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Tell me about sherry...

Tried out a new chicken dish last night that directed me to deglaze the pan with either dry sherry or white wine. That got me thinking about various wines I use in cooking, and I realized that I always use the alternative when one is offered for sherry.

In fact I've never used sherry in my cooking and I've never even tasted sherry on its own. I do buy and use marsala, port, calvados, other brandies, liquers, and red and white wines. But I have never purchased sherry.

So tell me...am I missing out on great flavor? Does sherry impart a very different flavor than white wine? What does sherry taste like? In a nutshell, why should I use sherry? Thanks in advance!

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  1. I would say that it is really distinctive, somewhat nutty & sweet would be my description, others will pile on, I'm sure...I use dry sherry mostly for stir-fry sauces, combining it will soy sauce, fresh ginger & garlic and pepper flakes. If you have any wine shops around where you live, you might ask if any will have sherry tastings....OR just buy a bottle (NOT the cheap Fairbanks stuff which I used to do--Osborne is quite good and widely available--there are good quality Spanish sherries under or around $10 and sherry seems to keep pretty well, too, after opening) and then use it for one of your recipes that call for it. When we visited the U.K., sherry was served before a few meals. While I respect it, I don't really love to sip it because for me, it's too sweet, even the dry sherry. To me, you can substitute dry vermouth for dry white wine pretty easily in recipes--but there really is no sub for sherry, that's just me talking.

    1. Not all Sherry is sweet. Some are dry. Simply select the Sherry that best suits the recipe (e.g sweet if it's a dessert, dry if it's savory) and take it from there. I use it a lot in preparing various Chinese recipes, and I find it to be a very good choice with a wide range of chicken dishes. I use Cream Sherry in cakes and cookies, the list runs on from there.

      1. I have a bottle of Dry Sack sherry in my bar, which I like to sip as an apertiif every now and then. I think sherry add a certain warm smoky nuttiness to many dishes. My chicken/artichoke/mushroom dish which I like to serve with risotto would not be as tasty with white wine, sherry really makes the difference. Go to a good bar and taste a few different sherries. Remember, just as with wine, you don't want to cook with a sherry you wouldn't drink.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Diane in Bexley

          "Go to a good bar and taste a few different Sherries" - now there's a great idea. Diane also believes in the "if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it" philosophy. Don't recall see you at the meetings, Diane, but we are clearly members of the same club.

          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            Diane, will you share your recipe for the chicken dish? Please? (Sounds like Chicken Jerusalem.)

            1. re: Sharuf

              Sure, sorry but have been out of touch for a while in March:

              1 plump fryer, 3 - 3.5 lbs., cut in 8 pieces
              S&P to taste
              1 large onion, minced
              1 fat shallot, minced
              3 cloves of garlic, minced
              3-4 T good quality EVOO
              8 oz assorted mushrooms (or just button), sliced
              14 oz can artichoke hearts, quartered
              3/4 cup good quality low sodium chicken stock (homemade is best)
              1/2 cup good quality Sherry, I use Dry Sack
              1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

              In very large (12 in) skillet, brown onions & shallots in 1-2 T EVOO. Throw in garlic, brown that a little watching carefully as garlic burns easily. Reserve onions/shallots in small bowl. Wipe out pan, add another 1T EVOO, brown mushrooms. When brown, add to onion/shallot mixture. Brown chicken pieces skin side down in another 1-2 T EVOO, add salt & pepper. Add back mushrooms, artichoke hearts. Add sherry & chicken stock. Cover tightly, simmer gently for 30 min. Uncover pan, simmer another 15-20 minutes till chicken reaches 160-170F. If you want to thicken sauce, remove chicken & veggies, keep warm. Add 1-2 T butter and 2-3 T flour to pan, stirring well to make smooth sauce. Arrange attractively on large, warmed serving platter, spread parsley on top. I like to serve this with risotto flavored with sherry, beef stock, Parmesan cheese and a dash of cream.

          2. Sherry is in the same category as marsala and port - wines that have been fortified with brandy to bring the alcohol level to about 18%. They range from dry to very sweet. This may be simplistic, but port is the Portuguese version, sherry is the Spanish (from Jerez) - if not from those regions, then in the style produced there.

            1. Oh yes sherry has it's own taste and I don't see how you could switch marsala, white wine or any other such cooking wine/liqour for it. It's distinctive in its taste and is one of those necessary ingredients in Chinese cooking ( as i know it).
              The difference in flavor than say a dry white wine is the sweet, almost smoky flavor. It is perfect with mushrooms, shrimp, or crab, and poultry. It's like pernod to me. A liquor not used all the time like you can with white wine, but for special dishes where you want the diner to taste the sherry back notes. And yes you should use sherry, just ike cognac, very sparingly and I promise you won't be sorry. And Val is correct, there is no sub for sherry.
              Don't buy the cheapest bottle, at least spend mid shelf price if you'll be cooking with it only.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chef chicklet

                I wrote something here about sherry and the Chinese original, completely forgetting that I'd said the same thing farther along. These old threads can be really hard to keep track of!