Indulge me, if you will, in detailing a pairing involving a few of my current passions: amontillado and sichuan recipes from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty. To that end, several weeks ago, I discovered a rare food and wine marriage that exceeds the sum of its outstanding parts: Hidalgo "Napoleon" Amontillado and lamp shadow sweet potato chips.
The Hidalgo "Napoleon" is an elegant, lighter styled amontillado - salty and fresh but still somewhat glycerine rich with candy orange and toffee filled flavors. Lamp shadow sweet potato chips are thinly sliced sweet potatoes deep fried in oil and mixed with a sesame and chili oil dressing. Together, these two were incredible, offering a synergy which makes me want to break out the mandolin and wok again very soon.
For the record, I'm a fan of pairing fino or manzanilla and a wide variety of foods (including Chinese), but have rarely enjoyed amontillado, palo cortado or oloroso with food (I know, food friendliness is supposed to be a virtue of sherry, but I find the higher alcohol and intensity of flavor of many sherries to overpower nearly everything). Generally, I drink brown sherry on its own - there is more than enough complexity and enjoyment in the sherry itself to put off mucking around with food pairings. I found this tasty, snacky pairing to be a happy exception, however.
Here's how you do the lamp shadow potato chips:
Peel at least a pound of sweet potatoes and slice on a mandolin as thinly as possible. Heat peanut or vegetable oil for frying (an inch high should work) in a wok and fry in batches, making sure to mix so that chips don't stick together. For the sauce, combine 3 tbs chili oil with 1 tbsp sesame oil, 3/4 tsp salt and 2 tsp sugar. Blot chips dry when finished and combine with the sauce. Serve with amontillado.
* Recipe adapted from Fuchshia Dunlop's Land of Plenty. If you like to cook and enjoy real Chinese cuisine, this book is a must have.