In Wine Food, authors Dana Frank and Andrea Slonecker expertly pair wines with rustic, casual recipes.
Oloroso Sherry | Caramelized Onion and Bread Soup with Brûléed Blue Cheese
The universe of sherry has been somewhat shrouded in mystery for many, many years, although its place in the history of wine is as important as port, Champagne, and Bordeaux. Grown and produced only around Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María in southwestern Spain’s famed “Sherry Triangle,” sherry is singular in its ability to express the place it comes from. The unique salty and oxidative flavors come from a combination of the chalky albariza soil, the warm sea breezes off the Atlantic Ocean, and flor, the special yeast veil that grows over certain styles of sherry. It is one of the world’s great drinking wines, gaining popularity in recent years for its ability to pair with everything from a hunk of good cheese to Japanese food.
Oloroso is the older, oxidized sister of the sherry family. Unlike fresh fino and manzanilla sherries and briny amontillado, oloroso is all about notes of toasted nuts, tobacco, and salty caramel. After some time under flor the base sherry is fortified, bumping its alcohol above 17%, creating an environment where the yeast veil can’t survive. The wine is left to age without flor, but with some space in the top of the barrel where it comes into contact with air. As time passes, the wine evaporates in small amounts, it concentrates, and it oxidizes ever so perfectly. While certainly a dry wine, the richness of oloroso sherry can give hints of dried fruit. We think it makes the perfect partner for sweet onions cooked into a luxurious soup, topped with hearty torn bread and umami-rich Stilton. Both are complex and delicious in the most complementary way. It’s exactly what you want in a pairing.
- Put the onions, oil, and butter in a stockpot set over medium heat and toss them all together. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are meltingly soft and deeply caramelized, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours. As they start to caramelize, they’ll begin sticking to the bottom of the pot, which is good, but be sure to scrape it often and decrease the heat as needed to prevent burning.
- When the onions are ready, pour in the sherry and deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits. Simmer over medium heat until the sherry is mostly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Decrease the heat, partially cover, and cook at a gentle simmer until the flavors marry, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and wait about 1 minute, then taste and adjust the seasoning. (The soup will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can be frozen for up to 6 months.)
- Divide the hot soup among oven-safe crocks or bowls. Add a handful of the bread chunks to each and gently push them down so they’re fully submerged but still at the top of the soup. Lay a slice of cheese (or a handful of crumbles) over the top. Broil until melted, bubbly, and browned in spots, about 2 minutes, then serve.
Reprinted with permission from Wine Food by Dana Frank and Andrea Slonecker, copyright © 2018. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit Eve Kolenko © 2018