Inspired by a recent trip to Jerez, the gastronomic paradise of Spain’s Andalusia region, I have been looking for excuses to work sherry into my recipes. Sherry is one of the most versatile wines alongside many types of food: think hard to pair ingredients like artichokes and asparagus, as well as an ingredient in food and cocktails. With an incredible depth of flavor, sherry helps you achieve richness and heighten umami while its high acid refreshes the palate.
The first recipe is a classic gazpacho-like chilled soup that can be found all over southern Spain and uses sherry vinegar, or Vinagre de Jerez, for tang and richness. This is like the equivalent of eastern Europe’s cabbage soup or Italy’s marinara sauce; everyone has their own recipe and way of making it, so feel free to adjust and find your own twist. For example, some people omit the bread entirely (a great option for those who prefer a gluten free diet). It is classically topped with diced hard-boiled egg and jamon, though I substituted salty sauteed mushrooms to make a vegan option and it came out great! The most important thing is to start with the highest quality tomatoes you can get your hands on — they won’t have the exact flavor of the Andalusian tomatoes, but a good mix of flavorful summer tomatoes will be tasty.
The second recipe is so quick and easy that it feels like cheating! Once you try this Thai Basil Stir Fry at home you will never order spicy basil dishes from Thai take-out again. Short of having access to the most authentic sauces and cooking condiments of Asia, Sherry is an excellent way to work in the complexity of flavors found in Asian sauces. The recipe can be replicated with equal parts sweet (honey, agave, molasses, simple syrup, etc.), salty (soy sauce), and half as much amontillado (dry and oxidized, or brown) sherry. Combine this with a small amount of cornstarch slurry for viscosity, a handful of basil leaves and you’ve got yourself better-than-restaurant quality Thai style basil sauce perfect for any stir fry.
8 Medium sized tomatoes, seeded and peeled
Half of a baguette
1 Large clove garlic, crushed
¼ Spanish onion
¼ Cup good quality sherry vinegar
¾ Cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
Mushrooms & oil for sauteeing
While seeding the tomatoes, reserve any liquid (tomato water) and set aside. Reserve the seeds and pulp of the tomatoes for another use, such as tomato jam (simmer over low heat with a tablespoons or two each sugar and sherry vinegar until thick and spreadable.) Bring a few quarts of salted water to a boil, add tomatoes, garlic, onion and bread, turn off heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, saute your mushrooms with plenty of salt until soft and chewy and set aside. Transfer all ingredients to a large bowl, add tomato water and a small amount of the boiling liquid and use a hand blender to combine (a blender also works.) Add most water as necessary, the texture should be thick to taste. Add vinegar and oil and blend in. Season with salt and pepper and chill for at least a few hours. Re-taste for seasoning and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the sauteed mushrooms.
½ Cup dark agave syrup or other sweet component
½ Cup soy sauce
¼ Amontillado sherry
¼ Cup cooking oil
2 Jalapenos, or to taste, sliced
1 Medium onion, roughly chopped
1 Yellow bell pepper cut into large chunks
1 Cup sliced sugar snap peas
Any other veggie you have lying around!
½ Cup cashews
Salt to taste
20 basil leaves (especially Thai-type)
HOW TO MAKE IT:
Combine the syrup, soy sauce and sherry in a jar, shake to combine and set aside. Add the oil to a hot wok or large sauté pan. Sautee the vegetables in stages starting with the onion and chilies, then the peppers, and snap peas last. Once the last stage of veggies is mostly cooked, add the sauce and toss to combine. Add the slurry and cook until the sauce bubbles and thickens to coat everything evenly. Turn off the heat, add the cashews and basil. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.