Cooking With Fortified Wines - Port, Sherry, Brandy, Madeira and Marsala

Fortified wines add an extra dimension to preparing main meals and desserts, sauces, marinades and dressings. The alcohol helps to tenderize meat when used as a marinade for barbecues, grills and roasts. Fortified wines are fabulous in decadent desserts. They enhance the flavor imparted by wines and add to the color and aroma. The wines are often concentrated in the common fortified wines used for cooking such as Sherry, Port, Brandy, Madeira and Marsala. This article discusses the best way to use each of these fortified wines and provides some fabulous recipes to try. The focus here is on main dishes, as decadent alcoholic dessert recipes have been covered in a previous article.

Fortified wine is ideal for marinades and sauces, especially with chicken, pork and mushrooms
Fortified wine is ideal for marinades and sauces, especially with chicken, pork and mushrooms. Source: Public Domain

Pairings with Fortified Wines

Cooking with Port

Port has a rich sweet taste and is made from red wine, unlike most other fortified wines. It is suitable for meat-based casseroles, baked goods and for desserts. It goes well with prunes, apricots and other dried fruits. Below are some recipe ideas using port:

Cooking With Sherry

Sherry has a complex nutty flavor, and can be sweet or dry. It can be used to make sauces and can be added to soups and stews. It is also widely used in Asian stir fry dishes as a substitute for Chinese wine. The complexity and its sweetness make it ideal for rich desserts, trifles and savory meat dishes. The two Sherry styles that are mostly widely used are Oloroso and Amontillado. Some recipe ideas for sherry are:

Cooking With Madeira

Madeira is a rich fortified wine with a toffee-caramel taste. it is widely used in cakes. It is also used for making sauces. It is ideal for adding to braised mushrooms and vegetables. Some examples of Madeira recipes are:

Cooking With Marsala

Marsala has a light caramel and fruity taste and is very popular for Mediterranean sautés. Various types range from dry, semi-dry, to sweet and semi-sweet. It makes a fabulous sauce for chicken breast or thinly sliced veal. The sauces are often made in the pan, reduced with pan drippings and then thickened with a little cornstarch. Some examples of recipes that use marsala are:

Cooking With Brandy

Brandy is spirit distilled from wine and common varieties are Cognac and Armagnac. Brandy has a sweet aromatic taste and is widely used in desserts and baked goods. Typical recipes are:

Cooking with Fortified Wine Recipes

Braised Chicken Marsala Recipe

Ingredients

Method

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry with paper towels. Season all sides of the pieces well with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, oven-proof heavy pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches of 2-3 pieces at a time, brown the chicken pieces on all sides, turning once, This generally takes about 10-12 minutes. Set the pieces aside on a rack in the oven to drain.

Return the cooked chicken pieces to the pan and add the tomatoes, onions and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently for about 3-4 minutes until the onions have softened. Add the marsala and cook until the liquid reduces to about half the volume (about 5 minutes). Pour in stock and bring the liquid to a simmer. Transfer the pan to oven and cook for about 35 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked in the center and tender. Transfer chicken to a platter. Simmer liquid over medium-high to make a sauce. Serve with sage polenta or couscous, pouring the sauce over the chicken.

Strip Roast with Madeira Pan Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

Method

Mix the pepper, salt and allspice in bowl and rub all over the roast. Set aside at room temperature for 60-75 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Heat oil in large wide oven-proof pan over medium heat until very hot. Add roast with the fat side down and fry until well browned (about 3 to 4 minutes). Turn the roast and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast until an oven thermometer inserted into center of meat reaches 130 degrees F (54 degrees C) (generally about 50 minutes). Transfer to platter and let the roast rest while preparing sauce.

Using the same pan, re-heat over medium-high heat and pour off most of the drippings. Add the shallots and sauté until soft. Pour in the Madeira and simmer briskly for about 1-3 minutes. Add the broth and boil the mixture until the volume of the liquid is reduced by about one third. Switch off the heat and add the frozen butter cubes and swirl the pan to blend the butter into the sauce. Season sauce with pepper and salt.

Cut the meat into thick slices. Arrange on platter and pour over the sauce.

Braised Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce

Ingredients

Method

Pound the duck breast to flatten them. Score the skin in a diamond pattern, without cutting into the flesh. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper.

Melt one tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet using moderate heat. Add the duck breasts, skin side down. Fry until the skin is well browned and crisp (generally about 5-7 minutes). Flip the duck breasts over and fry the other side for about 4 minutes until the duck is cooked in the center. Remove the duck pieces and keep warm. 

Pour off most of the oil from skillet. Add the shallots and fry for about one minute. Add the chicken broth, cherries, honey and Port. Bring the mixture to the boil and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated to a glaze. Whisk in one tablespoon cold butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, slice the duck thinly and spoon over the sauce.





Marsala has a long tradition as an ingredient for braised meat dishes
Marsala has a long tradition as an ingredient for braised meat dishes. Source: Public Domain
Port is ideal for sweets and desserts where its sweetness and complexity add an extra depth to the dish
Port is ideal for sweets and desserts where its sweetness and complexity add an extra depth to the dish. Source: Public Domain
Brandy is often used in cooking, not just to pour on and set alight, but as an ingredient within the dishes as well
Brandy is often used in cooking, not just to pour on and set alight, but as an ingredient within the dishes as well . Source: Public Domain
Marsala is a great wine for all sorts of cooking - both for mains and desserts, See the great recipes in this article.
. Source: Public Domain
Madeira braised chicken with mushroom gravy recipe - see more great recipes in this article
Madeira braised chicken with mushroom gravy recipe - see more great recipes in this article. Source: Public Domain
Most alternatives to cooking sherry can be found in your refrigerator or on your pantry shelf. Try some of the ones shown
Most alternatives to cooking sherry can be found in your refrigerator or on your pantry shelf. Try some of the ones shown. Source: Public Domain
Why Malbec is the Best Choice for use a a wine for cooking
Why Malbec is the Best Choice for use a a wine for cooking. Source: Public Domain
Use wine to enhance the flavor of main dishes as well as desserts
Use wine to enhance the flavor of main dishes as well as desserts. Source: Public Domain