Fortified wines have more use in the kitchen than just for sipping while you stir the soup. Simply said, fortified wine is wine that has been infused with a spirt like brandy. Madeira, Marsala, Sherry, Vermouth and Port are examples of fortified wines.
If you’re looking to give your family favourite recipes the MOAN factor by adding depth and roundness of flavour, consider adding fortified wine during the cooking preparation.
Unlike table wines, fortified wines are high in the fifth taste sensation called umami or savoury.
The four primary sensations are bitterness, sweetness, sourness and saltiness, experienced on the palate. Umami is the 5th. It is highly regarded in Asian countries and found in many of their fermented, aged, dried and slow roasted foods, such as soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, and dried shrimp. In North America we cherish and crave umami in the form of brand name products like Ketchup! We love our slow cooked tomatoes on eggs, french fries and steak! Ripe, fresh tomatoes possess simplistic umami. When you slow roast them the umami increases. They become high in synergistic umami.
By adding a splash of fortified wine to a dish you increase its umami levels, its roundness and depth of flavour.
Umami enhances every dish from hors d’oeuvres to soups to entrees to desserts. As a marinade, fortified wine’s high alcohol and acidity tenderizes flesh. Poaching, de-galzing and flavouring are its best uses. Be sure to burn off the alcohol before adding it to cream sauces to prevent curdling.
Desserts incorporating fortified wine don’t freeze well. The other liquids in the dessert freeze more quickly than its alcoholic ingredient (fortified wine), thus altering its composition and texture.
Sherry is the most versatile of the fortified wines, adding a nutty quality to a dish. It is produced in three styles – dry, medium cream and full cream. Dry sherry is used to flavour soups, as well as served as an accompanying dinner companion. This fortified wine is also added to Asian style dishes and can replace rice vinegar in recipes. If a recipe calls for dry sherry, don’t substitute a sweet one, as this will alter the flavour of the dish.
Port is also a popular cooking ingredient and adds fruity character to a dish. Produced only in Portugal, this fortified wine comes in a few styles, as well. Tawny Port is amber in colour. So, refrain from using this one in a white sauce, as it will turn gray. Ruby Port has a brighter and fruitier flavour. All Ports are a delicious addition to meat dishes and desserts. How about pears poached in Port?
Vermouth is infused with herbs and spices, thus adding these same flavours to a dish. It can be red and sweet and is added to red sauce reductions. White versions are produced extra dry to sweet. Dry vermouth can replace white wine is recipes, thus adding more umami to the dish. Sweet vermouth can add delciious flavour to fruit-based desserts.
Marsala is the name of the fortified wine, as well as the name of the Italian city in which it is produced. It is used in the preparation of many Italian dishes and possesses an intense amber colour and complex aromas. The aromas come through in the resulting dish, adding dimension. Chicken Marsala is famous and incorporates onions, shallots, mushrooms and herbs.
Bosc Pears Poached in Tawny Port
8 whole allspice
1 tbsp pink peppercorns
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
1 tsp orange zest
3 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
2 cups Tawny Port
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pure maple syrup sugar
4 Bosc pears
In a cheese cloth add allspice, peppercorns. Tie the bag with string. Place the bag in a large saucepan. Add ginger, cinnamon, zest, cranberry juice, port, dried cranberries and sugar.
Over high heat bring liquid to a boil, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes.
Peel pears, leaving stems intact. Add to poaching liquid. Simmer, uncovered, gently turning from time to time, until tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove spice bag. Using slotted spoon carefully remove pears from liquid. Set 2 pears each in 4 bowls. Boil poaching liquid until reduced to about 1 1/2 cups, taking about 10 minutes. Discard ginger, cinnamon stick, and zest. Serve pears warm or at room temperature drizzled in syrup. Add dollop of plain Greek yogurt.
Suggested Wine: Tawny Port
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Category: EVERYTHING FOOD AND WINE