have loved to have a gazpacho to go with the Fino Elcano, but (1) it’s starting to be fall and gazpacho is a very summer dish and (2) it would have been another obvious/classic pairing and you can’t do too many obvious/classic things. We are trying to be a little original here. So instead we made a roasted red pepper and potato soup which was, visually, a dead ringer for Andalucian gazpacho. A good dose of garlic and a splash of sherry vinegar gave it the bite it needed, and the Fino was showing bright, lively, and refreshing as a companion.
The next course was a fall braise with a focus on earthy flavors to marry with an amontillado (I know that sounds weird in English, but they use the verb “to marry” in Spanish to describe pairings and I like it a lot better. It implies a certain togetherness and a sense of something special and sacred that “pairing,” a more utilitarian word, just doesn’t). The dish involved chickpeas, loads of wild mushrooms, some dried currants for sweetness, and rabbit meat. It was a beautiful marriage.
The crowning moment, though, was the pork shoulder with gravy. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a fresh shoulder of an Ossabaw pig from Cane Creek Farm. Ossabaw pigs are the descendants of pigs the Spaniards brought over way back in the day (the ones they make Iberico ham out of). They lived feral on an island off Georgia for a long time, and a few were eventually re-domesticated. This is truly a treasure of a breed, with meat that is fatty and delicious. Paired/married with the Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso, the flavor became deeper, richer, nuttier. Wow. I don’t know if it was the wine itself or the pairing with the pork or both, but the Oloroso was definitely the crowd pleaser of the evening.
And as though that weren’t enough, for dessert we cored and baked half-apples and served them with a dollop of PX-whipped cream. A small glass of El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximénez completed the picture.
To be modest here for a moment, I believe that our pairings were pretty successful overall. And hopefully we were able to convince a few people that sherry deserves a place at the table, with food. There will be more to come…
Sometimes the best way to enjoy some fine wine and the company of good friends is an intimate get-together at home. But just because you're eating in doesn't mean you can't enjoy a gourmet meal with the perfect wine. Try hosting your own wine dinner, it's easier than you may think.
Host Your Own is our new home dining log that chronicles our experiences with planning, cooking and hosting our own at-home wine dinners. Use one of our dinner suggestions as a basis for your own home wine dinner and feel free to share your home wine dinner ideas and experiences with us.