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Pair Up - Spanish Seafood

Oct 06, 2016 12:15PM ● By Maria Terry

By Maria Terry

Last year, when I created an all Sherry menu, it was difficult to decide which wonderful pairings to choose. I elected to do another this year to include a few more outstanding pairings. Sherry has such a unique and versatile profile that it goes with many dishes. The dry versions are briny and nutty; the sweet versions have complex, dried fruit characteristics. Part of what makes Sherry such a great food partner is its bracing acidity. This, along with its signature nuttiness, is what really makes it stand out.

Manzanilla Sherry is, in essence, a Fino Sherry made in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanillas are made from the Palomino grape in soleras* and are protected by flor, like other Finos. The flor, a film of yeast, preserves freshness. The proximity to the ocean seems to bring out a salty quality in the wine. Enjoy a briny, olive-scented Manzanilla as a dramatic counterpoint to the spicy, garlicky Spanish Shrimp below. This appetizer/ aperitif combination is so magical, it will instantly transport you to a beach in Southern Spain. Take it one step further and serve it on a bed of spring greens and fresh tarragon tossed with fresh lemon juice. Your appetizer has now become an entree. Since Manzanillas can be a bit elusive, another dry Sherry or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc would be delightful.

Since the flor blanket protects the Fino from the air, the wine will oxidize without it, resulting in a darker, caramel-hued Amontillado. Made from the same Palomino grape yet lacking in protection, Amontillados take on earthy notes like sautéed mushrooms, along with toasted nut and roasted coffee aromas. Amontillados are full-bodied, meaning higher in alcohol, so they match the heavier weight of a creamy, dense soup like Oyster Stew. Amontillados still have the briny sherry quality that goes hand in hand with shellfish. Finally, the ever-present acid of Sherry will cut through the fat in the cream. Again, that same Sauvignon Blanc will work in a pinch.

One of the many dessert Sherries, Cream Sherry is one of my favorites. Although Cream Sherries contain no dairy, they are creamy smooth and generally quite sweet. And, unlike Finos and Amontillados, Cream Sherries are made from a variety of grapes  and are blends of different Sherries. Usually there is some Fino and/or Amontillado serving as the dry base wine. Then, Oloroso is added for depth, and thick, rich Pedro Ximénez is added in for sweetness. Most blends are mixed right before bottling, but the better examples return to a solera to mature. The extra time in the solera further integrates each of the components, and the end result is truly harmonious. Expect to find flavors of dates, figs, and raisins with caramel, hazelnuts, and dark cocoa. This wine is the quintessential partner for Pecan-Date Tart (recipe found on my website). And, if you can’t find a Cream Sherry, a 10-year Tawny Port will provide the same caramel quality. Furthermore, if you don’t feel like baking, pick up your favorite chocolate candy bar, preferably one with caramel and/or nuts!

So, go on. Pair Up!

* A solera is a barrel “system” in which wine from each harvest is added over time, blending with wine from previous years. For more information, see Pair Up column from October 2015 issue.

Maria Terry is a Certified Sommelier and Wine Educator in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Spanish Shrimp


1½ lbs. of 12-15 size shrimp (about 20 large shrimp)

2 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. olive oil

4-5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin

1 cup Sherry wine

½ tsp. red chili flakes

½ tsp. paprika


Salt the shrimp and let sit for 15 min. Wipe off excess salt or rinse if you prefer less salt. Sprinkle with sugar.

In a very hot frying pan, lay the shrimp down for two minutes without moving them, then turn them over for one minute and remove from pan.

Add additional oil if needed and sauté garlic. Deglaze the pan with sherry and add hot red pepper flakes. Turn heat to low or off. Return shrimp to pan and sprinkle with paprika. This will finish cooking the shrimp.

Yield: 4 servings

Oyster Stew


3 tbsp. butter  

1 clove garlic, sliced  

1/2 tsp. salt

½ tsp. celery seed

1/8 tsp. ground white pepper  

1 pint fresh-shucked oysters  

1 cup milk 

1/2 cup half-and-half cream  

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley  

1 pinch cayenne pepper  

1/4 cup Sherry wine, or to taste


Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and seasonings; cook and stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the oysters until the edges just begin to curl, stir in milk and half-and-half, heat through.

Do not allow to boil. Finish with fresh parsley, cayenne pepper and sherry.

Yield: 4 servings

Pecan-Date Tart



1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

7 tbsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 egg

2 egg yolks

2 tbsp. heavy cream


3 eggs

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

Large pinch salt

6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups chopped, pitted Medjool dates

1 1/2 cups pecan halves, lightly toasted 


To make the dough:

Combine the butter, flour, sugar, and salt in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is broken up into small pieces. Add the egg, egg yolks, and cream; mix just until dough comes together. Wrap and chill for 2 hours or more. This makes twice the amount of dough, as you will need for these tartlets. Wrap and freeze half for later use.

To make the filling:

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, honey, vanilla and salt. Stir in the melted butter, dates, and pecans. 

Roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured work surface. (If dough is too cold to roll, let it rest for 15 minutes.) Transfer dough to a 10-inch tart pan; trim pastry even with rim of pan. Trim any overhang. Refrigerate pastry-lined pan for 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the tart shell(s) with parchment paper, then fill with pastry weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights or beans. Transfer the filling to the shell. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Yield: One 10” tart


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